I recently considered doing a “day in the life of a triathlon coach/athlete/mom/wife” story on Instagram. In doing so, I took a brief mental stock of how I spend my days. 

I came to two big realizations: 

  1. I am not leaving physical and mental room and energy to honor my priorities. 
  2. I rarely do one thing at a time. 

And… the biggest thing that gets in the way is my phone

Now, I am not blaming my phone. The massive power it has over me is not coming from the small, rectangular device. And, I am not claiming that the accessibility that a smartphone provides is innately “bad.” But, the world inside it has become a problem for me. It sometimes shows up as an easy distraction from my feelings (especially boredom and/or loneliness), and other times under the guise of productivity. 

When I started to pay closer attention to how a “day in the life” would go I was frankly embarrassed about how much honest reality I would actually miss by using my phone to video myself, instead of the phone being a literal co-star. 

Followers would see me waking up (without showing how I check my phone first thing while going to the bathroom- that’s a privacy thing 😉 ), training (without showing how I listen to or use my phone), eating (without doing something on my phone), and working (without showing how often I check texts or socials), and “relaxing” (on my phone, or at least checking it often). And then there is driving… yes, it is irresponsible and embarrassing. But, I am trying to be fully transparent. And I am guilty more than I would like to admit.

In reality, I have fallen into the idea that I can be quite productive if I can multitask, with the help of my phone. I can send emails, finish my Amazon order, create social content, or text friends while biking on my trainer. And I can do this while listening to a podcast about self improvement or endurance sports (work) related stuff. I can do the same while eating, or I can mindlessly scroll, pretending that I am only looking for content inspiration. I can converse with anyone about anything over text and socials while trying to focus on quality work—being a good friend and a good coach at the same time. I can “relax” while opening myself up to whatever anyone, or the world, wants to throw at me at that moment. While working on this blog I realized that although I have my phone on DND, and have it flipped over, it is natural for me to want to check it at every pause in my writing. 

Hopefully you are picking up on my sarcasm here. Although I physically can do all of the above, upon reflection I realized how not focusing on one thing at a time makes me feel unnecessarily frazzled and anxious for a lot of the day. It uses energy and is reactive living. It is more than I can emotionally handle and it drains my reserves for the people and things that I say are my top priorities. It minimizes the joy and/or benefits of each task I complete, and contributes to my dreaming about when I can zone out on the couch or go to bed for the day. 

I do admit that I don’t have the highest level of phone addiction, so it can be easy to not acknowledge it at all. In a “day in my life” you would also see some true phone-less moments like time dinner with my family, time with friends, or most basketball games. But, a normal one includes a lot of phone use.

And very little doing one thing at a time. 

Now, the phone isn’t the only culprit. I fall into hurried ways of “maximizing my time” all day long. I even walk around, tidying up the house, while I brush my teeth. Hustle culture teaches us that we need to be busy, hurried, and harried to be worthy. And I have bought into this in a big way, priding myself on constant productivity. Getting shit done isn’t bad, but when you reflect on how this impacts the quality of your work, and especially what you have left for your relationships, you might have an eye opening moment too. 

When writing this, I am on day one of truly trying to do one thing at a time, and so I don’t have a long case study to rely on for tips and tricks. But, I figure I can offer some things I am trying, and let my friends and followers offer more guidance. 

Be sure to start with some honest reflection to create real awareness. Before starting this process—consider a “day in your life.” If it helps, write down how you spend your time, where you try to multitask, what you take in and expose yourself to through listening or social media channels (too much of a good thing is not a good thing- I am learning that lesson too… more on that later). You can try keeping a tally of how often you check your phone, or have that knee jerk reaction to. 

How I am trying one thing at a time: 

  • Not checking my phone first thing, but instead allowing my brain to wake up more slowly, with a focus on gratitude. Oh my, oh my. To say this is hard is a GIANT understatement. To those of you who already do this regularly, I applaud you. 
  • Eating the first few bites of each meal without the phone (or laptop, or TV), and with intentionality of focusing on eating only. Hold off on checking socials and emails until after I am done eating. (OMG- also SO hard). 
  • Using my phone for music or non-work related Netflix or podcasts while riding my bike. Taking this time to focus on my workout and letting it be fun (in the hard-is-fun way) and also true stress relief. (Also, hard to do)
  • Stopping those knee jerk reactions to check my phone while in concentrated working, and/or writing blocks. Instead, schedule time when I can scroll, check emails, etc. (This one is easy! Just kidding—probably the most difficult). If needed, I will put my phone in a different room.
  • Putting my phone aside in the evening after checking email and texts one last time (unless I need access for mom-ing). Upholding boundaries, and letting my friends know they have to call in an emergency (and my kids too). 
  • Brushing my teeth calmly, in the bathroom, while not doing anything else. (The horror!!)

Writing this list of “rules” makes me feel anxious, and it might for you too. And, I am ironically in a “letting go of rules” season of life. BUT, I do believe these very small changes can have a big impact on my daily mental energy. And I desire to have all of that energy to love and serve my family, friends, and communities, and to give my athletes and work acquaintances my focus and attention.

So, I am going to sincerely try to be present with one thing at a time. I am not going to attempt to master this, but focus on the daily process with curiosity and try to have grace when I fall short on the rules. I hope to inspire you to as well.

And if you don’t want to tackle the whole list, start with one thing at a time. 😉