Feeling overwhelmed? Try chunking the craziness

"Standing on the Yellow Platform Line" by Yanping Soong. Licenced under  Creative Commons   Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0  Licence.

"Standing on the Yellow Platform Line" by Yanping Soong. Licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Licence.

It's funny how some phrases just stick. "Chunk the craziness" appears to have lodged in my brain, and I hope it's there to stay. I wish I'd come up with it but, as it was broadcast to the nation this week, that might be tricky to sustain.

I'd been listening to Oliver Burkeman is Busy, an excellent series on BBC Radio 4. "Chunk the craziness" seemed to encapsulate so much about how we work. Or rather, about how work doesn't work. After all, feeling overwhelmed, overstretched and always "on" seems pretty normal these days. Presumably, we'd be best off without any craziness to chunk in the first place. But perhaps that would damage our self-esteem and sense of self-importance. (And be a bit, you know, dull.)

Burkeman's series is well worth a listen even if you're, ahem, busy. It's full of interesting people and research. Like data that shows we're not actually busier than we used to be. (Although women probably are busier than men. Sorry, chaps.) Or that busyness is becoming an addiction. And you can glean some useful tips that might just make your working life less fraught and more fun.

The series isn't one of astonishing revelations. Rather, it's an interesting take on stuff that instinctively makes sense, and is backed up by research. Its impact on me was that I chunked my personal craziness, and felt better for it. In practice, that meant not engaging with e-mail until midday, and after I'd finished a task that Required Dedicated Thought.* Like most things that are common sense, I do try do this anyway, but naming it was oddly motivating.

I'm also going to practice non-practice for a while, by dropping things that aren't work but are starting to feel like it. Things I used to do just because I liked doing them. And now do because they might make me a Better And More Productive Person. Which, frankly, is more exhausting than just cracking on with work.

Instead, and in an attempt to live my life being less busy and more delighted, I'm going to do one (extra) thing everyday that a) I like doing, and b) doesn't make me a better or more productive person. Since our brains need rest, it might make me more productive after all. But that would be missing the point.

*I've not been brave enough to follow suit (yet), but Carrie Bedingfield has compelling thoughts on leaving e-mail behind. You can find out why she did it here, what that was all about here, and how she did it here.