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Overwhelmed: Looking at America's obsession with being busy

The Crawford Family Forum

Can working people, especially parents, in America—or anywhere—ever find true leisure time?

According to the Leisure Studies Department at the University of Iowa, true leisure is “that place in which we realize our humanity.” If that’s the case, argues Brigid Schulte in her new book, "Overwhlemed," then we're doing dangerously little of it. Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post, asks: “Are our brains, our partners, our culture, and our bosses making it impossible for us to experience anything but “contaminated time?”

Schulte first explored this question in a 2010 feature for The Washington Post Magazine.  She says: “My assignment was to find the time study data to prove how busy women are. Knowing nothing about time research, I googled, "busy women time" and up popped someone by the name of John Robinson, one of the first and most eminent time-use researchers in the world. I called him up, expecting to find easy validation. Instead, he told me women like me had 30 hours of leisure time every week. And thus the journey began.” She asked: “How did researchers compile this statistic that said we were rolling in leisure—over four hours a day? Did any of us feel that we actually had downtime? Was there anything useful in their research—anything we could do?”

The result is "Overwhelmed", a map of the stresses that have ripped our leisure to shreds, and a look at how to put the pieces back together. Schulte speaks to neuroscientists, sociologists, and hundreds of working parents to tease out the factors contributing to our collective sense of being overwhelmed. She investigates progressive offices trying to invent a new kind of workplace; she travels across Europe to get a sense of how other countries accommodate working parents; she finds younger couples who claim to have figured out an ideal division of chores, childcare, and meaningful paid work. And she’s here at our Crawford Family Forum with KPCC’s Brian Watt to tell us what she found out.

Brian Watt: from the KPCC business desk.

Brigid Schulte: staff writer for The Washington Post; 2013 Bernard L. Schwartz Felllow, New America Foundation.

7:45am – Doors open, light breakfast served
8:30am – Program starts

RELATED: KPCC asks: How do you balance work, love and play?

This program is a Drucker Business Forum co-presented by SCPR and the Drucker School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.

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