Update on my Social-Media-Free Life

It has been four months since I permanently deleted all of my social media accounts (you can read about that journey here; don’t miss all the article links!). This post is an update for my blog-readers about how my life and genealogy work have been going without social media. I have to admit, it has been strange adjusting to life without social media! A few unexpected twists:

  • The struggle I faced in my original post: I am still constantly (subconsciously) picking up my phone. Whenever I sit down to relax, my brain still calls out “phone!” I am trying to rewire it to instead think, “book!” or “magazine!” or “meditate!” but this change is taking some *major* rewiring of the brain to accomplish.
  • My business is still doing just fine; no social media needed. Clients continue to find me most often via my APG page and LinkedIn.
  • It truly amazes me just how programmed my arms, hands, and fingers had become to automatically reach for a device every time that I sat down at the end of the day or whenever I had a bit of free time. Keeping myself physically at a distance from my cell phone is the only thing that helps.
  • I now let a Fitbit on my wrist tell me who is calling or what a text says and keep the cell in another room or in my purse at all times, to keep myself from grabbing the phone–because even though I don’t have social media, there is still a web browser on my phone with web sites where I can look at news, blogs, stores, Amazon.com, etc and I’ve found that they become surrogate “scroll and stare” replacements for my former addiction to social media.
  • Instead, I now revert to a book, genealogy journal, or family genealogy project during my downtime moments, as a result of this new strategy–and boy do these activities make me a much more productive genealogist than staring at my phone ever did; yay!
  • For times when I am away from home and there is no book nearby (I’m on a train to New York, at a hotel, in a doctor’s office waiting room, in line at a store, etc), I’ve made sure to load my phone with good books on my Kindle app so that I have quality options to keep me from wasting time on my web browser.
  • Still, every now and then I admit to “phantom limb” sensations that cause me to grab that cell at the end of the day when I plug it in to charge by my bed, and scroll through blogs, news sites, or Amazon on my cell browser. How sad is that? But my firstborn went away to college and I want her to be able to reach me in case of an emergency, so I don’t dare banish the phone to the desk at night. I’ve got the Fitbit, but am not sure it will awaken me if phone is in another room. Husband has his phone, but what if our daughter calls mom, first? Dilemma! Still, I am planning to move a piece of furniture and permanently plug a charger in behind it, so that phone gets charged far from the bedside each night.
  • Sometimes I have to get onto my husband’s Facebook to message somebody because I still don’t have their email address or cell number, and I have found myself scrolling on *his* Facebook (because we have friends in common) but getting nothing of value from the experience but YouTube videos and time-wasting memes or political posts, after which it kind of freaks me out how addicting that place still is! Another goal: no more peeking–I’ll ask my husband to do all messaging of friends for me. Ugh.
  • I’d love to just switch to a cheap flip phone and avoid walking around with a web browser in my pocket altogether, but I recently moved to a very rural location in a new state, so I’m constantly getting lost. I need the GPS and web-search capability that a smartphone provides so I can locate stores, dentist offices, auto mechanics, etc. and Google facilities when I am out and about.
  • Another very helpful solution to living the social media-free life: calling up old friends, texting them, and visiting people! Granted, these solutions take TIME, whereas social media can be done anytime, anywhere, in small bursts of time with very little commitment, but I’m finding that I can text my friends in those small pockets of time when I used to be scrolling through social media, so I am trying to do more of that now, instead–to reach out to people for one-on-one contact. I am finding it so much more meaningful and the connection so much more powerful than my social media conversations!
  • This summer, I sent my firstborn off to college, traveled cross-country, and made some other very special trips, and did them all without any social media posting (aka bragging, ranting, bawling, condoling, etc). Instead, I soaked up the moments, shared them with people individually, and preserved the memories in my journal and in photographs that I shared with loved ones in texts. It was AMAZING. This is truly the best way to live.
  • I’m still a work-in-progress as the above points show. It is taking time getting away from the social media beast which had me in its grasp for all of those years, but living without social media for the past few months has been bliss, even if it is taking so long to free myself from its grip.

