February was somehow a month of deadlines for me. There was a short commissioned piece to write, a column, an abstract, and… I’m forgetting what else, but it seemed like there was more. So far I’ve met the deadlines (though I often get to this blog at the last minute), but with every one met, another one seems to come up. I’ve written before about the difficulties of living in multiple time zones (time present, time a-planning, West Coast, East Coast, you name it), but living under the deadline gun is another thing again. Everything else gets pushed off while the one project is going — but then other projects crowd in, demanding attention. Family life gets neglected, though playdates and school project dates and meals and laundry must still, somehow, be arranged and then managed. I fall into bed with to-do lists dancing in front of my eyes.
Right now the dining room table is covered with receipts and tax forms as I try to finish up the taxes so that I can get this year’s college financial aid forms filed on time. Four recently-read children’s books sit in a stack waiting for me to make notes on an upcoming presentation. The papers I just marked sit in a folder ready to be returned tomorrow, and the Victorian novel I’m in the midst of teaching is just out of reach. I think there’s a birthday present sandwiched between two stacks of papers just to my right. I actually have a desk in a shared office upstairs, but the shared office is also a guest room, and it was most recently in use for that purpose, so my work has moved. It’s nice, the portability of professorial work, but it also means that it tends to encroach. That’s the flip side of the flexible work schedule, of course: if your work can be done any time, any place, then you should always be working. And when your work, like mine, also involves your pleasure, it can get really hard to tell which is which. Those children’s books — pleasure, but also work. That Victorian novel, ditto. Looking at the tax forms (not paid work, but definitely not pleasure!), I puzzle again over the question of business and home office expenses — where do I draw the line?
Mostly I don’t. I’ve never been good at drawing lines, and for the most part I’m contented to stay that way. As long as the work gets done and the tax folks don’t come after me, that is. But sometimes I do wonder if I did draw brighter lines, would it make a difference? Maybe I don’t want to know.