[ Posted by Marc Lesser in Care2. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.]
Having lost sight of our goals, we redouble our efforts.
– Mark Twain
There is an old story of a man riding very fast on a horse. As he rides past his friend standing on the side of the road, the friend yells, “Where are you going?” The rider turns toward his friend and yells, “I don’t know, ask the horse!”
The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like the person riding that frantically galloping horse. Our daily incessant busyness – too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and tick off items on our to-do list by each day’s end – seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us. But if we approach our days in a different way, we can consciously change this out-of-control pattern. It only requires the courage to do less.
This may sound easy, but doing less can actually be very hard. Too often we mistakenly believe that doing less makes us lazy and results in a lack of productivity. Instead, doing less helps us savor what we do accomplish. We learn to do less of what is extraneous, and engage in fewer self-defeating behaviors, so we craft a productive life that we truly feel good about.
Just doing less for its own sake can be simple, startling, and transformative. Imagine having a real and unhurried conversation in the midst of an unrelenting workday with someone you care about. Imagine completing one discrete task at a time and feeling calm and happy about it.
Every life has great meaning, but the meaning of our own can often be obscured by the fog of constant activity and plain bad habits. Recognize and change these, and we can again savor deeply the ways we contribute to the workplace, enjoy the sweetness of our lives, and share openly and generously with the ones we love. Less busyness leads to appreciating the sacredness of life. Doing less leads to more love, more effectiveness and internal calmness, and a greater ability to accomplish more of what matters most – to us, and by extension to others and the world.