Time-management wisdom from Joshua Taylor

djoshuataylorcropI’m a professional organizer and I routinely give time-management advice to my clients who want it. But, as regular readers of this blog know, managing my genealogy research time is a work in progress for me. I struggle with staying focused, knowing what to work on and combating overwhelm.

That changed a little on Saturday. I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois’s annual conference. The speaker was D. Joshua Taylor, professional genealogist and truly organized person. Joshua has been doing genealogy research since he was 10 years old and had his first professional clients while he was in high school. He is the president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the director of family history for FindMyPast.com. He is paid to do genealogy research for others, but he still works on his own genealogy research on a regular basis.

Joshua gave four talks at the GSSI conference, all of them terrific. He’s clearly a very thorough researcher; I was very impressed with the tenacity that came through in his talks. He leaves no stone unturned in his research.

While all four talks were really valuable, one talk that really blew me away. It was The Modern Genealogist: Timesaving Tips for Every Researcher, in which he outlined how he stays happy and focused while exploring his roots. Here were my big takeaways:

  • He works on only 1 to 3 projects/problems at a time, along 3 to 5 extended projects (brick walls).
  • If he comes across something else he wants to check out, he just adds it to his project list to work on in the future. (The discipline of that amazes me.)
  • For each research project, he sets a manageable goal and commits to a finished product, putting the research into some sort of meaningful form. I love that he knows what success looks like, in advance.
  • He plans each research session before he starts.
  • He writes a mini-research report for each research session, even when he’s doing it for his own research.
  • He reviews his research log every month or two to see what he’s missed and what he can apply to other families.

One benefit to working on just a few projects at a time, he said, is that you have a fighting chance of completing them. “I would rather leave behind 3 to 5 completed projects than 50 started, but not completed, projects,” he said. I was impressed that such a young man (I think he’s about 30, if that) thinks about his legacy–that’s probably a byproduct of being a genealogist, isn’t it?

When I got home from the conference, I immediately identified the three projects I’m allowing myself to focus on at this time. It’s been absolutely liberating–I don’t have to try to figure out what to work, which makes it much easier to get started. I will keep you posted how this all plays out, but I’m feeling very good about following Joshua’s excellent advice.

One other mind-blowing revelation at the conference was that Joshua and I are cousins. I’m going to repeat that, because it’s so amazing. Joshua and I are cousins. Our common ancestors are my third great grandparents, Joseph Price (1820-1904) and Mary Puffenbarger (1823-1896). (It’s Mary’s grave that I used aluminum foil to read in my blog post Reading hard-to-read gravestones.) How did I discover that? Like many good genealogy lecturers, Joshua used his own research in examples. In his very first talk of the day, he mentioned Joseph and Mary, much to my excitement. Joseph Price is one of Joshua’s brick walls, so it’s conceivable that I might, at some point, be able to give him a hand. That would be a dream come true!

Special offers in honor of July 4th

Genealogy bargains this weekendSeveral subscription-based databases are offering free access to specific holdings in honor of the 4th of July holiday. It’s a great chance to stay cool and dig into some research this weekend!

On Ancestry.com, you can access their records from the original 13 colonies now through Sunday, even if you’re not a subscriber.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors website is offering its Great Migration database free of charge through July 8.

You can freely search the Revolutionary War records at Fold3, the military database now through July 15.

If you have ancestors involved in establishing the U.S. now is the time to research them! I’m hoping to spend some time with the Great Migration database this weekend and see if I can find my early New York ancestor.

I learned about these special offers from Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Bargains newsletter. If you don’t subscribe, you’re missing out! (It’s another free resource.)

Update on the Livescribe pen

In a comment on my blogiversary blog post, reader Maria Tello mentioned that she would like to hear an update from me on how I use my Livescribe pen for genealogy.

The Livescribe pen is a smart pen with a voice recorder in it that links the recording with the notes you are taking. So you can touch an area of your notes (taken in its special notebook) and hear what was being said when you took the note.

I bought my Livescribe Echo in 2013 and enthusiastically used it to take notes at conferences. In my blog post about it, I mentioned the ways I could see using it for genealogy.

True confession: The Livescribe pen is gathering dust in my desk drawer. It’s lost its luster for me. I realized that I never took the time to go back and listen to the recorded notes, which made the notes I did take less valuable (since I took fewer notes, assuming I’d listen to them).

I really do think it could be a very valuable for doing oral history interviews. I just haven’t used it that way.

It’s worth noting that since I bought my Livescribe Echo, the company has the Livescribe 3, which links with an iPhone/iPad app (as well as Android devices). It uses your device’s voice recorder, which makes the pen smaller. And the notes you take in your notebook are transmitted to the device. They can even be transcribed easily. I won’t be rushing out to buy it, since it turns out its utility for me wasn’t quite what I anticipated, but for those taking a lot of notes, I think it’s worth checking out.

 

 

It’s my 3rd blogiversary!

happyblogiversarylgJune 14 marked three years since I published my first post here. (That post was called My quest to learn more about my family history.) Time goes by so quickly. I am so glad I decided to start this blog, for lots of reasons. It has done a wonderful job of helping me stay focused on my family history research. It has prompted me to go to genealogy conferences. It has brought me closer to family. And it has helped me make new friends.

The most popular post on the blog so far has been Reading hard-to-read gravestones, in which I discuss using aluminum foil to make a gravestone legible. I had read about that technique elsewhere and documented my use of it, with my husband’s help, on a family cemetery trip. That particular post has gone my small-scale version of viral: In the last two days, it has been viewed over 5,000 times!

Speaking of statistics, in my first two blogiversary posts, I gathered and published a few statistics. In the interest of consistency, I’ll do it again:

In the third year of this blog:

  • I wrote 72 posts (74 in year two, 79 posts in the first year).
  • There were a total of 84,270 views (35,198 the second year, 6,424 in year one).
  • I had 245 comments, about half of which were my own (compared to 316 and 106 comments in past years).
  • 272 people subscribe to the blog (that number was 160 a year ago and 82 on 6/14/13)

So it looks like I’ve remained somewhat steady in terms of the number of blog posts (though I would have guessed that I’d posted more!). Pageviews and subscribers are growing. In the 2014 calendar year, I had about 55,000 views and I set a goal this year of 100,000 views. I’m on track for that, which is great. (I love having goals.)

I’ve had the opportunity to meet several blog readers at conferences this year and that has been so wonderful! (I was even recognized by a couple of people at the NGS conference!) I hope to meet more of you in the coming year.

Thank you so much for reading this blog. If there are any topics you’d like me to address in Year Four, please let me know!