Chapter 1. THE ROAD TO BURNOUT

Recently a radio commercial aired for a popular brand of wireless PDA. The first voice, the owner of the device, tells how he was able to get all of Monday's work done on the train ride in. He checked his email, reviewed his PowerPoint presentation, read some documents, all kinds of great stuff. "So what happens when you get to work?" asks a second voice. "I pretend it's Tuesday," he replies, and the commercial ends.

The character in this ad is typical of many people that I have met in the business world: people who are dedicated, enthusiastic, and optimistic about their work and their career prospects. They work diligently, always alert and responsive to incoming requests for their attention and time. Their technologies allow them to compose documents, messages, and presentations much faster than just a few years ago, and the ease by which information is sent across time zones and between departments means that turnaround times are shorter, and everyone stays busy. Very busy. Yet, below the surface, these same people feel something else: a nagging sensation that speed and overload is getting the better of them. They sense a certain frustration. Their workload seems to grow all the time. There is an expectation that responses to emails and requests should be given immediately, and this occupies much of the working day. The true number of hours needed to get it all done extends into the evening and the weekend. Distraction seems to overtake focus. The ...

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