Making time for family history research

I love doing family history research. I really do. I’m also trying to figure out ways to integrate it into my organizing business, so technically it’s work. So why haven’t I done it in more than a week?

I can make excuses for why I haven’t made time to do any research. A week ago I returned from a week-long trip and I jumped right back in to full client load. My desk is a mess. (Embarrassing, but true.) But here’s the thing: since I’ve been home I’ve managed to catch up on most of the TV shows I recorded in my absence. I finished reading a book. I watched a couple of college basketball games.

It really does come down to priorities. (Priority management is a more accurate phrase than time management.)

As I contemplated the fact that I frequently close up shop and leave my desk for the day before I do any research, I realized a few things:

  • The messy desk really does get in the way. (Note to self: Clear it off every night like you used to!)
  • The time I thought I’d try to do it every day, 5 pm, isn’t conducive. Now that it’s winter, it’s dark at that time. I like a lot of light when I’m squinting at old handwriting.
  • If I’m running late trying to get the rest of my work done, I continue working past 5 pm and research is sacrificed.
  • I need to make it very, very easy to start doing the research. One way I might do that is to outline for myself at the end of each research session what I want to research at the start of the next one. Then it’ll be as simple as grabbing a file from the cart stored in a closet a few feet away, rather than rolling out the whole cart. And it gives me immediate focus.
  • I need to examine my priorities for my time and see where this research fits in. Is it more important than keeping up with social media or whittling my inbox down to zero? If so, I should do it before I do those daily tasks.
  • It’s important to recognize that I don’t need hours at a time to do research. As little as 30 minutes can glean some great results.

The process of writing this blog post has given me new resolve. I have a lighter day tomorrow and I’m going to make sure I do some research, earlier in the day. And I’ll make a note at the end of the session about how I want to start the next session.

I think I’ll take a few minutes to clear off my desk right now.


  1. A great post! I too struggle with trying to find time to research also, I have a very busy life and so many interruptions . . . I have to have a clear desk to do it and that usually doesn’t happen!

    I did clear my desk today and also worked on one of my paper piles . . . felt great. I am hoping to keep my goal of getting my genealogy organized and create research time for myself (with a clear desk).

    I also struggle with whether or not I want to work on clearing my inbox, cleaning and organizing my home, etc. before I work on my family history but I keep going back to how important it is that I document my family history, I really want to make that happen, so I have to figure out how to work it ALL in! I cannot work on my family history when I know my home is a mess and vice-versa!

    I do love your idea of an “outline” and I may give that a try. I research in a “timeline” fashion . . . it really helps me to see what I have and what I am missing, which could give you an idea of where you want or need to start up again . . . just a thought. Good luck and I look forward to hearing how things go for you. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Gini, thank you so much for your comment! I’m going to shoot you an email to learn more about your timeline method of researching. I’m intrigued.

      As a professional organizer, I see folks all the time who delay doing anything enjoyable until they get their house clean and organized. The trouble is that they get overwhelmed by the organizing/decluttering and nothing gets done. So they never get to do the other things important to them. I suggest working on both projects (family history research and cleaning/organizing your home) simultaneously. Make small progress on each every day or every week.

      I really appreciate hearing from you!

  2. Catching up on TV shows is what I get to do when my boys returned to college & I reclaimed the TV!
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

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