In summary: four months later, I have zero regrets about giving up social media.  The fact that it was so hard to give up only reinforces just how addicting it was, which proves that I should have given it up sooner! I now enjoy more time for more meaningful interactions and pursuits today because social media is no longer in my life and my mind is quieter, so I continue to work at replacing its presence in my life with more positive, productive, constructive, educational, and genuinely connecting activities! 🙂



PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Why I Deleted All My Social Media – Permanently

If a blog post emerges in the blogosphere without any social media account to promote it, does it make a sound?

I’m about to find out!

That’s right–I permanently deleted my Twitter account (which had almost 1,400 followers) as well as my Instagram and Facebook accounts, which included the page for this site and its nearly 1000 followers, as you can see in this screenshot I took of my sidebar badge just before deleting it:

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 7.00.49 PM

This site has only five or six followers outside of social media, so this post won’t make much of a dent in the ‘Net without social media. Do I care? NOPE. I’ll explain below.

I have discovered that I value saving time and peace of mind more than that I value gaining followers for my blog. And it hasn’t negatively impacted my business, either. Read on to find out why/how:

(Actually, I kept my LinkedIn page, but since I don’t ever *do* anything on LinkedIn, I don’t consider it a social network, but more of the page where I maintain my resume. I suppose I could share this post on LinkedIn, since it has a newsfeed, but still, the posts in that newsfeed are always several days old, even though I have twice as many LinkedIn connections as I did Facebook friends, so there just isn’t much traffic on that site. Which is a good thing, as this post will show)

Here is why I gave up social media:

–It is bad for mental health, experts warn: http://theconversation.com/mental-health-the-dangers-of-the-social-media-diagnosis-90717

–It is designed to be addictive for profit’s sake, to the extent that executives who work for social media giants won’t even let their children use it: http://theconversation.com/mental-health-the-dangers-of-the-social-media-diagnosis-90717

–Foreign powers use social to manipulate users: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/18/us/politics/russian-operatives-facebook-twitter.html

–Social media giants let **scientists use social to manipulate users’ emotions for scientific studies without their consent or knowledge: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-tinkers-with-users-emotions-in-news-feed-experiment-stirring-outcry.html

–It took up too much of my time (checking in on all my friends and family, near and far, was just too irresistible when I had other things I needed to be doing!)

–Most of what I saw there was negative (nobody needs more negativity in their lives!)

–The benefits to my business were absolutely nil; I get all of my client referrals from the Association of Professional Genealogists website. Genealogy clients today all find me, almost universally, from my APG directory page and not via social media, so I don’t need a social media presence.

–I do, however, still get the occasional referral from LinkedIn, and that site is neither  addicting, time-wasting, negative, nor manipulated by foreign powers or sociology professors (that I know of–or if it were, I don’t linger in their newsfeed anyway, so it can’t affect me), so I don’t mind keeping my resume posted there, as I consider it more of an online resume than a social network.

**Regarding the “negative newsfeed” scientific experiments conducted on Facebook users without their knowledge/consent: when my husband was working on his doctorate, it took him YEARS to find a site to conduct his study because he wanted to conduct a *brief* survey. It took him years to get his small survey approved because he was administering a survey to humans, and there are all sorts of federal laws that must be honored when studying humans (human subject studies law is a huge thing–you can Google it!) and the places where he wanted to conduct his survey kept turning down his proposal because they didn’t have the manpower to jump through all the legal/federal hoops required to monitor his survey and make sure it met with federal human subject testing laws. And this was for one tiny survey. Now consider how Facebook just let a professor bypass all those federal laws and inundate users with negativity as part of a science experiment with zero consequences–who is responsible for that? Is Facebook now liable for any suicides or murders that occurred in the days and months after they fed their users all of that negativity? Are they responsible for the depression and divorces that might have resulted? THIS is why we have federal laws on the books about using humans for psychological studies, yet Facebook and other social media sites flout federal law when it comes to treatment of human subjects.

And don’t even get me started on the way some users treat each other on those sites. That proof is already in the pudding (and life is much sweeter without it!).

