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An Antidote to Burnout

13 September 2022

Rachel read Laura Vanderkam's opinion piece, "There's a Better Way to Reclaim Your Time than 'Quiet Quitting'," and was buoyed by a counter-intuitive observation about restoring energy.

Tags: balance, burnout, happiness, rachel read, time management

I have mixed feelings about the use of the phrase "quiet quitting" to describe observations of a less-engaged workforce, but a byline of Laura Vanderkam is likely to overcome my rolled eyes. (You could say that the Allison Partners team has some fans, since both Barbara and Janie have blogged about Vanderkam's work.) In an opinion piece in today's New York Times, Vanderkam shared findings from a recent time satisfaction study with some surprising and practical results.

As Vanderkam describes, "The opposite of burnout isn't doing nothing, or even scaling back. It's engagement." In a nine-week study last year, Vanderkam asked 140 busy professionals to apply a set of nine time management strategies. Notably, many of the strategies aren't about doing less, or doing things more efficiently. Instead, they're additive — study participants actually committed to do MORE. At the very moments when adding pursuit of a hobby, a favorite pasttime, or a social engagement might seem most impossible, Vanderkam convinced people to shuffle other priorities and incorporate active leisure anyway.

The result? Over the nine weeks, study participants reported that time felt more abundant overall (not just when having fun). As Vanderkam explains, "Put simply, when we put time into what we find energizing, our inner narrative changes. We no longer feel like life is a slog." My translation: a satisfying hour or afternoon restores our hope that we can make progress, and that sense of accomplishment is fuel for possibility.

Neither Vanderkam nor I have a magic wand. There is not (yet) a time machine that adds a magical extra hour to the day. But if you're feeling as though all you can do is less, perhaps the question to ask is where you might do more. Let's see what happens.


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