Maybe this is as a new of concept for you as it was for me… but, when do you determine you are “done” with a particular task in the research process? Are you “done” when you find a record? Or are you “done” when it has been scanned and filed? Are you “done” when you have source citations are sited in your genealogy software program? What does “done” mean to you?
For years, I would find the document or record and think done. Then stick the record in a file pile and then at some later date I would pick it up again as I go through the file/pile and scan like crazy, then pick it up again at some other future time and put the information with citations into my genealogy program, or I would put into the software program first and then put it back into the pile to be “filed” another day. I had no consistent process from start to finish.
Thinking you are “done” before you actually finished every step in the process can cause needless duplication of time and effort. This discovery has helped me realize that I needed to create a discovery process from start to finish. Starting from step one of “determine what information you are searching for” to the final steps of analyze, write research summary, record and file.
I have been doing genealogy research for over 20 years, mostly as a hobbyist – by the way, I not saying that to brag. I just want you to imagine the incredible amount of papers I have collected over the years! During those years I was also raising children and moving 12 times across the country. Ever have “professional movers” before? For some reason they will bubble wrap the hammer and then put it in the same box as fine china, or pack a full garbage can or a half empty paint can with a box of your clothes. This same “professional” will then dump your once perfectly organized files, take them out and spread them out into several totally unrelated boxes and label the box “Tools” or “Misc.” …now do this12 times, and picture many stacks of unpacked boxes from the last move in the basement that have yet to be gone through.
Our US-REC Study Group’s first assignment is to organize your research. Time to stop putting it off and eat the elephant. Here are some tips that might help.
7 Tips for Creating an Organizing System (based on a list in “It’s Hard to Make a Difference When you Can’t Find Your Keys” by Marilyn Paul):
- It has to make sense to you. If you are a file cabinet, binder gal – stick with that. If you are a digital guy – go with that. You don’t have to explain it or excuse it if it works for you.
- Your system has to produce results. A system works when you can find what you want in under 2 minutes. Anything else needs to be revamped.
- Systems should be as simple as possible. SIMPLE is key.
- Systems should be accessible.
- Systems should be low-maintenance.
- Systems should build on your strengths. Are you a visual person? Make your system visually appealing. Are you techno-savvy? Use the latest programs to tag, index and use the cloud.
- Consider how to manage the flow of information from start to finish. You aren’t done until you are really finished.
Now here comes the important part “THERE IS NO PERFECT SYSTEM!” Done is better than perfect! It is easy to find an excuse when you are looking for one and believe as I have looked at this HUGE project before me I have found many reasons to delay and evade. Just get started and tweak as you go.
Final words: “Motivation will get you started. But habit will see you through.”
THIS POST HAS BEEN WRITTEN TO MYSELF- Thanks for listening!