For the past few months, I’ve had this one pile on the corner of my desk that contains primarily genealogy items. When I’m hurriedly putting away the stuff cluttering my desktop, I just keep straightening that pile and leaving it there. It’s almost become a feature of the landscape of my desk. Somehow I’ve adjusted my thinking so that I have been considering my desktop clear even with that pile sitting there.
I think one of the reasons that I wasn’t dealing with it was a perception that it would take some time to really process the information in it. I was afraid that if I rushed it, I might lose valuable clues the pile might contain for my genealogy research. And I simply wasn’t taking the time to do it. (Work has been very busy lately.)
I know if I take some focused time and go through that pile, I will further my research and I won’t have an unsightly pile on my desk. But it hit me this morning that if I start but don’t finish, I’m still better off than not starting at all. So I took a photo of the pile, and wrote all the text above this line. Then I set my timer for 15 minutes and started going through the pile.
Here are some of the things I found in the pile:
- Notes from my research trip to Kentucky and Alabama. I added tasks from those notes to my Genealogy To-Do List for the appropriate surname. Then I filed the notes in my paper files.
- A packet of information I’d sent for from the the State of Alabama Archives pertaining to my great great grandfather, Laban Taylor Rasco. I put a sticky note saying “Analyze/process” on the packet and added that task to my Rasco To-Do List. Then I filed the packet in that couple’s file.
- Notes from my notebook that I took on the research trip. One page had notes on Adamses on one side and notes on Rascoes on the other. I scanned the Rasco side, printed it and put in in my Rasco file for later reference. I filed the original sheet in the appropriate Adams file.
- Notes written on several pages of two notepads I keep on my desk. I tore off the notes, logged any tasks on my To-Do list and filed or tossed the notes. Then I put the notepads where they belong.
- A random list of how common my family surnames are. Some time ago, I found myself on a website (which I didn’t source) where you can enter a surname and see how common it is. I typed the data into Evernote so I can find it later if I ever remember it.
- A small sticky note with a list of death certificates I’d found recently that needed to be added to my Reunion software. I checked each name to see which certificates had been entered already. Two out of five still needed to be added and I noted that on my to-do list. I threw away the sticky note.
- Some brainstorming notes about this blog. I filed them and made a note on my business task list to review them.
When the 15-minute timer went off I had just a few more pieces of paper to deal with. So I went ahead and finished, them did the filing.
Eliminating that pile took no more than thirty minutes. This is a pile I’d been looking at for several months. It had been mildly stressing me out, because I didn’t know its contents and it was in the way.
Now I feel in control of my research, I have clear next steps and I feel more eager to work on it. Plus I have a clear desk to enjoy. That’s the best 30 minutes I’ve spent in awhile!
What could 30 minutes of pile busting do for you?