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

I recently attended a time management seminar, and the core idea was to break down the entrepreneur’s time into a systematized workweek of 1-hour blocks, allocated in certain ways. I’ve spent 10 years professionally helping mostly women with time management, and I was one of the first true work-at-home employees over 20 years ago, when the internet was still new and shiny, and “logging on” meant listening to a symphony of computer clicks and chirps at 64 baud. So I know a little about working, working whenever and wherever, and working when family demands your attention. I know this traditional approach of managing your life in tidy 1-hour blocks doesn’t work as well on the road as it does on paper.

If you, also, are a busy women looking for time management answers, check out the latest book I’ve read on this topic, called “Overwhelmed:  Work Love and Play When No One Has the Time” by Brigid Schulte.

For some people the issue is needing more structure and discipline in their lives, and I love it when they show up in my client base, because my job is then easy.  We just fill in a calendar with one-hour blocks as traditional teachers on time management will propose, and away they go. BUT THAT NEVER HAPPENS. The real problem is what Schulte pinpoints as “contaminated time” or “fractured time”, which is the modern expectation to work from anywhere, seamlessly, and still hold down the home front. This is mostly a female problem, magnified in households where there are young children, and quite different from what most men experience. This is not chauvinistic, just the facts.

Some folks can still operate and succeed in this world of contaminated time, and some feel constant and unmanageable stress from it. The idea that our day can be broken down into 1-hour blocks of time is hilarious. Even 30 minute or 15 minute blocks are hard to come by (although one strategy that I help my clients with is to create those 15 minute blocks, using an audible timer while removing or  shutting off all other distractions for brief bursts of time, repeating them over and over in rapid fire to create larger blocks of time).

I think Schulte’s book is an important addition to the modern library. You’ll hear Schulte describing, sometimes with real, justified anger, what the family has to go through in America. Most women I know and work with are exactly what Schulte describes…successful professionals who had to make drastic changes, sometimes “dropping out” and re-inventing a new career path in order to find a spot where they could re-fashion their calendars to allow for the demands of a family that needed them to be there for sick days, snow days, and horribly expensive childcare situations.

Women will read this book and feel relief; their “contaminated” and “fractured” calendars aren’t a symptom of their inadequacy, but rather a symptom of modern life. Men can benefit from this sometimes raw description of how their wives, daughters, and co-workers are juggling too much. There isn’t one solution to this epidemic, but rather a series of small steps to recognize the problem and manage it for every phase of your life. Read Schulte’s book through to the end, and then develop your own plan to manage the time challenges in your own life.

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