Brigid Schulte, fellow at the New America Foundation, award-winning journalist for the Washington Post – and harried mother of two – began the journey quite by accident, after a time-use researcher insisted that she, like all American women, had 30 hours of leisure each week. Stunned, she accepted his challenge to keep a time diary and began a journey that would take her from the depths of what she described as the Time Confetti of her days to a conference in Paris with time researchers from around the world, to North Dakota, of all places, where academics are studying the modern love affair with busyness, to Yale, where neuroscientists are finding that feeling overwhelmed is actually shrinking our brains, to exploring new lawsuits uncovering unconscious bias in the workplace, why the US has no real family policy, and where states and cities are filling the federal vacuum.
A CALL TO PAUSE
Overwhelmed? The Greeks said pure leisure, that place where we refresh the soul and become most fully human, is the point of The Good Life. In our busy modern, rushed, distracted and tech-addicted world, what has happened to leisure? What are the costs? More, how do we get it back and why it’s imperative to do so, not only to improve the quality and creativity of the work we do, but to connect deeply with others – which, for humans, is what makes us truly happy – and to sink into that time-out-of-time state called Flow, that psychologists call peak human experience.
MEN, WOMEN, BOOMERS, MILLENNIALS AND THE FUTURE OF OVERWHELM
Americans work among the longest and most extreme hours of any industrialized country. Our work-life balance index is among the lowest. And, according to the World Health Organization, we are the most stressed-out nation on the planet. The way we’re working – long hours, face time in the office, tethered to the iphone and Android all hours – is making us sick, stupid and shrinking our brains. Why it’s unsustainable and ultimately counterproductive. And how Millennials starting out, Boomers on second careers, natural disasters, technology and brain and human performance science and the innovative workplaces already building on that research can show us all a better way to work hard and smart and still have time for life.
FROM TIME CONFETTI TO TIME SERENITY
Time is becoming more and more fragmented in our modern, tech-addicted society. We have so many choices that are brains become waterlogged with decision-fatigue before we even get started on the day. The email inbox is constantly clogged. The To Do list never ends. What a handful of simple yet powerful personal mastery tools can do to help make time feel different – less scattered, and with more opportunity for those timeless moments that the Greeks called Kairos time.
DIVERGENT REALITIES: MEN, WOMEN AND THE EXPERIENCE OF TIME
It’s not that men and women’s brains are wired differently, as the popular notion goes – research shows more brain variation among the sexes than between them – but they do experience time wholly differently. Women’s time has always been more fragmented. Their responsibilities at home and at work mean they have a myriad number of roles with heavy “task density,” as social scientists say, juggling them all requires role shifting throughout the day, which make time feel more pressured, and struggling to keep it all in mind overloads the working memory and leads to “contaminated time.” If women feel scattered, its because their time has always been scattered.
Flow, what psychologists say is the peak human experience, takes long stretches of uninterrupted time. Time that men have had for centuries, but not women. At what cost? Flow is when most of the great art, philosophy and inventions that have shaped civilization have arisen. What will it take for women to get this kind of time – and what will that mean for the world – and the future of civilization – when both men and women have time to think deeply, create and, as the Greeks said, refresh the soul?