Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time

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Macmillan, Mar 3, 2015 - Business & Economics - 368 pages

"[Schulte's] a detective in a murder mystery: Who killed America's leisure time, and how do we get it back?"—Lev Grossman, Time


When award-winning journalist Brigid Schulte, a harried mother of two, realized she was living a life of all work and no play, she decided to find out why she felt so overwhelmed. This book is the story of what she discovered—and of how her search for answers became a journey toward a life of less stress and more leisure.
Schulte's findings are illuminating, puzzling, and, at times, maddening: Being overwhelmed is even affecting the size of our brains. But she also encounters signs of real progress—evidence that what the ancient Greeks called "the good life" is attainable after all. Schulte talks to companies who are inventing a new kind of workplace; travels to countries where policies support office cultures that don't equate shorter hours with laziness (and where people actually get more done); meets couples who have figured out how to share responsibilities. Enlivened by personal anecdotes, humor, and hope, Overwhelmed is a book about modern life—a revelation of the misguided beliefs and real stresses that have made leisure feel like a thing of the past, and of how we can find time for it in the present.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Hey, it’s another book about how lack of equality is terrible for men and women both, through the framing of time! Women experience more “contaminated time,” where we’re trying to do more than one ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - AnneMichaud - LibraryThing

As someone who cares deeply about the time and money pressures on young families, I give this book my highest praise. I wish I had written it. Overwhelmed is meticulously researched and engagingly ... Read full review

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About the author (2015)

Preface to the 2015 Edition
I can guess what you’re thinking: You don’t have time to read this book.
Perhaps you have a scrap of paper somewhere in your bag or your
junk drawer or on the back of an envelope on your desk that looks an
awful lot like the cover of this book. Perhaps seeing this scattered old
To Do list hit with a pang, a reminder of one more thing that you, too,
forgot you really need To Do. And though you may like the idea of
finding time for work, love, and play in your life, maybe you’re a little
resigned. A little angry, even. You’re living life in fast forward. Your
inbox is overflowing. Your days feel scattered in bits and fragments of
what feels like Time Confetti. And maybe you think this is just the way
life is.
That’s at least what I thought.
It took reporting this book to change my mind.
That’s not to say change isn’t hard. It is. If living a Good Life, because
that’s what we’re really talking about, were easy, we wouldn’t need
to be reminded that there’s more than just getting to the end of the day,
washed up on our couches like shipwreck survivors with barely enough
energy to order take out, throw chicken nuggets at the kids, then grope
around the cushions for the remote and click on the TV. We wouldn’t
need stories to help us puzzle through what living a Good Life means.
And no one would feel compelled to obsessively click on those breezy
listicles online or snap up the magazine articles extolling the ten ways to
take back your time, the seventeen tips to reclaim your day, or the nine
habits of the world’s most productive people.
When I decided to take on this book, I wanted to know why it’s so
hard to change. I wanted to understand why things are the way they
are, why Americans work such long hours, why there are virtually no
policies or laws that support working families, why women still carry
the heavier load at home, even as they take on breadwinning roles at
work, and why we think leisure is just a big waste of time. And I wanted
to know how it could be better. I wanted to find hope.
I went out in search of answers in what Harvard psychologist Erik
Erikson called the three great arenas that make for a Good Life: Work,
Love, and Play. The book became a chronicle of what I found and the
journey I took from the chaos of living fast, feeling breathless, and
stuck in a storm of swirling Time Confetti, to moving closer to Time
Serenity.
I’m a journalist and a writer. I’m not a guru. So this is not a book of
self help. And yet there is a lot in it that is helpful. That’s why, for this
edition, we inserted the words “How to” into the title so readers would
know that the book may start in Overwhelm, but it doesn’t stay there.
Because I did find hope. At the end of each section are short “chapterlettes,”
as I came to call them, on Bright Spots where the ground is already
shifting: Workplace cultures that are changing to give drained
workers time to live full lives, and are seeing better results. Couples
seeking to more fairly share their work and home lives. And places
where making time for leisure, for friends, for family, play and rest, is
just part of an ordinary day.
I wrote this book to shake things up, and to start a conversation
about how we work and live. Since the book came out, some readers
have reached out to tell me that it’s also changing their lives. Some have
started Overwhelmed Mitigation Groups, OMGs, to help each other
knit together their scraps of Time Confetti. They’ve begun to catch
themselves, they told me, when they unconsciously begin to brag about
how busy they are. Some are joining campaigns to advocate for better
policies. Others are trying to be more mindful. One man wrote that,
until he heard me talk about the book, he’d never questioned why he
worked six days a week to impress bosses who worked even more. He
quit. He found another employer who pays him the same, gives him
more paid vacation time, and expects him and everyone else to finish
their work and be out the door by 5:30. Now he likes his job and is doing
better work. He sees his wife more. He’s sleeping better. And he even has
begun to give himself permission to leave the smartphone behind and go
fishing every now and again on weekends, something he’d always felt
too busy to do before. “Your book inspired me to seek a better life.”
Maybe you don’t have time to read this book. Or at least not the
whole journey from Time Confetti toward Time Serenity. And that’s
okay. You can read the chapters about the things that are most bugging
you, or that you’re most curious about. Or read the Bright Spots chapterlettes
for inspiration. Or listen to the audiobook. Or begin by downloading
the summary from my website. For the seriously time starved,
flip to the Appendix in the back for a brief digest of what I learned
about how to find time for work, love, and play. There are many ways to
read this book. There are many ways to live a Good Life. The important
thing?
Just start.

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