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

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Overview

Can working parents in America-or anywhere-ever find true leisure time?

According to the Leisure Studies Department at the University of Iowa, true leisure is "that place in which we realize our humanity." If that's true, argues Brigid Schulte, then we're doing dangerously little realizing of our humanity. In Overwhelmed, Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post, asks: Are our brains, our partners, our culture, and our bosses making it ...

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

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Overview

Can working parents in America-or anywhere-ever find true leisure time?

According to the Leisure Studies Department at the University of Iowa, true leisure is "that place in which we realize our humanity." If that's true, argues Brigid Schulte, then we're doing dangerously little realizing of our humanity. In Overwhelmed, Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post, asks: Are our brains, our partners, our culture, and our bosses making it impossible for us to experience anything but "contaminated time"?
Schulte first asked this question in a 2010 feature for The Washington Post Magazine: "How did researchers compile this statistic that said we were rolling in leisure-over four hours a day? Did any of us feel that we actually had downtime? Was there anything useful in their research-anything we could do?"
Overwhelmed is a map of the stresses that have ripped our leisure to shreds, and a look at how to put the pieces back together. Schulte speaks to neuroscientists, sociologists, and hundreds of working parents to tease out the factors contributing to our collective sense of being overwhelmed, seeking insights, answers, and inspiration. She investigates progressive offices trying to invent a new kind of workplace; she travels across Europe to get a sense of how other countries accommodate working parents; she finds younger couples who claim to have figured out an ideal division of chores, childcare, and meaningful paid work. Overwhelmed is the story of what she found out.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/06/2014
On her quest to turn her “time confetti” into “time serenity,” journalist Schulte finds that, while it’s worse for women and hits working mothers the hardest, what she calls the “Overwhelm” cuts across gender, income, and nationality to contaminate time, shrink brains, impair productivity, and reduce happiness. Investigating the “great speed-up” of modern life, Schulte surveys the “time cages” of the American workplace, the “stalled gender revolution” in the home, and the documented necessity for play, and discovers that the “aimless whirl” of American life runs on a conspiracy of “invisible forces”: outdated notions of the Ideal Worker; the cult of motherhood; antiquated national family policies; and the “high status of busyness.” The result is our communal “time sickness.” Schulte takes a purely practical and secular approach to a question that philosophers and spiritual teachers have debated for centuries—how to find meaningful work, connection, and joy—but her research is thorough and her conclusions fascinating, her personal narrative is charmingly honest, and the stakes are high: the “good life” pays off in “sustainable living, healthy populations, happy families, good business, sound economies.” While the final insights stretch thin, Schulte unearths the attitudes and “powerful cultural expectations” responsible for our hectic lives, documents European alternatives to the work/family balance, and handily summarizes her solutions in an appendix. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"Schulte takes a purely practical and secular approach to a question that philosophers and spiritual teachers have debated for centuries--how to find meaningful work, connection, and joy—but her research is thorough and her conclusions fascinating, her personal narrative is charmingly honest, and the stakes are high: the "good life" pays off in 'sustainable living, healthy populations, happy families, good business, [and] sound economies.'" —Publisher's Weekly starred review

Overwhelmed... brings a fresh perspective and needed insight into what's too often called the problem of the work-life balance.” —Elle

“An unexpectedly liberating investigation into the plague of busyness that afflicts us all.” —The Washington Post

“This artful blend of memoir and cultural exploration asks hard questions about how to create a well-lived life... For Lean In fans, and everyone who feels overwhelmed.” —Booklist

“An eye-opening analysis of today's hectic lifestyles coupled with valuable practical advice on how to make better use of each day.” —Kirkus

“Just reading the first chapter of Overwhelmed may be cathartic: as bad as it is... at least you're not the only one... Overwhelmed is Schulte's attempt to not merely survive but also unpack and analyze the quintessentially modern and increasingly universal experience of feeling utterly unable to cope. Putting her own crowded life (two children, thriving career) on the slab for dissection, Schulte tries to figure out how we got here and how we can get out of it.” —Time

Overwhelmed is a superb report from the front lines of the sputtering gender revolution. Brigid Schulte takes up the perennial problem of women’s ‘second shift’ with fresh energy and fascinating new data, effortlessly blending academic findings and mothers’ lived experiences, including her own often hilarious attempts to be both the perfect parent and a successful full-time journalist. Before you embark on parenthood, before you volunteer to make cupcakes for a school party or stay up late to finish a fourth grader’s science project—and definitely before you pick up another copy of Martha Stewart Living—read this book!” —Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On(Not) Getting By in America

“Reflecting on her meticulous research, searching her feelings, and renegotiating the division of emotional labor with her husband, Tom, Brigid Schulte offers us a well-written and timely book, both witty and wise.” —Arlie Hochschild, author of The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home

 

“Beautifully written, with searing facts, engaging stories, illuminating history, and wry personal observations. A must-read by a truly perceptive author!” —John de Graaf, editor of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America

