Using a timer to aid your research

Use a timer to keep you focused and capture small snippets of timeToday I have time to devote to some genealogy research. But I also have a couple of phone appointments and I need to work out at the gym. And my knitting group meets tonight. So my day is sort of chopped up.

Sometimes I get caught in the trap of feeling like I can’t start any family history research unless I have a large chunk of uninterrupted time ahead of me. The trouble with that I rarely have a large chunk of time available. So if I wait, I won’t get much done.

This morning at 11 am, knowing that I wanted to go to the gym at about 11:30, I sent the timer on my iPhone for 25 minutes. It served a couple of purposes:

  • It kept me focused on the research until the timer went off
  • It kept me from losing myself in the research and missing going to the gym
  • Stopping at the end of 25 minutes kept me chomping at the bit to do more research, so later today I’ll be able to set my timer again and get more work done.

I think that fear of getting lost in the work sometimes prevents me from starting, so the timer really is my friend. And I’m always amazed at what I can get done in short bursts of time.

In his book, Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management, author Mark Forster talks about timed bursts and how taking breaks increases productivity (versus working long stretches of time). He advocates using a timer and cautions to stop the moment the timer goes off, so that you want to get back to work when the break is over. The brain craves completion, he explains.

My intention is to use the timer throughout the day and see if I can wedge in at least two hours of genealogy time in my day.

Next time you have a short period of time to do some family history research, pull out a timer and see if it helps!


  1. Thanks Janine, what a great idea! I have so much work to do on my genealogy that it may go in more of an organized fashion this way. May be then knowing the count down is on I my not be so tempted to get side tracked. I’m going to give this a try!

  2. That is a great idea! I am a pro in procrastination and always look for ways to trick myself. I will try the timer idea!.

Leave a Reply