This semester has been one of the craziest of my life. I have taken four family history classes (in addition to a history capstone class) and each of these classes has a final project that requires around 50 hours of research and several written report. It’s been pretty busy, especially as we are winding down to the end of the semester when all of the projects are due. Whether you are a student, casual hobbyist, or professional genealogist, life can be extremely crazy. As one of my professors likes to say, we have to fit genealogy into our lives because it’s not just going to happen. Well, all the chaos of life makes efficiency and time management all the more important.
One of my classes is a seminar on professional research in which we learn about what it’s like to be a professional in the genealogy world. There are a lot of options, but one of the big ones that a lot of students want to go into is client research, where someone asks you to do research for them and you do it and provide reports, etc. This is the background in which I learned a lot about efficiency in research, but it can apply to all kinds of research.
I am a perfect example of someone who is stricken with “Oh Shiny” syndrome (a name my professor likes to call it). I’m doing dedicated census research and suddenly I see this really cool fact (like a child previous unaccounted for) and, voila, I’m in vital records trying to find more records of this child, when they were born, and when they died. And about thirty minutes later I suddenly remember I was doing a census survey. Oops.
Now I am a firm believer that this is not always a problem, because it can lead to good discoveries, but it can also distract us from important research.
Thus, efficiency and time management.
I consider my mind to be an addled mess most of the time. So a wonderful tool for me to use is a to-do list. Yes, there is nothing more satisfying to me than putting a check mark next to an item on my list. I attended a fantastic lecture at RootsTech by Thomas Macentee who talked all about Research Checklists. There are multiple ways that you can do it, but basically, you list out all of the relevant record types for the time and place that your family is living in and it gives you a little bit of guidance as to where your time should be spent.
Another thing I like to do is, when I’m sitting down to do a session of research, I make a list of record types or places that I am going to search and what it is I’m looking for. Then I have small goals that can help me reach my bigger goals of the research.
You also will probably have to try and cure that “Oh Shiny” syndrome. This is where research logs (see that blog post!) and notes can come in handy. Because you now have a record of the information that you found and where you found it so you can go back and look at it later.
Basically, I want you to know that there are lots of different ways that you can manage your time. Find a way that you can do this yourself because, in the end, it makes your life better.
A final note about research logs: I know in a past blog post, I stressed the importance of blog posts. I just want to put in another plug for them because in one of my classes I got really behind on my research log (as in I stopped putting stuff in it completely…) and it is really biting me now. I can’t remember if I have searched databases or for certain pieces of information and so I feel like I’m going in circles. So do research logs!! Because it will help you so much with your efficiency and overall genealogy happiness.