28 November


Geneamommybloggers: My Version

By Stephanie Pitcher Fishman diary, goals 6 Comments

Several weeks ago Jennifer over at The Scrappy Genealogist asked me how I do it all. My answer… poorly! That quip turned into a conversation, and that conversation turned into this contribution to the Geneamommybloggers (and one Geneadaddyblogger) movement. We are a group that supports one another, and I hope that this glimpse into my chaos will help you know that you are not alone in the trenches. We do the best we can each day, one step at a time.

I wear many hats: Wife, Mom, homeschool parent, Virtual Assistant/Office Manager, church volunteer, family historian, and genealogy student. This year has been filled with many changes and adjustments in the life of my family. I’ve been lucky to learn a few tips and tricks along the way that have begun to make things move more smoothly.

1. Get yourself a timer. Seriously. I have a very simple app on my phone (called KitchenTimer – Original, yes?) I set my timer and go. By doing this I know that I can stay on track without watching the clock. My little rooster alarm will let me know when it’s time to move on with another task in mind. My days go much more smoothly when I use this little gadget. Treat your blocks of time as sacred. If you are in a writing block, do not open up Tweetdeck and check in on the girls. If you are in a social media block, don’t feel guilty when you enjoy it. However, when the rooster crows it’s time to move on.

2. Eat your frog first thing in the morning. I love this saying. I just stumbled upon it after reading a post on SimpleMom, and it makes total sense. My “frog” happens to be housework. Clutter drives me nuts, but when I’m feeling overwhelmed it is the last thing that gets done. I do happen to subscribe to the idea that a messy home is the sign of happy children, but only in the case of, for example, my daughter’s art supplies being strewn across the kitchen table. This does not extend to dog hair on the bathroom floor. {shudder} I’ve learned to include my family by asking for help when I need it, and I’ve also learned to just eat that frog for an hour. Most days I give myself a bit of time on Twitter and then attack my household duties: dinner in the crockpot, laundry in the washer, yesterday’s load out of the dryer and into the closet, and then hit the kitchen and one other room. We don’t live in a show home, but we aren’t eating in a dirt pit either.

3. Put the big rocks in the jar first. I’m sure we’ve all seen the email that has made the rounds over the years. Putting your big rocks – priorities –into place first ensures that you get them done. It also means that you can avoid the guilt and frustration that comes with failing to meet your goals. We all have them. Whether we focus on them is the real story. I had a lot of frustration over my hectic schedule until I put things into a list of priorities. I really must stay focused on completing my coursework with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies if I want to reach my long-term goals. I must spend time homeschooling my daughter if I want to reach my long-term goal for her… to raise her to be an educated and well-rounded young lady. I must spend time with my husband if I want my marriage to be, well, long-term. Just because my husband and I both work from home it doesn’t mean that we get to see each other a lot. He’s self-employed in the IT field, and I’m a virtual employee who makes my own hours, homeschools our daughter, and pretends that I’m a freelance writer (help me pretend… subscribe to my Examiner feed!) This means one thing: we work too much. We make sure that we spend even the smallest bit of time alone each day which may mean that we drive together to the ATM or I ride along as he goes to fill up the gas tank. Priorities and “big rocks” don’t have to equal large blocks of time. They just mean that you are sure to include them as necessary. Homeschooling has become easier now that my daughter is in high school. The work load has increased, but she’s able to help me plan and manage her week like never before. I’m still trying to make it a habit to have a daily meeting with her each morning so that we are both starting the day focused and on track.

4. Don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes it has to happen. I know what I am capable of doing and, unfortunately, what I am not capable of doing. A disconnect comes into play when I don’t admit to what I am not capable of doing. “No” isn’t a bad word. See it as freeing. I recently had to limit my hours for my paying job because my non-paying job, specifically, homeschooling my daughter, was suffering. I also had to limit what I am able to do with our church because of health issues, namely my arthritis kicking it up a notch in the winter. It’s ok to say no. We are not weaker because of those two little letters. We are, in fact, stronger because we know how to use them to our family’s advantage. I would much rather be known to others as the gal who says no than to my daughter as the mom who is never around.

5. Get yourself some good tools. Whether you are old-school and go with paper, pencil, and lists, or whether you are a techno-geek with apps and icons, find what works for you. I’m also hopelessly addicted to GoogleCalendar, and I have it color-coded as well. I keep track of my writing schedule, work schedule, and homeschooling schedule as well as any deadlines I may have with my American Records certificate coursework. I rely on reminders and the visual of seeing red, blue, and purple flash across my screen. And my big crutch is that I also happen to leave this up all day long. We’re lucky to have many options available to use for browsers and free services such as Google. Use these to your advantage.  

6. Make sure you have a support system. I have been very lucky to have the support of my family behind me as I focus on my own education and skill building. I’ve also been blessed with friends, both far and near, who listen and help keep me afloat. One in particular helps by reminding me to get the rest that I need so dearly and to keep an eye on my physical and emotional health. Knowing that I have them in my corner is even more important when I need to take a minute to collect myself and breathe. Above all else a good cheerleader is worth their weight in vital records.

Does all of this mean that I am master of my domain? Not even close. There are areas that I would like to focus on more so I am trying to evaluate my goals on a regular basis. By keeping my eyes and ears open the situations around me and by keeping the conversation going with my family and friends I believe that I will continue to learn how to make the situations in our lives work for us.

© 2011 – 2013, Stephanie Pitcher Fishman. All rights reserved.


  • Shelley Bishop

    29 November 2011 Reply

    >Great post, Stephanie! I especially love your reminders to "eat your frog first thing in the morning" (hadn't heard that one before!) and "put the big rocks in the jar first."

    This is such a great series because we're all trying to balance the various elements of our lives. It's so helpful to know how others do it and what tools and strategies they use. Thanks for sharing yours!

  • Valerie

    29 November 2011 Reply

    >Stephanie that you for the great post and reminder that no one can do it all… at least all at the same time. There is a time and season for all things. For me it was learning what season you are in life and recognizing that some things may have to wait a season…and that's okay, was an important lesson. Thanks for sharing and always love to read your posts and tweets!

  • Maggie

    1 December 2011 Reply

    >I love the timer idea!! I'm also doing studies in geneaology and always feel overwhelmed by everything that needs doing. Must remember to eat the frog first thing, too :)

  • Stephanie

    3 December 2011 Reply

    >Thank you so much, friends! I really appreciate all of the kind words. I hope that it helps someone. If there is just one take-away for someone out of everything that I wrote I will be blessed. :)

  • Scott Jangro

    5 December 2011 Reply

    >Hi Stephanie. These are a bunch of great tips.

    Your kitchen timer idea isn't so crazy. I use it all the time.

    There's actually a whole productivity method designed around a kitchen timer. It's called the Pomodoro technique. (It's named after what's apparently the popular design in Italy for a kitchen timer — a tomato (pomodoro).

    Google "pomodoro technique". There are some great ideas in there that you might apply.

  • Stephanie

    5 December 2011 Reply

    >Thank you, Scott! That looks exactly like what I am trying to accomplish. I love the simple idea of having a list. I'll look at it more, but it seems to fit the two driving forces of my personality: Time limits and crossing off lists! Thanks for the suggestion.


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