Overwhelmed. Ah… how that word can easily define so much of my current season of life 😉
Many women feel the same way. Today I’m pleased to welcome Monica, a fellow avid reader, to the blog. She has a fantastic book review on a book that I am now going to add to my ever growing reading list.
Guest post by Monica of Newbery and Beyond
Ever have those days when you feel like you can’t catch up, that for every one thing you cross off your to-do list, two more appear?
Brigid Schulte has, and she wrote Brigid Schulte has, and she wrote Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time to explore her feelings of busyness and overwhelm—feelings that she found were shared by many women around the world.
This book is well researched, but readable. It’s based on scientific studies and research with personal stories and interviews to flesh out the research.
I have found (and reviewed) many books explaining how to succeed in your work, and many more that can help you come to a better knowledge of yourself and how you work best, but very few books will show you how and why you ended up unbalanced, with no time for yourself, or for your family, or for your work, like this one does.
This book follows Schulte’s journey to discover why we are so overwhelmingly busy and how we can have work, love, and play in our lives, rather than having to choose one.
Schulte is a full-time journalist with two children, and she, like many others, struggles with balancing her job and her family, while still trying to make time for herself. The frenetic descriptions of her life and the lives of those she interviewed set my heart pounding, because the feelings and mindsets she described were so familiar.
I’ve spent so many days checking things off a to-do list, working and cleaning and organizing and researching, and falling into bed at the end of the day without remembering what I spent my hours doing–and I’m sure many of you have done this, too.
I feel the irresistible draw to “do it all,” and I don’t even have kids yet to add to the craziness.
Time strain and contaminated time continually come up in this book as major culprits in our culture of busyness and our inability to feel “caught up” and present in the moment. Time strain comes from balancing work and family and the technology that constantly keeps us in touch, while contaminated time is thinking of your to-do list (and your delegated tasks list) during whatever you are doing in the moment.
Unfortunately, feeling overwhelmed can become a self-reinforcing cycle—the brain’s prefrontal cortex shrinks when it is stressed or overwhelmed, causing us to make poor decisions and work inefficiently. Again, when I read this, I felt as if Schulte was describing my life, and maybe your life, too.
It’s so easy to get distracted by the multitudes of gadgets, necessary but menial tasks, and the stress of balancing work, relationships, and recreation, and to allow those distractions and stresses to perpetuate bad decisions and poor time management.
In general, everyone agrees on the importance of work and family. What I found interesting in Overwhelmed was how important leisure and recreation are as well. Especially in our culture, where vacations are often not taken and multitasking is a valued skill, leisure time is often overlooked or pushed aside until all the items on the to-do list are completed—something which rarely (if ever) happens, in my experience!
According to recent studies quoted by Schulte in this book, we as a culture are spending record amounts of time with our children and working longer hours than our brains can competently handle. No wonder relaxation is often shoved to the bottom of the list! Schulte stresses the importance of creating a “third path,” combining your priorities and goals in life to help you decide how to spend your time, and not allowing culture, family, or friends to dictate how you and your family live.
If you have choice and control over your activities, you will feel more satisfied and are more likely to be relaxed, creative, and patient with those around you.
I learned so much about recent studies on time, the brain, work, leisure, family, and gender roles from this book. If you’re interested in how our culture affects our attitudes and actions on these topics, in comparison with other cultures around the world, you’ll love how well-researched this book is.
I did want more application in the book, which was mostly focused on statistics and stories, rather than ways to stop the overwhelm from controlling our lives. However, the appendix had some great action points and reminders, such as the importance of working in intense but short (usually no more than 90 minutes) segments, taking vacations and breaks to clear your head, refusing to multitask, unplugging from work emails and phone calls at the end of the day, having discussions as a couple about work and family, and allowing yourself to play.
Most importantly, the book speaks about using the natural rhythms of your brain and body and refusing to power through until you are burnt out. By taking a break, you become fresh, relaxed, more creative, a better worker, and a better parent.
One of the most powerful ideas that I took away from the book is this: You can’t manage time, only the activities that fill it.
Overwhelmed talks about the importance of deciding what is most important to you and purposely choosing to give your time and effort to those things—according to Schulte, everything else should get just 5% of your time. Anyone who feels like they’re in a constant time crunch should read this book—particularly busy parents, whether you work outside the home or not. If nothing else, you’ll learn how things got to the crazy state they’re in, and you’ll know you’re not alone in this balancing act of work, family, and leisure.
Have you felt this sense of “overwhelm” in your own life? How do you deal with it?
Monica Fastenau is a book review blogger at Newbery and Beyond and a freelance editor. She currently lives in Florida with her husband, where she teaches private music lessons as her day job. She started reading at the age of four, and she’s been a bookworm ever since.
Monica talks about how she wished the book would have contained more actionable tips and advice, I am currently reading an ARC of Jessica Turner’s The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. I am LOVING this book. It is full of tips to help you create and balance your schedule to do things that you love, that are your passions, and that ultimately help you to become a better woman, wife and mother. The book officially releases February 17th, but you can pre-order your copy now!
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