BOOKS | Justine Toh
Wednesday 12 August 2015
The set up will be familiar to many: professional women stretched to the limit at work and home. You know you’re in this category when ‘spare time’ is something you’d fantasise about—that is, if you had the time. Yet in the midst of this common predicament of modern life Anne Winckel, self-confessed workaholic, lawyer, academic, and business owner, makes an ambitious claim: “you can be simultaneously ‘poor in time’ and ‘rich in soul’. These things are not mutually exclusive.”
Intrigued? That makes two of us—and millions of other busy, Australian working women trying to endlessly solve the work/life equation (I’ve given up hope of ‘balance’). Winckel explores, throughout Time Poor, Soul Rich, among the nominees for 2015 Australian Christian Book of the Year, how the permanent survival mode demanded by the combined pressures of business and home life need not impoverish the soul.
There’s a lot here to like. Time Poor covers the toll ‘soul starvation’ exacts on relationships with others as well as the self and its ability to engage with the wider world. Winckel is also across the ways in which women contribute to their own poverty of soul by being mastered by precisely those qualities that are key to their success. Accordingly, she encourages introspection—are you a Workaholic? Perfectionist? Control Freak? Martyr? Attention Seeker? All five?—and ways in which women might bring these tendencies under control. And, perfect for those pressed for time, Time Poor is a zippy read. Chapters are bite-sized and come complete with 60-second remedies, or longer solutions that will require some planning, to enrich the soul.
The book also features plenty of stories from women sharing their lives and insights, which gives the reader a broad sweep of experience from which to draw in seeking wisdom for their own situation. And unlike a lot of other related self help/business/career literature on the market, which may focus on time management, dealing with change, and overcoming procrastination, Winckel is clear that there is a soul dimension to work that we ignore at our peril, for such neglect hampers our ability to both enjoy it and put it into perspective at the same time. While Christians and agnostics alike can read Time Poor, suggested prayers addressing the chapter’s themes are dotted throughout, and the book ends with a story that expresses Winckel’s deep conviction that God is the ultimate source of spiritual nourishment during all seasons of a woman’s life.
Some will find the pragmatism of Time Poor refreshing; others will be more ambivalent about it. Given that the time- and spirit-sapping business and busyness of life is here to stay, the book seems to say, we may as well learn to live with it—hence the 60-second solutions. They signal Winckel’s acknowledgement that spiritual growth isn’t just found on a mountaintop cloistered away from the world and its worries, but is gleaned in the midst of the everyday. Yet the 60-second premise seems based on the idea that little sips add up to a big gulp of spiritual nourishment when it’s not clear that they do. Modern life precludes our getting very deep; we all resort to skimming in order to keep up. Do those minute-long solutions succumb to this logic or are they made in realistic concession to the way things are? You decide.
Nevertheless, Time Poor is a worthwhile read for its detailed attention to the lives of professional women, its keen sense of the burdens they face and the ways in which they are likely to burn out if no one tends to their souls. In the face of these pressures, you get the feeling that Winckel’s got your back, pen in hand ready to brainstorm ideas with you. If some of her more Pinterest, less profound solutions don’t quite enrich your soul, her enthusiasm and pluck certainly will.