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I'm Jennifer, and I'm an Occasional Genealogist... sort of. For over ten years I've been a professional genealogist. I started researching my own family nearly 30 years ago. Like many of you, I started as an Occasional Genealogist. I had to squeeze research in while in school and while working full-time. Then I got my first genealogy job and for awhile, it was genealogy all the time. Now I have two kids. I do other people's genealogy constantly but my own? Coming up with ways to do great genealogy, despite all the interruptions, is now mandatory.

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Resolutions, Productivity, and More Research

It's time for resolutions! Get excited, genealogy resolutions mean you're going to do genealogy. That is so much more exciting than getting up at 5 a.m. to try and run when it's freezing outside. I'd rather do genealogy than plan a healthy diet. Hey, if you want those things, slap your laptop on a shelf across your treadmill or just forget to eat while you're engrossed reading newspaper records from 1887. That's some serious multi-tasking.

But let's talk seriously about genealogy resolutions.

Now that I have kids, the week between Christmas and New Year's is a work wasteland. Rather than stress about the research I'm not doing for clients, I'm taking this week to get ready for 2017, both professionally and personally. I want to be able to start my resolutions when the kids get back to school, not think about them, then.

At the end of this post are my personal genealogy resolutions. I hope you'll leave your genealogy resolutions in the comments, no matter when you're reading this. Putting them somewhere public is a good way to feel more accountable.

Why do you care about my personal genealogy resolutions? Well, you probably don't. However, I know many genealogists like or need to see examples. Resolutions don't have to be the same as research goals and I know I haven't seen a lot of examples of resolutions. Often the resolutions you do see are "research more" and "get organized," way too vague to be helpful.

I'm going to give a little information with my resolutions, to help you think about yours. The point is to inspire Occasional Genealogists to do more genealogy in whatever time they have. Sometimes you have to be creative and do non-research work. Honestly, there's a lot more non-research work involved in successful genealogy than research. It's just not the fun part in most cases.

Before You Can Do More...

First, I want to talk about "productivity." I love that word; to me, it just sounds like success. You might have a different feeling, but stick with me. Your resolutions need to be actionable and realistic. You probably need to look into something related to your productivity to achieve your resolutions. I don't know what that is for you so I'm going to tell you what I need to do.

I'm keeping my personal genealogy goals fairly short and simple. December is actually a terrible time for me to set a goal for the year because my life is so driven by a school schedule. My kids are so young, every summer is totally different than the last. Also, my daughter starts Kindergarten in the fall which actually involves both kids changing schools (and our school commute is doubling).

The first productivity issue is considering how much planning is even reasonable with so many changes in May and then August (yes, in Georgia we go back to school in early August, might as well, it's too hot to be outside). I'm addressing this mainly by not overplanning my resolutions but planning to review in June and September.

I'm looking forward to having a "deadline" before the NGS Conference in May (which is the week before preschool is out for my kids). Not all my resolutions can be achieved by then but it forces me to consider what I should finish. I know the week of NGS and the following two weeks I will be extremely unproductive so if I'm "almost" done, I need to be done before NGS. Otherwise, it'll be another month before I can really get back on track.

Do you have events that always cause residual interruption? 
Take them into account.

Next, I'm planning on breaking my resolutions down into yearly, quarterly, and monthly goals with some "do this every week" attempts. I'm not sure about the weekly goals so I won't be beating myself up about those. Instead, I plan to adjust rather than abandon those goals. I have some weekly and daily business and personal, non-genealogy goals I have to account for in this---those don't appear in my list below.

I obviously need to address my limited 24-hours that has to be divided between work, personal, and genealogy (and my life does seem to be in those three areas, personal genealogy isn't part of personal). I'll be using time blocking to consider how reasonable my resolutions are.

Time blocking will help me see what kind of time I really have. I already use a "lite" version of this technique. I mark the hours I have a sitter or both kids are at school (it literally appears as a large colored block on my Google calendar). There's certain work I can only do when both kids are taken care of so this helps me visualize, particularly when there's a change from my normal schedule.

Currently, I don't put things like our school commute on my calendar but to find make time for resolutions, I need a more realistic view of my days. I had too much on my plate from August to October this year so I don't want that happening again.

In summary, I'm starting with broad resolutions I can adjust. I'm planning to spend some time on my productivity (that's BEFORE I work on "organizing" anything). Then I'll break my resolutions down into progressively smaller goals with planned times I'll review and adjust.


So finally, here are my 2017 personal genealogy resolutions.

  • One day a month go to one of my two favorite ancestral counties (I live less than an hour from the two primary counties I research in and it's against traffic). More about how you can think about a goal like this, later.
  • Create "reviews" for my top projects. I'll be writing more about what I mean by a "review," later, hopefully in January. I'll be hammering out the details by working on this resolution so you get a tested suggestion with concrete steps.
    This resolution involves a number of sub-goals and tasks which will address my "organizing" goals. I don't want to just try and organize ALL my research or pick one project. I need to skip around to keep from getting bored and abandoning the whole thing. I've chosen this as my resolution to address my need to organize past research so I can pick up a project and research easily. It's more specific than "research more" or "get organized" but still broad enough so I can adjust it to fit in my schedule.
  • Organize -->Analyze DNA results. This is a very broad goal. I've been working on it for a year. It just needs to go on my calendar as a regular event. I have no idea exactly how it will be achieved, I just want to schedule regular time blocks for it. You may have resolutions like this, sometimes you just have something you need to do regularly before you can figure out how to do it "right."
I have two more BIG resolutions. The first I hope you'll like.
  • Automate my research process with Google Docs. I have a specific way I like to keep my research log and notes but so far, it's required cutting and pasting duplicate info (and then more cutting and pasting for planning and reporting). I think Google Docs (the full set of apps, Docs/Sheets/Forms/etc.) may have finally gotten to the point where what I need is possible. I have to check into if it is possible, first. If so, I'll be sharing this automation on the blog. This resolution is either possible and will speed up my ability to do research (following the research process) or isn't possible and can be discarded completely. It's kind of like a bonus resolution rather than one more thing to do.
  • Plan a big research trip. This is my "do more research" resolution. Next week I'll talk about this in more detail (including why my first resolution is not about doing more research and what the difference is).
Now it's your turn to list your resolutions in the comments. If you've set a genealogy resolution in the past that wasn't a "research goal" and was really helpful, share it.