Evernote (i.e. the best thing for a busy working mama)

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If you haven’t been introduced to Evernote, then consider yourself lacking.  I LOVE Evernote!

It has saved my sanity as a working mom, a scientist, and even a faithful Catholic.

I follow TSW (The Secret Weapon) as my approach to making Evernote work for me (i.e. better productivity).  But I mainly love Evernote because everything (everything!) ends up in the same place – all of my thoughts, notes, sticky notes, tasks, blog posts, to do’s, etc. You name it, it can be there.

Now, it is digital… But for those that love the pen and paper (I mean, BIS Lenten Journal, FTW), there’s still a way to get it into Evernote.  And then it’s there… FOREVER.  I hate dealing with clutter.  To the extent that I just make piles of clutter because I don’t want to deal with it.  Ask RJ, he’ll tell you the truth about my inability to throw paper away (For real, going through the mail truly tests our marriage).  But with Evernote, I can shred the paper copy after I’ve snapped a quick photo and saved it.  Takes less than 30 seconds.  Maybe 15 if you’re fast with technology.  Or if you have the Evernote quick note add-on on your phone:

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You can make it easy to add a note on your phone…

But I digress from the main point about Evernote.  It has truly changed my life, and how I approach a To Do list nowadays.  When you have a million things to think about, and those million things can be separated into some categorization (work, home, errands, etc.), then you can further prioritize them using Evernote.  This serves two purposes: (1) To help you prioritize, and (2) To declutter your brain.  Because let’s be real.  As women, having a spaghetti brain is hard.  You think about one thing, then you remember another thing, then that reminds you of something else, until you realize that you forgot to bring diapers to daycare.  Hopefully your child hasn’t sat in a dirty diaper all day…

But with Evernote, I can make a separate note of everything that comes to my mind and prioritize it in that moment.  Bringing diapers to daycare is a Now task, but looking into flights for my cousin’s wedding next fall is a Later task.  I can get it out of my brain, onto “paper,” and then forget about it until it pops up in Evernote.  And as a mom, operating on little sleep sometimes, it has saved my sanity, memory, and productivity.

As a scientist, I use it in a more sophisticated way.  (But it’s the same system, so I don’t have to switch at work and home – if I think about something work-related at home, I can just make a quick note, and vice versa)!  I can use it to archive journal articles I’ve read, which includes my annotations, summary, and notes all in one file.  I can use it as a virtual lab notebook for data analysis.  I can use it to save files that people send me via email during the day.  I can declutter my inbox with it.  I can take notes in it (or take pictures of my digital notes).  I can keep track of my orders with it.  I can plan my experiments in it.

I could keep going, but I won’t bore you with all the awesome things you can do with Evernote.  You’ll need to explore it yourself, and make it work for you.

That’s one of the best things about it.  It’s customizable.  You can tag things the way you want.  You can make different notebooks for different projects.  You can keep everything organized like a virtual filing cabinet.  But you make the rules.  You make it work for you.

And for my faith-based life, well, I’ve been playing with bullet journaling on Evernote.  I keep track on a calendar of which devotionals I do each day.  I keep my notes on devotionals or email videos in a single notebook.  I save the BIS devotionals that truly speak to me (Did I mention how easy it is to “clip” an email?  Just press a button.).  I back-up my NFP chart here.  I save the things that inspire me.

And since I can type faster than I can write, I can capture a lot more of my thoughts.  I can get a lot more out of listening to a Dynamic Catholic video.  I can look at things that spoke to me in the past when I’m struggling with my anxiety.

And if I write it down, as I do in the morning, then I can just snap a quick picture and save it for later.  No big deal.  Maybe I read something in the Magnificat that speaks to me – snap a picture and read it throughout the day on my phone.

It truly helps organize my life into one app that I can access anywhere.

And it’s free.  You can upgrade to fancier versions, but even the basic version has so much potential.  I’m not getting anything from singing Evernote’s praises in this blog.  I just love it so much that I want you to know how much it works for me.  Because we could always get more done, but we can only remember so much and do so many things in a day.  So reserve some of your brain power for prayer, and let it all go in Evernote.

They say that women aren’t able to think about nothing.  We don’t have a “nothing” box that we can retreat into.  Well, Evernote is helping me get closer to that.  I have less to think about, less to remember, and more time to focus on the tasks at hand.  Even if it is bringing diapers to daycare…

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Advocating for a Pumping Room

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Medela… The pumping monopoly.

I’m incredibly lucky in returning to work in that I have a flexible schedule, a supportive boss, and access to a private pumping space.  However, I realize that some women do not have access to this type of space, though I’m hopeful that regulations will begin to change to allow more women the flexibility of continuing to breastfeed their child if that is their desire.  However, our building community of nursing mamas didn’t always have this space available.  In fact, the “pumping room” used to be a locked closet with a single outlet, wooden table and single chair.  No sign, no refrigerator or cleaning space, and incredibly small.  A number of women attempted to advocate for a better space for the new mamas.  I suppose it shows that you get what you fight for.  Therefore, I urge any new mama (or even mamas that have been pumping) to advocate for themselves and their baby to get a comfortable space.

