My 2015 genealogy goals

In my last blog post I wrote that I don’t usually create genealogy goals and that this year would be different. I’m starting to really question my memory, because a search on my blog revealed the genealogy goals I set for 2013 and 2014. So I guess I what I really mean is that I need to set genealogy goals and keep them top of mind.

A year ago I created a quarterly research scheme for 2014 that actually worked quite well for me. (I described and evaluated it in this post.) I decided that I would divide the year into quarters and focus on one line of my family (that is, the ancestors of one grandparent) per quarter. At that time I outlined all the things that I would endeavor to do in that quarter. The list was lengthy and I think I knew at the time I was writing it that I’d never get it all done.

I’ve learned that when I create unrealistic goals I tend to ignore them. So I decided that for 2015 I need to structure my genealogy goals in such a way that I set myself up for success.

I created a list not dissimilar to last year’s, but instead of expecting myself to do everything on the list, I am striving to do four of the eight things on the list for each family line.  I’m sticking with the quarterly plan, but I’ll be jumping for joy if I accomplish four of the things per quarter. And I imagine the four things I do accomplish will vary by the family line.

Most of the items on my list are things within my control, which I think is important because so much of genealogy research feels outside my control. For example, one of the goals is to spend an average of two hours a week researching. The goal isn’t to solve a particular mystery or achieve a milestone, which I may or may not be able to do, but rather to put in the effort. (I did include one milestone among the goals, because it will feel so good to achieve it.)

The menu of eight items vary in level of effort, so if I have a quarter where I’m not able to spend as much time as I’d like researching, I can probably still get a few Xs. (For example, I’m sure I can find photos on my hard drive and add them to Reunion or add ten pins to my genealogy map.)

So here’s the little table I made in Pages on my Mac.

2015gengoalsscreenshot

I’m sure there’s plenty of room for improvement here, but I’m feeling good that these goals are achievable and something that I can keep top of mind. I’m going to print out the table and pin it to my bulletin board so I know I won’t forget them this year!

Organizing little by little

calendarsnippetHere’s one thing I know: Getting or keeping your family history research organized doesn’t happen without a little effort. (Of course, that’s true of organizing most aspects of our lives!) There never seems to be enough time to do genealogy research, let alone time to organize it.

But if you snatch little pockets of time to catch up on your organizing, you can make great strides. For example, 15 minutes spent on filing unfiled genealogy documents (either electronic or paper) is time well spent. It allows you to familiarize yourself with your documents and the holes you have in your research. It makes you feel more in control. You can get rid of any duplicates you come across. And, of course, it helps you find what you need when you’re looking for something, because documents are where they’re supposed to be.

One thing that can help is keeping an organizing task list so you can jump right into it when you carve out some time for it. My new genealogy to-do list helps me know what to work on when I have some time for research. But I think it’s a good idea to spend some time at least once a week organizing the research. Toward that end, I think that in addition to having a genealogy to-do list for each branch of my family, I’ll make one for organizing tasks. That’ll make it easier for me to just do something. (I’ll be posting a Genealogy To-Do List printable very soon so you can use my form, if you’d like.)

So here’s my challenge for you today: Think about how often you want to do family history research. And then think about when you might work on organizing your research. In this last month of the year, maybe you can carve out a little time for organizing. Doing it little by little, you’ll make progress. If you wait for a free weekend when you feel like organizing, you may never get it done.

Like many people, I have a very busy December coming up. But I’ve found that I get more done when I’m really busy. So for this December, I’m going to commit to spending at least a half hour a week organizing my genealogy research. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up two hours over the course of the month (actually, two and a half, since December started on a Monday this year). And one can get a lot done in two focused hours. To set myself up for success, I’ve scheduled five half-hour sessions on my calendar.

I’ll try to keep track of what I accomplish in that time and at the end of the month, I’ll post my progress here. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by all I can get done in those little, focused pockets of time.

 

Creating a genealogy to-do list

gentodolistsampleI know I have two big impediments when it comes to making progress with my genealogy research. One is that I often don’t know where to start in a particular session. The other is that I think I need a huge block of time and that huge block rarely comes.

But I know better. I am a big believer in grabbing snippets of time to complete discrete tasks. For me, this is true in life and in genealogy research. But my reluctance to start a short session still rears its head.

Yesterday, as I was pondering this situation, I came up with a strategy that might be helpful. I created a form for myself where I can separate tasks by the amount of time I think they’ll take. That way, when I find myself with 30 minutes to spend on family history research, I can scan the “30 minutes” section (or the “15 minutes or less” section) and hop right into a task. The form I created has seven sections: 15 minutes (or less), 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, half day, full day, and weekend.

Since I’m trying to focus on one branch of my family per quarter, I decided to make a separate list for each branch. That way, if I come across some leads for families I’m not working on this quarter, I can put them on the appropriate list, and when that quarter rolls around I’ll already have a task list to get me started.

If I manage to use this form consistently, it should serve a few purposes:

  • I’ll be able to jump right into my research without feeling overwhelmed
  • My sessions should be more focused and productive
  • I’ll research more frequently, because I won’t be waiting for large blocks of time to emerge
  • If I hit a dead end, I can go right back to my list to refocus

I can’t wait to give this a try. I’ve started with a short list for a couple of family branches. I’m going to figure out a way to include routine tasks on the list (like updating my progress tracker and making sure that all paper documents are also properly stored on my hard drive) so that they get done relatively painlessly. I think this will definitely be a work in progress.

In the next week or two, I’ll create a template for you to use in your research and include it in the Printables section of this site. I’m going to wait a little while to do so, so that I can refine it a bit, based on my use. (An excerpt of my one-day-old version of the form is what’s pictured with this post.) I’m thinking that I may drop the final two sections, since I want to include smaller tasks, not large projects, on the list. But I’ll use it awhile before deciding.

I’m curious: Do you find it hard to figure out where to start when you have time to do genealogy research? Or is that something peculiar to me?

Readers weigh in on blog-reading tools

Feedly is popular among genealogy blog readersEarlier this month, I solicited your suggestions for blog-reading tools. I was interested in hearing how you keep up with the various blogs you read. I was thrilled to receive about a dozen comments with suggestions. As promised, I’m compiling them here for easy reference.

Feedly was the blog reader of choice for five commenters. Two of those were Thomas MacEntee and Jana Last, whose blogs highlight other genealogy blogs, use Feedly. If Feedly is good enough for these blog power-readers, I think it’s probably good enough for me. I’ve just downloaded it and am going to give it a go. So far, set up has been intuitive and easy!

Here are the other suggestions (each of which were mentioned once), in case you want to try any of them:

Several people mentioned that they formerly used and like Google Reader. Alas, Google, in its infinite wisdom, discontinued that service last year.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share information for this post!