I have taken breaks from Facebook before (my longest stretch was 3 months) but those were always temporary deactivations when life got busy. I always came back later, and I always had Twitter or Instagram as backup drugs for my social media high. I was especially sentimental about staying because my youngest sister, who passed away, has a memorial page on Facebook, and I enjoy posting to it on the anniversary of her death or on her birthday. But one day it hit me: she isn’t there. I know where she really is. And if I am missing her, I will send a letter or care package to her children or donate to a charity in her name. That’s something that  *really* matters.

Since going cold turkey with these permanent deletions, I must say that my mind didn’t feel as peaceful and zen as I thought it would. At first, it was troubled! Every time I sat down, I’d pick up my phone–out of sheer habit! Only now, there was no longer anything to DO on my phone. I had a few good kindle books I could be reading, but I like to read when I have time to really get into the narrative. I typically only have 5 minutes or so of phone-checking time in one stretch (such is life at my house!) and those were the times when I’d hop on to social media. Ditto for standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for water to boil, whatever–I’d grab my phone and see what my friends or followers had to say or had posted that day.

So at first, I was a bit lost. What to do with myself during those tiny snatches of time when I would usually check in with my friends/followers, but I don’t have enough time to say, read emails or a Kindle book? I was frustrated and fiddled with my phone a lot in those first weeks. I tossed it around in my hands nervously. My husband used to watch me and laugh, saying, “I see you fidgeting with that phone with nothing to do on it!” (Note: I refuse to use video games. I’ve seen what gaming does to a person, and I refuse to go down that road, either!).

But with time, I calmed down, and soon stopped picking up the phone at all. It stays in my purse now, or on my desk, nearly forgotten. Now, in those chunks of time in between tasks, or other moments of downtime, I am more likely to gaze out the window and think. Or I look around me at the people in the room and strike up a conversation. I ask them about their day. Hey, I gotta do SOMETHING–I have just been cut off to my only outlet for socializing with my friends, so I am suddenly much more chatty with my kids and husband. My husband isn’t much of a talker, but I can tell that my kids like it. And the times when I am alone? Well, looking out at the trees and just thinking has proved very beneficial for my mind, my soul, and my creative processes. Ideas, solutions, and inspiration flow more freely, now that I am not looking down at a device like I used to.

Best of all: I have more TIME creeping in to my post-work hours now. Time for my own ancestors, time with family, time to read. It really adds up, the time I used to spend on social media. I hadn’t realized just how much time I spent on it until I eliminated it, but all the articles that social media posts linked to, the videos they took me to, the conversations I was having–they all added up to TIME away from other things I could be doing. Now I am finally doing those things. And I am happier now that I am doing them. The social media-free life has turned out to be a much happier life for me. Might not be this way for everybody, but this is how it is for me.

I am really, really glad that I gave up social media. I do not miss it, not in the slightest, and I don’t ever, ever plan to go back to it.




PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My Genealogy Time Management Technique

Actually, I have several genealogy time management techniques, but this particular technique is the overarching, macro-level time management strategy governing my other activities (for which I utilize other time management techniques that I’ll discuss later).

~ The Technique & Background

I call my macro time management technique my “Hat Days.”

Have you ever seen the Bugs Bunny cartoon called “Bugs’ Bonnets” where the characters keep acting in accordance to the hat that falls atop their head? If not, you will need to watch it for context (I grew up watching that episode over and over on Saturday mornings; it inspired me to create this technique!).

Genealogists can probably all relate to my need for the technique, I am sure: it arose from a need to stay more focused while researching.

Sometimes, while working on one project, I’d discover a cool hack that helped me uncover a record, or I’d find a new resource online that hadn’t been digitized before, and next thing I knew, I’d be entering names from several projects (clients, my family, etc) into that database, or applying the hack to several projects. This behavior became a big time-waster and cause for inefficiency as I found myself with several open files, dozens of open windows on my desktop. That sort of chaos can only result in lost information or rookie mistakes like going back to fetch data for citations.

(Can any of you out there relate to such feverish activity when the thrill of the hunt takes hold?)

~ How The Technique Works

My “hat days” solved this dilemma by forcing me to wear only specified “hats” on their assigned days. I now only perform client work on certain days (and only for certain clients on their allotted day); I can only work on my own ancestors on Sunday. Each day (or some activities get a half-day) I wear a certain hat ONLY, and I am not allowed to engage in any other activity until I officially switch hats. All hats have their time slot, and their scheduled times must be honored each week. I only swap for emergencies (like cancelled trips to archives due to weather, construction, etc).