Some things that have helped us in setting up our pumping space:

1) Get a faculty member (or a supervisor in a senior role) to help you advocate.  We have the support of an incredible faculty member who previously breastfed her twin girls.  She was appalled by the space we had to share, and campaigned for our new room, extra tables, comfortable chairs, and a refrigerator.  She attempted to get us a sink, but it was too expensive to install.  So instead she is personally stocking the room with wipes, hand sanitizer, and paper towels for us to use.  I’m incredibly thankful to have someone on our side in a position to fight for us, especially in this male-dominated environment.

2) To share or not to share.  We have an awesome sign outside our room that we can switch from “VACANT” to “OCCUPIED” or have it sit in between the two to denote willingness to share.  Honestly, I thought I would really care about other women being present while I’m pumping since I am on the modest side.  But it actually doesn’t bother me that much, and I’ve had some interesting conversations with the other mamas.  That being said, I also understand that some women are very sensitive about it, and I’m glad each woman gets the choice of sharing or not sharing.

3) Necessities.  Multiple outlets, refrigerator to store milk, tables for your pump to sit on, space heater to help with let down.  Think about what you have at home and need to help you pump peacefully.

4) Comfortable Space.  Unfortunately, our room came pretty bare.  But we have a great corkboard with the pictures of all the babies in our building.  It’s cool to see the different ages, and I’m interested to watch our board grow.

5) Timing.  Designating a specific time that you pump in your schedule, especially when scheduling meetings, is important.  And I think it’s very important to advocate for this time.  I try not to think of it as wasting time, and I try not to work during it because my daughter comes first and I don’t produce as much if I’m stressed about working.  Remember, mama first, science second.  BUT I’m an experimentalist, so sometimes the times I plan to pump are pushed back a bit because my bacterial culture won’t grow.  In a later post, I have some thoughts on what to do to make that pump time productive.

This is something very near to my heart because I love breastfeeding Lily.  I think all mamas who have chosen to breastfeed deserve the choice of whether to continue breastfeeding upon returning to work.  There’s a lot of hurdles when heading back to the lab, but I’ve been lucky to have a workplace that makes this desire a reality.

Lilies in the Lab

20160407_131811My research has been in a rut lately.  I have no new results, not because the experiments have been inconclusive, but because I haven’t been able to perform the experiments due to some issue in what should be trivial preparations.  So morale is low in our side of the lab.

That being said, the technician and I decided to brighten up our bay with something to make us feel a bit better.  Why not?  It helps our mental health, which needs a boost.  (Actually, science can make you a bit crazy if you don’t find ways to fight the depression of failure.)

So we chose to decorate with some pictures of lilies.  My idea.  I’ve been missing my baby girl, so this reminds me of her every moment I look out the window.

Here’s to hoping the beautiful lilies get us out the slump 🙂

The Guilt of a Working Mama

It’s been a hard couple of days.  I’ve alluded to my postpartum anxiety and depression, but it’s definitely been tough this week.  Work has definitely been a trigger.  Perhaps the stress of trying to be a great scientist has been getting to me, but also feeling guilty about not doing the things I’m supposed to do.  I’m not accomplishing very much in lab this week, and I’m spending a lot of time away from my home life.

There’s definitely a certain amount of guilt that happens when being a working mom.

When I’m home, I worry about work and the fact that I’m not spending the time thinking about science.  When I’m in lab, I’m worried about Lily, and the fact that I’m going to fail at cooking dinner again.  You’d think I’d just worry about work at work, and worry about home at home.  But that’s not the case.  I’m trying to change that by making a conscious choice to separate the two, but it hasn’t been the easiest transition and process.

I’m lucky to have a supportive husband, who doesn’t mind cooking.  (In fact, he actually enjoys it.)  But the house isn’t clean very often.  And I’m constantly behind in my data analysis for work.  (In fact, I still haven’t caught up from last weekend’s Easter celebrations.)  But sometimes I completely feel like I’m failing as a wife and mother.  These are the things I should be doing.  Taking care of the home, taking care of my husband.  So the guilt has surfaced this week, when I’m feeling like it’s not all getting done.

But when I get like this, thinking about priorities is important.  Someone told me that you can really only do two things well.  For me, I suppose that’s being a mom and being a scientist.  So what if I’m not the best homemaker?  My daughter isn’t going to remember the clutter caused by a week’s worth of mail on the counter.  So what if I haven’t been able to cook a meal in a few days?  My husband is happy to cook whatever I’ve meal planned this week (even if he isn’t a fan of the vegetable I’ve picked).  So what if the laundry is still in the dryer and hasn’t been folded?  At least it’s clean.

Getting past the initial guilt is tough.  And the resurgence of it all this week has really made it a struggle.

But as St. Thomas Aquinas reminded us in his Summa Theologica, there is a true order to charity.  First, love of God, then comes our spiritual life, then taking care of others.  So maybe I need to take care of my spiritual self a little bit more, and my family comes next.  Science and work isn’t in that list.  It really comes down to a conscious decision to reorder my priorities.  Remember, Catholic mom first, scientist second.

But that doesn’t mean the guilt doesn’t rear its ugly head.