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Mindful : June 2015
Don’t get addicted to busyness, or let it become a badge of honor. You can do less—and feel good about it. relax into your sweet spot By Christine Carter Illustrations by Susa Talan Five years ago, I was a single mother holding down three demanding part-time jobs, and my life was a blur. Yes, our family did find a way to eat dinner together most nights, and we talked about what we were grateful for. But, for all of that, I was caught up in the busyness of modern life—winded, running on a hamster wheel, afraid to slow down. I’d lost my groove. For too many of us, life today is a pressure cooker. Even the most talented—and privileged— people are struggling to “balance” relentless work with family commitments, to manage a constant flood of information and emails, to cope with extraordinary stress levels. Only 17% of the adult population is said to be flourishing, fulfilling their potential for happiness, success, and productivity. And think about these facts and figures: 66% of working parents say they aren’t getting everything done that they want to; 57% feel like they don’t spend enough time with their families; and 46% feel they have no time for leisure. Most people have actually lost time for pleasure compa red to our ancestors 100 years ago—despite the fact that in the olden days, they had to handwash their laundry. For most of the 20th century, the broad consensus was that “working more than 40 hours a week was stupid, wasteful, dangerous, and expensive—and the most telling sig n of dangerously incompetent ma nagement to boot,” futurist Sara Robinson writes in a n essay on the workweek. More than 100 years of research shows, she goes on to say, that “every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective a nd productive over both the short a nd the long haul.” Really! Even though most people think this ma kes intuitive sense, they’re still surprised to hea r that it’s actually true. This common sense is so widely ignored that over work—and the problems with health, happiness, and productivity it brings—is epidemic. At the same time that our lives have got- ten easier in many ways—with devices to wash the → Christine Carter, Ph.D., is a sociologist and senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She is the author of Raising Happiness and most recently The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. June 2015 mindful 35 resilience