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Work, Love And Play In ‘The Most Anxious Country In The World’

Brigid Schulte discusses her book "Overwhelmed" at an event in 2014.
Flickr Photo/Howard County Library System (CC-BY-NC-ND)
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Brigid Schulte discusses her book "Overwhelmed" at an event in 2014.

Americans are famously industrious. The chart of our productivity growth per hour worked from 1948 to 2011 shows a rise of over 250 percent. It’s the classic ‘up and up and where it stops, nobody knows’ graph.

But the fact is, while Americans work longer hours than workers in most other countries, we’re actually less productive than you might think. According to a number of studies, working more than 40 hours a week just makes us less productive. So what would happen if we worked less?

In this episode of Speakers Forum, you'll hear from journalist Brigid Schulte about why Americans are overworked (especially if you're a working mom) and how we might change that dynamic.

Schulte says that when a researcher insisted she had 30 hours of leisure time a week she was first incredulous, then she got mad. That led her to set the record straight.

The result is her book, "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time." In it she shares advice, personal stories and statistical analysis that provide surprising insights into how productivity works, how we care for each other and the crucial importance of play.

If you're a parent, it will make you think twice when you tell your kids to wait a minute as you check work emails from home. And if you think you're a great multitasker, well, you might want to take a break and meditate on that.

Schulte writes about work-life issues for the Washington Post. She is also a fellow at the New America Foundation.

Schulte spoke at Town Hall Seattle on April 20. This talk was presented by Town Hall and Third Place Books, as part of the Civics series. Thanks to Edward Wolcher for our recording.