When I worked in a traditional job in a traditional office, it was common practice during a push to meet a deadline to retreat to cubicles or offices, close doors, send calls to voicemail, and focus entirely on getting the project done.
I find that harder to do in my home office because the other person who lives in the house cannot easily be ignored by the mere closing of a door. My husband Gary is a very active person for whom to think, is to do. He is in and out of the house at least half a dozen times a day: to have coffee, to attend a meeting, to go to the hardware store, to visit a friend, to talk to a neighbor, to go to the post office. If an idea pops into his head, he acts on it. And he gets an amazing number of things done in a day.
Gary also likes to share regular updates on his progress. In the before times, he usually met this need as he interacted with the people on his busy rounds. But during the ups and downs of Covid, he’s spent more time working on things at home. The following doesn’t happen every day, but on enough days . . .
9 a.m. Gary looks at a two-year-old tax return that he has come across while “organizing” his files. He calls to me to come downstairs to his desk and look at the item that is disturbing him. I look. It does not disturb me. I go back to my desk.
10 a.m. Gary calls me downstairs to hold the tape measurer for him. I do. I do not ask why, or what he is doing. That might land me in a project I want nothing to do with.
11:00 a.m. Gary comes to my office to tell me we’re out of toner for the printer. I suggest he might like to run to the store to buy some. He does.
11:45 a.m. Gary returns from the store. He comes to my office to tell me about a person I don’t know, who is doing something I don’t care about. Then he gives me some flowers. Now I find it harder to order him out of my office, but I do anyway.
12:30 p.m. Gary calls up to me from his desk downstairs. He asks me if it’s going to rain tomorrow. I tell him I don’t know.
12:45 p.m. Gary comes to my office to tell me that yes, it is going to rain tomorrow. I close my door, a bit loudly, after he leaves.
1:30 p.m. Gary sees something odd on the surface of the river. He goes out to explore. He asks me to shoot some video of what he’s seeing. I do. I go back to my office.
2:30 p.m. Gary taps softly on my door and whispers—as though the act of speaking softly cancels out the disturbance—asking if I know where his meeting file is. I do not. I hang a do not disturb sign on my door when he leaves.
3:30 p.m. I hear Gary walk down the hall toward my office, then I hear his footsteps retreating after he sees the sign. Then it is quiet. Then I hear him in the kitchen making half humming, half flutey-sounding noises. Then he stops. Then he starts. Then he stops. A few minutes pass. Then he starts again.
I start laughing. Because, well, Gary. I take the sign off the door and catch up on my email instead of writing the next chapter. Tomorrow is another day. And it looks like it might be nice enough for golf, which means I’ll have lots of quiet time then.