Got in a discussion today. Some people need a physical result or object in order to feel that they’ve accomplished something. Some people do not. How do the people who do not need a physical result or object get satisfaction from their accomplishments?

I belong to the second class of people: I find satisfaction in my work, but I don’t have a physical result or object to depend on. I can print out a copy of a document, but it isn’t necessary for me to feel satisfied. There’s boundary: once I’m past that boundary, I’m done. I can do more, but I don’t need to.

So what makes a thing done? How do you know when a thing is done?

Well, at first, I knew a thing was done when someone else said it was done. People would patiently explain to me what needed to be done, and I did it. There were a few surprises…I would think I was done, and people would say I was done, but I wasn’t, and something would come up.

But now I know when a thing is done without being told, and, in fact, when I look at someone else’s work, I know whether or not it’s done.

What happened in between there? I was exposed to guidelines, rules, etc., and had to methodically (painfully) determine whether a given step had been completed or not. But now, it’s a matter of aesthetics. A thing feels right, or it doesn’t. A thing feels completed, or it doesn’t.

And these feelings can be changed. The process I work with changes constantly, and feelings of “doneness” have become feelings of “not-doneness” as I find out about the changes. Something that had been aesthetically satisfying was, in a moment, suddenly perceived as inadequate.

Does the thing do what it’s supposed to do?
Is the thing efficient?
Is the thing consistent?
Does the thing meet outside requirements, outside its stated purpose?
Will the thing meet the aesthetics of other people in the same field/area of expertise?

But the thing that struck me the most was realizing how strong the feeling of it was. A judgement of whether or not a document was done–until a thing is done, it will prey upon my mind. “It’s not done. It’s still not done. When is it going to be done?”

“Ah, now it’s done.”