I would propose that we always accomplish more when we approach each moment and task in an open, relaxed, and fully engaged manner -- whether leading a meeting, answering emails, or taking our children to school. In this way, our sense of accomplishment depends more on the way we act (which we can control) than on the results (which may be out of our control). No matter the chaos of any particular day, this can become one of our most important and useful aspirations and measures of success. Sometimes the greatest accomplishment is having the courage and skill to make intelligent midcourse corrections. At other times, the greatest accomplishment is having the courage to do less.
To accomplish more by doing less involves a simple yet profound transformation: it's a different way of being in the world. You may, in fact, be no less busy, but you will be less scattered and distracted, and you will accomplish more of what matters to you: more of what aligns with your deepest purpose and intention; more of what brings you satisfaction and connection with others; more of what you believe really needs to get done. Doing less and accomplishing more is about aligning your actions with your values and your particular passions. And finally, by becoming more peaceful and at peace with yourself, you will spread that into the world, which will become that much more peaceful and sane as a result.
Here are five practices, five ways to do less, that may result in more accomplishment:
1) Take time to step out of regular activity - Do less by taking the time to rest mentally and physically in between or outside of your usual activities, perhaps instituting a regular practice of meditation, retreats, breaks, and reflection.
2) Pause in the midst of activity - Do less by pausing in the midst of activities: mindfulness practice (such as coming in touch with our breath in between reading or sending emails) and walking meditation are two examples. Try reading a poem during your lunch break, or just going for a leisurely stroll, right in the midst of your busy day.
3) Do less of what is extra - Do less by identifying and reducing unnecessary activities. In this case, "unnecessary" means those things that are not in alignment with what you want to accomplish.
4) Less striving; more presence - Do less by the very quality of your being. We must be completely present for what we are doing, without sacrificing or rushing what's in front of us in order to get to "more important" stuff later. No matter how mundane the activity, treat everything as important and take pleasure in it. At bottom, whatever we are doing right now is what we are engaged in and it deserves our full attention and appreciation.
5) Integrate effort and effortlessness - Do less by integrating effort with a feeling of effortlessness. This sounds like a contradiction but it isn't. With practice, we all can find that sweet spot that combines engagement, creativity, and composure.
Ultimately, "success" in our work world and in our life does not rest with external rewards or achievements. What matters most is how much love and goodness our existence has added to the planet, how effectively we have engaged with the people we cherish most, and how much we have been able to locate our own sense of deep composure right in the midst of the messiness of life.