There's something about knowing you're going to be extremely busy for a given period of time that focuses the mind. Suddenly productivity skyrockets. Projects that have been budgeted for a morning take only half the time, making one feel mighty accomplished. Tiny snippets of leisure time seem decadent in the extreme.
Tonight will mark my fourth evening this week with a work obligation -- either attending a function at school or writing for the TV Club. I've cranked out enough work on deadline in the past seven days to equal a normal writing month for me. And with the semester rapidly coming to an end, the demands on my teaching and administrative time have never been greater. I've designed a collaborative final exam, drafted a syllabus for next semester, evaluated dozens of applications from prospective students, and assembled a program for a conference next March -- all since Monday.
In that context, something like a half-hour lunch spent reading for pleasure takes on a new intensity of meaning. Earlier this week, I went to the cafeteria, made myself a salad and sandwich, and settled down in a corner booth to finish reading Newsweek's in-depth series on the election. For twenty minutes, I was barely aware that anyone else was in the crowded dining hall.
Not long thereafter, I entered my freshman classroom. One of my students greeted me, "What were you reading so intensely in the caf? It looked like you were trying to bore a hole through it with your eyes."
I suppose I should be glad it was political coverage, and not that sample chapter of Twilight that's still on my Kindle. Makes a better answer to impressionable students. Although I have no doubt that it could have been the daily farm report -- given the preciousness of every moment at times of such full-bore activity, anything other than work would receive a similar level of blissful concentration.