Overwhelmed: How Trying to Do More Leads People to Accomplish Less

I can’t remember the last “business” book that made me ride a roller-coaster of emotion as I read, unable to put it down.

That’s precisely how Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time (written by award-winning Washington Post journalist Brigid Schulte) made me feel.

From the anxious pit-in-my-stomach feeling reading the research on how we got to this stage of “overwhelm” in our lives, to fury over how our society actually condones and encourages such a state, to hope that we can change to make work-life balance real for all of us, Overwhelmed not only made me evaluate my own emotions towards work and life, but it also brought to the surface for me many of my own shortcomings, oversights and inter-dependencies.

The state of being overwhelmed

So, what is the state of “overwhelm?” It’s constantly living in a state of needing to do “just one more thing,” be “just a little bit better,” do more, help more, achieve more… more, more, more.

I think that’s a state many feel today, though Brigid makes the excellent argument it can be worse in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world because of how we’ve structured work to cater to the myth of the ideal worker and the home to cater to the equally insidious myth of the ideal mother.

Why are these myths so terrible? It’s impossible for anyone to live up to these ideals because they are ideals and not reality. As Brigid says, “There will never be equality at home until there’s equality in the workplace, until we redefine the ideal worker.” – This is why we need a complete recalibration of how we work and therefore how we play. Indeed, we’ve never needed more the idea of “WorkHuman.”

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Near the end of the book, Brigid relates a key lesson derived from extensive research:

Meaningful work can be done without working all hours and sacrificing yourself, your family, or your life. Giving workers control and predictability over their schedules can lead to productivity and profits. Vacation and rest can make you a better worker and a happier person.”

Getting out of the overwhelmed state

Overwhelmed is a well-written, compelling, research- and story-driven book that kept me hooked from the opening page. I encourage you, in the midst of your potential own overwhelmed state, to take a few hours and read the wisdom here.

If you do nothing else, read the Appendix: Do One Thing. In it, Brigid offers bullet-point lists in the categories of work, love and play to help step out of the overwhelm — one thing at a time.

This was originally published on the Recognize This! blog.

Facts and stats run through Lynette Silva’s veins. She uses her wealth of data and knowledge to help customers build strong business cases for the power of thanks to increase employee engagement, retention, productivity, and performance. In her role as senior recognition strategist and consultant at Globoforce (www.globoforce.com), she’s also a frequently requested speaker and session leader. Contact her at Lynette.silva@globoforce.com.

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