What if your doctor told you that you had to stop multi-tasking?

A few weeks ago, at 33 weeks pregnant (that’s 7 weeks from full term), I ended up spending a couple days in the hospital because my doctors were worried about my high blood pressure. All the tests on both the baby and me came back fine, but they sent me home to the couch, on a sort of modified bedrest plan. Since then, they’ve warily and gradually let me add a little more activity here and there, especially as I bring them articles from their doctor magazines about bedrest not being proven to help the situation, although they still remind me at my twice weekly visits that I shouldn’t be doing anything drastic like “going shopping”.

I never thought bedrest would be that hard for me. I’ve been known to spend 10+ hours a day for days on end locked up in my home on my computer working. And there’s never a shortage of things to do on my computer … and that’s before I even add in things I usually don’t do like watch TV or movies.

But here’s the catch. Anyone who knows me knows I’m just as capable of working up my stress level from the couch as I am from the mall, no matter what the doctors think. So while the doctors did not specifically order me to stop multi-tasking, I’ve been on a mission to reduce my stress naturally in order to try to keep this baby inside a little longer. And one of my little projects has been to eliminate or at least drastically reduce multi-tasking. You know, flipping between email and presentations, texting people while on the phone with other people, filling out paperwork while on conference calls, the list goes on and on and on, and that’s just what I can do while resting on the couch.

I do know how to focus on a task. I’ve intentionally retrained myself on how to do that over the last few years after realizing that technology had me constantly switching from one thing to another for some 18 hours a day. For some interviews, meetings, coaching sessions, writing projects, etc, I intentionally exit my email and sometimes even disconnect my network connection. I have the discipline to do that for an hour or two at a time. But then it is back to the whack-a-mole game, which is more fun the more moles you can whack at once!

Going for days on end, trying not to multi-task is a whole different game. It requires a level of planning (like not stacking meetings so tight) and surrender (like being much picker about which work actually gets done) far beyond what I am used to. But it is a fascinating experiment. I’m finding more focus and enjoyment in some of the tasks I’m doing. And I’m losing tolerance for those I don’t want to do instead of putting up with them because I’m really just doing something else.

I’m not ready to say all multi-tasking is bad, not yet, as I do miss a little bit of the outcome as well as the process, but I have changed my perspective on it enough to say I’m going to avoid it more going forward.

Try it. Just for a day. You might be surprised at what you find…