“Why is life so insanely busy? What happened to ‘leisure’ time? Tired of the modern hamster wheel, Brigid Schulte set out to find a better way to live. Her voice is delightful, her findings surprising and hopeful. Overwhelmed is a passionate, funny, very human book that reads like a detective story.” —William Powers, author of Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age

“Overwhelmed is a time management book that’s not just about how to be more productive and effective—it’s about the broad and fascinating role time plays in our emotional satisfaction, our physical health, and even our notions of gender equality. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more crucial it is to take the time to read this important book.” —Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

“Every parent, every caregiver, every person who feels besieged by permanent busyness, must read this book. A new wave of research, experience, and insight is challenging deep assumptions about why we have to live and work the way we do. Overwhelmed is a wake-up call and an exhilarating prescription for change.” —Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation and author of “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

Elle

Overwhelmed... brings a fresh perspective and needed insight into what's too often called the problem of the work-life balance.
The Washington Post

An unexpectedly liberating investigation into the plague of busyness that afflicts us all.
Booklist

This artful blend of memoir and cultural exploration asks hard questions about how to create a well-lived life... For Lean In fans, and everyone who feels overwhelmed.
Time

Just reading the first chapter of Overwhelmed may be cathartic: as bad as it is... at least you're not the only one... Overwhelmed is Schulte's attempt to not merely survive but also unpack and analyze the quintessentially modern and increasingly universal experience of feeling utterly unable to cope. Putting her own crowded life (two children, thriving career) on the slab for dissection, Schulte tries to figure out how we got here and how we can get out of it.
author of Nickel and Dimed: On(Not) Getting By Barbara Ehrenreich

Overwhelmed is a superb report from the front lines of the sputtering gender revolution. Brigid Schulte takes up the perennial problem of women's 'second shift' with fresh energy and fascinating new data, effortlessly blending academic findings and mothers' lived experiences, including her own often hilarious attempts to be both the perfect parent and a successful full-time journalist. Before you embark on parenthood, before you volunteer to make cupcakes for a school party or stay up late to finish a fourth grader's science project--and definitely before you pick up another copy of Martha Stewart Living--read this book!
author of The Second Shift: Working Families a Arlie Hochschild

Reflecting on her meticulous research, searching her feelings, and renegotiating the division of emotional labor with her husband, Tom, Brigid Schulte offers us a well-written and timely book, both witty and wise.
editor of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwo John de Graaf

Beautifully written, with searing facts, engaging stories, illuminating history, and wry personal observations. A must-read by a truly perceptive author!
author of Hamlet's BlackBerry: Building a Goo William Powers

Why is life so insanely busy? What happened to 'leisure' time? Tired of the modern hamster wheel, Brigid Schulte set out to find a better way to live. Her voice is delightful, her findings surprising and hopeful. Overwhelmed is a passionate, funny, very human book that reads like a detective story.
author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About Wh Daniel H. Pink

Overwhelmed is a time management book that's not just about how to be more productive and effective--it's about the broad and fascinating role time plays in our emotional satisfaction, our physical health, and even our notions of gender equality. The more overwhelmed you feel, the more crucial it is to take the time to read this important book.
president and CEO of the New America Foundation an Anne-Marie Slaughter

Every parent, every caregiver, every person who feels besieged by permanent busyness, must read this book. A new wave of research, experience, and insight is challenging deep assumptions about why we have to live and work the way we do. Overwhelmed is a wake-up call and an exhilarating prescription for change.
Kirkus Reviews
2014-01-19
An examination of how to change how you use your time. "You can't manage time. Time never changes," writes Washington Post journalist Schulte. "There will always and ever be 168 hours in a week." So the question remains: How do we manage time so the sense of being overworked, of dealing with never-ending responsibilities and the endless need to check the flood of information constantly available doesn't swamp us? Through careful, extensive research, the author explores the multiple levels where humans waste time and offers concrete advice on how to reclaim those lost moments. Today's workplace is still built around the outdated notion of the "ideal worker"—usually a man who can devote concentrated hours to the task at hand—and doesn't take into account the millions of women now juggling a full-time career with family life. Schulte advocates for a new system that provides flexibility in hours, paid maternal and paternal leave, and consideration of the desire for more freedom and leisure time. Women constantly multitask, coping with the multiple demands of housework, cooking and child care, which often leaves them feeling fragmented, exhausted, and with little or no time for themselves. This arena must become more balanced, writes the author, with both parents assuming equal responsibilities in all departments. Regarding leisure, Schulte looks to the Danes, who have one of the best ratios of work-to-vacation time in the world; they average a 37-hour workweek and six weeks of paid vacation, and long hours at the office are actually frowned upon. Backed by numerous examples, Schulte's effective time-management ideas will be helpful in stamping out ambivalence and will empower readers to reclaim wasted moments, so life becomes a joyful experience rather than a mad dash from one task to the next. An eye-opening analysis of today's hectic lifestyles coupled with valuable practical advice on how to make better use of each day.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374228446
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/11/2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 90,749
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Brigid Schulte

Brigid Schulte is an award-winning journalist for The Washington Post and The Washington Post Magazine, and was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize. She is also a fellow at the New America Foundation. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and their two children.
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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

PART ONE: TIME CONFETTI

1. The Test of Time
2. Leisure Is for Nuns
3. Too Busy to Live
4. The Incredible Shrinking Brain

PART TWO: WORK

5. The Ideal Worker Is Not Your Mother
6. A Tale of Two Pats
Bright Spot: Starting Small
7. When Work Works
Bright Spot: The Pentagon Can Do It, Why Can't You?

