The best books to help you have more breathing space

Jeff Davidson Author Of Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society
By Jeff Davidson

The Books I Picked & Why

TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @Work @Home @Play

By Michelle M. Weil, Larry D. Rosen

TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @Work @Home @Play

Why this book?

I like this book because the authors have unearthed powerful insights. In one Reuters study, they say, of slightly more than 1,300 business managers in Europe, the U.S., Southeast Asia, and Australia, 33% of managers were suffering ill health as a direct result of information overload. Nearly two-thirds reported that tension with colleagues and diminished job satisfaction were directly related to the stress of information overload. A majority also admitted that their social and personal relationships have suffered as a result of the stress of having to cope with too much information. That kind of information puts in perspective what so many career professionals experience all too often.

The book delves into territory to which we can all relate, citing, for example, that many managers feel increasing technology leads to loss of privacy, information inundation, and erosion of face-to-face contact. And who among us is happy to have to continually learn new skills, or to be passed over for promotion because others coming up the ladder are more technologically savvy?

The payoff of this book is a potpourri of ideas to get back in control. The authors offer viable ways to minimize the stress you might experience if you're working in a potentially interruption-laden environment. You can ask yourself questions such as do I really need to know now? Do I really want to know now? And do I really want the interruption that might occur once I know?"


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The Death of Intimacy: Barriers to Meaningful Interpersonal Relationships

By Philip M. Brown

The Death of Intimacy: Barriers to Meaningful Interpersonal Relationships

Why this book?

If you're looking for a book that captures the zeitgeist of contemporary relationships, here it is, well before the reign of Facebook. Calling upon social commentary, psychoanalysis, psychology, sociology, feminist theory, anthropology, family theory, and linguistics, the author presents a broad-based, scholarly, and sobering analysis of the toxic trends and processes in our society which are casting Americans adrift from their emotional and psychic moorings, and leaving them unable to initiate or sustain meaningful relationships.

Because of the ever-growing impersonal nature of our society, it has become more difficult to begin and sustain intimate relationships. Indeed, it seems as if modern life is represented by a series of relationships of convenience that often lack substance. These kinds of insights make this book very appealing. The author contends that we're losing our overall ability to be involved in meaningful relationships and instead are relegated to something less. Most important, the author offers keen perspectives on what we can do, personally and professionally, to have deeper relationships that are more meaningful and more rewarding.


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Information Anxiety

By Richard Saul Wurman

Information Anxiety

Why this book?

This book took me and the business world by storm. Wurman truly nailed a feeling that was widely experienced but had not yet been named. He explained how information anxiety resulted from constant overstimulation, especially when we don't have the time or opportunity to make an orderly transition from one idea to the next.

He explained how no one functions well when figuratively gasping for breath. Learning, he said, requires ‘way-stations’ where we have the chance to stop and think about an idea or subject matter before moving on to the next. So true! I particularly like his analogy that basing your view of the world on isolated events is like basing you knowledge of music on what you hear in an elevator.

Most important to me are the five ways to organize information as laid out in the book. If you're wondering, they include by category, time, location, alphabet, or continuum. The accompanying examples he gives are quite helpful. If, say, you're preparing a report on the car industry you could organize vehicles by model (category), year (time), place of manufacture (location), or consumer reports rating (continuum), or even name of the manufacturer or names of the cars (alphabet). This works for me!


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The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business

By Thomas H. Davenport, John C. Beck

The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business

Why this book?

To me, this book is a classic, and isolating 'attention' as the real currency of business and individuals is pure genius. The author observes that attention actually has many of the same attributes as money. People who don’t have it want it. People who have it, often want it even more. You can trade attention, and you can purchase it.

I like the way the author explains how we covet our time and resources in relation to attention: people work to preserve and extend what they already have, and so caller ID and email-filtering software are popular because they screen out whatever might divert one's attention."

The authors note that similar to airplane seats and fresh food, attention is a perishable commodity. They cite Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, who proclaimed that, "What information consumes is rather obvious; it consumes the attention of recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” And, yes, this book held my attention!


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Ritual: A Guide to Life, Love, and Inspiration

By Emma Restall Orr

Ritual: A Guide to Life, Love, and Inspiration

Why this book?

We are all creatures of habit and many of our habits are akin to what the author calls rituals. This is heavy-duty stuff, and well worth reading. In our modern hectic work-a-day world, too often we lack rituals that could be sustaining and rewarding. Why is this important? Rituals can add richness and meaning to our daily lives. For example, the author says a walk in the park or lightning a candle at certain times of the day enables us to reconnect with others and with our inner self.

During a time when many of us live miles and miles from our families and might not even know our neighbors, rituals provide us with a feeling of belonging. They enhance our sense of who we are, personally and professionally, as well as individually and collectively. The great news is that rituals can easily be adapted to suit occasions and events within our own lifestyle. This includes rituals for marriage, the birth of a child, dealing with grief, heightening our sexuality, enhancing our mealtimes, and energizing our lives! As such this book is well worth exploring.


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