Genealogical studies also have their own “hat” that I can only “wear” on a specified half-day, because such studies have a HUGE tendency to send me fishing around on the laptop;  genealogy journals always show me new techniques I hadn’t considered, record groups I haven’t thought of in ages or heard of before, etc, which makes me want to hit the laptop or a few courthouses and do some helter-skelter digging for every name on my list. Instead, I take good notes (and my to-do lists handy!) as I study, keeping my study hat on and my client work hat far away, or more chaos and inefficiency can result.

In my early years as a budding genealogist, my hat days were also used to separate my studies–I was learning about California genealogy, European genealogy, and more subjects. To keep myself from working myself into a dither with a document-laden desk (and desktop!), I wore my “California Genealogist-in-training” hat on one day, my “Italian genealogist-in-training hat on another,” and forced myself to stick to those topics on those days.

~ What This Looks Like

Whenever I am wearing my client research hat, because it is one of the days assigned to client research, for example, my “hat days” rule requires me to quickly jot down any other ideas/urges pertaining to other hats in to-do lists (I use the Getting Things Done time management system for my to-do lists, FYI). Then I go back to focusing exclusively on the duties associated with whatever hat I am wearing that day.

If I am supposed to be focusing on my clients, I keep my focus on them. If it is family time and I am supposed to be baking, cleaning, tending to church duties, or serving in the community, or working on  my own ancestors, then I keep my sights on them–whatever hat I am wearing (mother, community servant, baker, chef, family genealogist of professional genealogist), it stays firmly in place. Gone are the days when I let myself get so carried away that I emerged all frazzled from a sea of papers and twenty open windows on my desktop.

(Confession: I still walk the line on busy days when I am hot on the trail of a great find and I am pumping out entries, analyses, citations, and paragraphs left and right, I will admit. Especially when I am on the road and time at a repository is limited. Let’s face it, genealogy is passion so great that self discipline takes constant WORK).

~ How I Keep Track

Clients come and go, and projects start and finish. PLus, many half-day and quarter-day hats means that I wear a LOT of hats!

I keep track of them in the heart of my planner, via Franklin Covey’s planner bookmarks, which can be filled with bookmark cards. These inserts come as perforated planner pages (two to a page) so I keep extras in the back of my planner that I can easily punch out and re-write when it is time to jot down a new list of hats with their assigned days (or half days/quarter days) whenever new clients need to be listed:

planner bookmarks

This technique might not work for or be necessary for others with different working styles, but it has really helped me. If it happens to help anybody who reads this, I hope that you will let me know! 🙂



PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress. These ads are not visible to me, so I cannot endorse them.

© Jenny Tonks, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

***COMMENT RULES: I only “allow” comments that are positive and friendly in tone. Genealogy is a labor of love, and we genealogists are a friendly bunch who love meeting kindred spirits! 🙂

My Review: The Best Organizers for The New Year

I have five children, I work two part-time jobs while taking freelance gigs on the side, I have no “help,” and my husband is a doctoral candidate with a FULL-TIME job in addition to his university studies and writing. Still, we find the time for weekly Family Home Evenings, monthly home teaching and visiting teaching, and our children are active in weekly Young Women’s, the “Faith in God” program, and Cub Scouts.

How do we fit so many activities into our already busy lives?

I credit our planners. They are what keep us organized!

I should also credit our time-management strategies, but I’ll have to share those in another post.

Why Buy a Planner When Planning Apps are Free?

I don’t use an app or anything digital–I use a physical planner that goes with me everywhere.

  • When I am at my desk, it lies open, showing me my daily tasks lists.
  • When I am at church, it is open in my lap, so I can jot down upcoming activities or events.
  • When I am in the kitchen cooking, it is on the counter with me, reminding me what is on the menu tonight.
  • While I am cleaning, it goes from room to room with me, reminding me what needs cleaned first and foremost, with shopping lists inside that I can add to as I run out of furniture polish or paper towels.
  • When I am on business calls, it is open to the “notes” section so that none of my work tasks or assignments are ever forgotten.