PART THREE: LOVE

8. The Stalled Gender Revolution
9. The Cult of Intensive Motherhood
Bright Spot: Mother Nature
10. New Dads
Bright Spot: Gritty, Happy Kids

PART FOUR: PLAY

11. Hygge in Denmark
12. Let Us Play
Bright Spot: Really Plan A Vacation

PART FIVE: TOWARD TIME SERENITY

13. Finding Time
Bright Spot: Time Horizons
14. Toward Time Serenity

Appendix: Do One Things
Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

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Reading Group Guide

1. If you started keeping a time diary, what categories would you want to create? Would you follow John Robinson's definition of leisure? Which category consumes most of your time right now?

2. In your family, how has the delegation of household duties changed over the generations? Did your childhood feature many scheduled activities, or did you have unstructured time? Did your parents embrace the idea of leisure and vacations?

3. How have you been affected by the increasing demands placed on salaried workers in an age of 24/7 availability? Who at your company would need to be convinced that reduced work hours and increased flexibility in scheduling could actually lead to increased productivity and profit?

4. How did you react to the author's interviews with Pat Buchanan and other traditionalists? What sustains their point of view?

5. What would it take for programs such as the Menlo Innovations approach in Ann Arbor and the Alternative Work Schedule at the Pentagon to become the norm throughout the United States? What do the book's progressive examples tell us about the best way to achieve change?

6. What are the most frequent contributors to your time confetti? If you could convert all of your confetti into leisure time, would you feel guilty?

7. Discuss the true equality proposed by Jessica DeGroot at ThirdPath Institute. Have you seen it in action in your community?

8. How would you respond to those who say women have only themselves to blame for the inequities they endure in the ratio of leisure time to "on call" time? What enabled Schulte to leave her kids behind and trust Tom? How did that help them work through their impasse?

9. What is at the root of discrimination against working moms, both in the workplace and among certain circles of stay-at-home moms? What do cases such as that of Renate Rivelli, the Brown Palace Hotel employee described in chapter 5, illustrate about the grossly inaccurate perceptions of a working mother's capabilities?

10. How would you answer the central questions posed by Schulte in chapter 9: who's right, what's best, and how do we stop the insanity? What did you learn from her sojourn in Denmark, where work hours are shorter and highly focused while the economy remains robust? How could the concept of hygge help us redefine the ideal standard of living?

11. In your opinion, why does the ideal of the self-sacrificing mother persist, despite the gains of the feminist movement? Why have so many American families resisted the fact that dads also have a parenting instinct, and that a diverse caretaking community can have a highly positive impact on a child's well-being?

12. One of the findings presented in Overwhelmed is the notion that grit and self-confidence, rather than income or GPA, are strong predictors of happiness. What do our barometers of success say about our real values as a society? Is happiness-whose pursuit is touted in the Declaration of Independence-still valued in the United States?

13. Discuss the concept of contaminated time. Knowing that the brain's working memory can hold only seven pieces of information at once, how would you begin to clear your cluttered mind-even if the responsibilities of work and home seem to follow you 24/7? What kind of space would "decontamination" create in your life?

14. Overwhelmed underscores the fact that years of history and cultural conditioning have spurred women to work harder than men, even during supposed time off: If a woman wants to watch TV, she'd better fold some laundry while she's at it. If she'd like to read a book, she should do it on the treadmill. On family "vacations," Mom will make sure that all of the kids' needs are met. Does this ring true for you? Do the men and women in your world manage time differently? If so, what can they do to silence that little voice that says women don't deserve to rest? What would motivate you to give yourself a break, even if it incites uproar at first?

15. Drawing on the author's closing advice to "do one thing," which of her changes will you implement in work, play, and love? What predictions would you make about the way future generations will balance their time among parenting, career, and leisure?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2014

    Well-written and well-researched, but a better subtitle would be

    Well-written and well-researched, but a better subtitle would be "work, love, and play when working mothers don't have the time", as I'd say 80% of the page count refers to the overwhelming life of the working mother.

    That isn't meant to say that's not an important and worthy book, but it's worth noting that bias from the beginning, because a great many people might see the title and reviews and not understand that bias.  Many single non-parents also feel time stress and the feeling of being "overwhelmed" and might be frustrated that the "no one" in the subtitle often doesn't include them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    Extensively researched

    A must read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2015

    Accurately portrays the stresses people face today in trying to

    Accurately portrays the stresses people face today in trying to accomplish everything that needs to be done each day, no easy answer here but she does offer some helpful tips

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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