The Overwhelmed Review

My review of Brigid Schulte’s book, Overwhelmed, ran over at City Journal’s website this past weekend. The gist is that this is a perfectly sensible Big Idea book, written by a very good reporter. The problem is that Schulte spends too much time making this a book about herself. We’re supposed to believe her life is a mess, which it really isn’t. In the end she reclaims her leisure time not through any grand change in the rest of the world (even though there are parts of the world that need to change!), but by simply deciding to live her life differently. If she could do so, then maybe that option is available to others as well. This book could have been called “I have leisure time, I just have to work through some issues first. Maybe you do too!” But, of course, that’s a lot less grabby than complaining about the Age of Overwhelm.

Have you read the book? What did you think?

8 thoughts on “The Overwhelmed Review

  1. I read that book. I thought it was an excellent complimentary book to your 168 Hours. I would recommend your book first as it is more hands-on and gives practical solutions. I liked her book because it gave insight into what others were facing and how others deal with these issues – workplace schedules, family leave and so forth, though those issues are not always within our sphere of control. So I agree, the research part of her book was excellent. As far as how overwhelmed she is, I think that could be debated endlessly. I think it boils down to how frazzled we feel. When our leisure activities become obligations, they no longer feel like leisure activities. Having Thanksgiving off can be a day to watch tv or enjoy a day of cooking – if you want to do the former, you’d better find someone else to do the latter if you want a big meal while if you choose to do the latter, see it as how you are using your leisure time rather than as a necessary chore and you’ll be much happier. Same task – different attitude.

    1. I agree with Tana. Laura–I read your book, “I Know How She Does It,” and while I picked up some good tips, I wanted to know more about the issue of exactly *why* people feel frazzled and harried, even if we each have 168 hours to accomplish what we’d like to do.

      Brigid Schulte’s book and research satisfied my curiosity tremendously. Also, I liked her anecdotes about her own sense of overwhelm–they helped me relate to the book and the points made therein.

  2. I loved it.

    It actually acknowledged that while we all have the same 168 hrs, we don’t experience them the same, and we don’t have the same responsibilities to fit in them. i.e. that single mothers have very different sense of time–I think she uses “time poor”–than other demographics

  3. My only complaint with the book is the title. I enjoyed it but almost didn’t read it because the title sounded exaggerated. I found it helpful to know someone as accomplished as the author would have to work to create the life she wanted, so I liked both her personal anecdotes and the researched sections. I thought it was particularly helpful to think about what really constitutes leisure (i.e. having a choice about what you do and when you do).

  4. I didn’t like it very much. I just wanted to scream at her to make some priorities! Now I know that some people are truly overwhelmed with aging parents, single family homes, etc. But the rest of us just need to give up some stuff and decide what’s important. Maybe I make it sound too simple, but I like to think I learned it from you Laura!

    1. @Jennifer – thanks 😉 I read through the personal parts because I was reviewing it, but I think if I’d just picked up the book, I would have put it down before getting to the meaty stuff about policy and flexible workplaces and such. From a broad perspective, it sounds like she has a pretty good life. A good job (and an employer who OK’d a part-time arrangement for a while), a second present parent even if he wasn’t scrubbing the oven like she wanted, two healthy kids. Indeed, it turned out that she did have the power to change the parts of her life she wasn’t happy with — it just takes a while to get there.

  5. I’m looking forward to reading Overwhelmed. I like anecdotes of people figured out their best schedules. It sounds like a time makeover + policy + history.

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