I cannot survive without my planner!

I tried the apps, but because I could never see them in front of me, they were quickly forgotten. Reminder alarms only got snoozed until I forgot them altogether.

Here is the planner I use:


(This is just my planner–click on image to view actual product)

Note how the photo above shows that I also buy calendar pages, shopping list pages, etc, to keep me organized.
This year, I am using an even better system of pages, called “Seven Habits,” because it is based on the time-management strategies from the famous book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:

These are my FAVORITE planner pages! Click on image to view actual product

Back when I was a young mother (translation: too busy nursing babies and chasing toddlers to make many appointments), I used this family planner instead, and I LOVED it:


Amy Knapp’s planners were my *favorite* for keeping track of meals and groceries; if ever my business slows down and lets me return to a more serene life, I plan to go right back to these! 🙂 **click on the image to see other sizes/styles

Amy Knapp’s planners are larger than the purse-friendly compact planner I buy from Franklin Covey, so I used this purse/planner combo back then, which I really loved and could easily slip inside my diaper bag before outings to church or to the store:

BEST feature of this planner case: both Amy Knapp’s planner pages AND my “Seven Habits” pages (above) fit into it, so I don’t have to change binders even as I change page styles. PERFECT! 🙂

Here is another homemaker’s planner that is similar to Amy Knapp’s, but much prettier (though less practical, because it has no pockets or spaces for me to store stuff). It is just so pretty that I want to buy one and keep it on my counter, even though I don’t need it! 🙂


My kids also use planners, as part of our family’s chores-for-privileges rule (something I’ll explain in a future post). Here are the planners they use:


These come in a variety of styles, sizes, and formats, click the image to view them all.


I recommend these planners to my university students, to help them stay organized and not miss any assignments, because I do not accept late work:


Back when I was teaching my children at home, this was also my favorite homeschool planner:


For those who instead prefer to support cottage industries and local artisans with their purchases, here is a homemade planner for LDS moms, that is made and sold out of the homes of some very creative LDS moms:


As you can see, I am a massive planner enthusiast, so please let me know of any other planning products I should try! 🙂

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My Favorite Genealogy Organizer!

In the 20+ years I have been doing genealogy research, I’ve lugged with me all kinds of backpacks, totes, portable file boxes, and even those huge totes-on-wheels to the libraries, archives, and courthouses where I do my research. I’ve also road-tested them overseas.

But of all the different document-holding, file-toting, equipment-carrying products I’ve tried, this portable file box and computer case combo is my absolute favoriteI HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT for anyone who has to carry files or equipment to-and-fro as part of their job or hobby:


UPDATE: this particular tote is now out of stock at Amazon, so this picture is now linking to a different model at the Amazon site. My apologies–it must have been super popular! 🙂

Here is what mine looks like close up:


The straps are VERY sturdy!

Here’s a look at the inside:


Pictured is a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Today, I carry an 11-inch MacBook Air, plus a Flip Pal scanner, and I still have room left over for another tablet if I wanted to include it.


The side pouches have more than enough space for all of your chargers and cords.


I also use the roomy side pouches to carry a camera for use in photographing documents, tombstones, etc.


The file box is removable, and is itself a tote-within-a-tote!


The front pouch holds office supplies, but is spacious enough for a few more large objects.


See how it holds TWO fat laptops? Wow. Also, take a look at the super-sturdy hardware on the straps–I love it.

I LOVE taking this bag on research trips!


This tote retails for about $80, but I bought mine for $45 during  FranklinCovey’s back to school sale last fall. You can also buy it in Brown on Amazon (click the image to see it on Amazon)


UPDATE: the brown tote pictured here at the time I made this post has sold out, so this image now links to a different model being sold on the Amazon site.

The bag hooks easily on to my luggage:


And it is easy to carry–it has both a long shoulder strap and shorter handles. I love it! 🙂


Oh, and for anyone who was wondering what my portable file box categories are, here is a close-up of the hanging dividers and their categories:


PLEASE NOTE: any videos or images appearing after my signature were placed there by WordPress, not me. I cannot see these ads, so I cannot endorse them.