overwhelmed coverRecently a colleague mentioned she was reading Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte.  My first thought was “I’d love to read that, but I don’t know when!” And that’s exactly what the topic of Schulte’s book is: how to make time for work, love, and play in a world that moving at the speed of light.  Schulte’s site describes the book this way:

Overwhelmed is a book about time pressure and modern life. It is a deeply reported and researched, honest and often hilarious journey from feeling that, as one character in the book said, time is like a “rabid lunatic” running naked and screaming as your life flies past you, to understanding the historical and cultural roots of the overwhelm, how worrying about all there is to do and the pressure of feeling like we’re never have enough time to do it all, or do it well, is “contaminating” our experience of time, how time pressure and stress is resculpting our brains and shaping our workplaces, our relationships and squeezing the space that the Greeks said was the point of living a Good Life: that elusive moment of peace called leisure.

It’s a great read and there’s a million things I want to share, but I whittled it down to two of my favorite ideas from the book.
#1: Busyness has become status.
How many times have you asked someone how they are doing to hear them reply “Oh my gosh, I’m just so busy.”  It almost becomes a competition to see who’s busier.  Have you ever had a conversation like this: “I only slept four hours last night because of this crazy project I am leading”  “Well, I only slept two hours on Tuesday when I getting ready for the big meeting”?  Okay maybe it’s not always that obvious, but I have a feeling it resonates with you experience.  Schulte even discusses how our annual Christmas letters have become brag sheets of just how busy we are.  The unfortunate thing though is that we pride ourselves on being busy, we make ourselves busier.  In that hustle and bustle, we miss out on truly living.
#2 Our perception of how busy we are matters almost as much as reality.
Of course there are real world stressors that we can’t “change our perspective” away (marriage problems, sick loved ones, and even moving), but a lot of how we experience our life has to do with how we perceive it.  If I think that I have no leisure time, then my stress levels will reflect that   (a bath of constant stress as Schulte describes it).  If, however, I take time to recognize and be grateful for my leisure time, its calming effect is more powerful.
So two tips:
#1: Stop with busy-ness competition.  
Just don’t engage!  When someone brags about being busy, resist the urge to one-up them and instead reply “Wow, that sounds really stressful.  Lately I’m focusing on how to have more balance in my life.”
#2: Relish the leisure.  
So leisure for you might not mean a day at the spa or even the time to go to the movies, but there are moments of-could-be leisure in all our lives – if we make ourselves aware of them.  For example, last week instead of being stressed when my train was delayed, I said to myself  “How leisurely is this!  I get to read my book for a few more minutes.  So relaxing.” AND in addition to changing how you perceive your leisure, actually make more time for it.  Let go of the guilt of not being busy and embrace some leisure!