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Ep. 54: Brigid Schulte, Director of the Better Life Lab, Works To Make Us Less Overwhelmed

"We've gotten to the point where now we are being so identified by work and that's how we define who we are. So there's all this work spillover into home but because we haven't valued the home and care and caregiving as much, we don't have that same spillover effect from home to work. I think that's something we really need to start watching, how do we create those stronger boundaries?"

Brigid Schulte is the Director of the Better Life Lab and The Good Life Initiative at New America Foundation. She is the bestselling author of Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time. She co-authored the recently released Better Work Toolkit, a science-based approach to designing work-life solutions that work. She talks about creating better systems to combat overwork, how overwork is a public health crisis, and how basing value at work on hours contributes to the gender pay gap. Listen for wisdom on how to feel less overwhelmed and live a better life!

"Our brains are wired to make very snap judgements, and right now because of millennia of conditioning, we automatically associate men with career and women with family. Everybody does that. We are all biased. We have to recognize that, stop stigmatizing that, embrace it, and recognize that we all need better systems to help us make the best decisions without bias getting in the way."

We discuss redesigning work to support diverse 21st-century families, gender equality, the future of work, using psychology to design different environments, work-life balance, how to open opportunities for both men and women to show that they can do good work, unconscious bias in the workplace, reforming the workplace by reforming the home, using flexibility artfully and effectively, how finding your joy improves your career and personal life, developing systems to making things work better at life and at home, giving ourselves permission to think differently, and the damaging stereotype of the bustling woman.

"How do you create the opportunity for living your best life for all people?"

What you'll learn:

  • Brigid is the director of the Better Life Lab and The Good Life Initiative.
  • She was a staff writer at the Washington Post 
  • She has also written a NY Times best seller called "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time"
  • The Better Life Lab was formed after Brigid researched her book and found three major areas of life that contribute to life feeling overwhelming.
  • She started the lab to look into these areas; work, gender equality and social policy.
  • She also helped develop the Better Work Tool Kit with a partner non-profit that researches human psychology. 
  • Together they look at what drives overworking and design solutions to solve these problems.
  • We think overworking is solved with willpower and just concentrating and pushing through will help, but this has been disproven. 
  • To aid willpower we need to create a system that makes selecting the right choice easy.
  • The tool kit can help you change individually, as part of a team or organization-wide help.
  • Helping combat overwork in organization is a stealth feminist agenda because men are able to overwork more than women and this contributes to the pay gap.
  • A key goal for Brigid is getting paid-leave for men and women after having a baby across the country. 
  • Men are as equally wired as women to be maternal but due to maternity leave men don’t spend as much time with the baby in order to bond.
  • Flexibility in work has reduced the ability to switch off at home, because emails can now be done anywhere. 
  • We need to switch off because our best ideas come when the brain is in a diffuse state, for example on a walk or in the bath.

"There are studies that show that working mothers are actually among the most productive workers out there, just because they have to be! But people don't seem to notice that. Because of unconscious bias, you're not seen as committed."


  • There’s more help out there if you need it; reach out to mentors
  • Do less busy work and instead do what the guys are doing.
  • Relax and find joy.
  • Give yourself permission to think differently.

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