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MAKE Time for Genealogy

Do you feel like you never find time for genealogy?

Here's a secret, you will rarely ever "find" time for anything.

You have to MAKE time.
Work Smarter and Do More Genealogy

With this post, I have seven ways you can make more time in your schedule. The post describes one way to "make" time. Then I have a downloadable for you with six more tips. Yup, you'll be making more time than you know what to do with (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. But seven options for making more time for genealogy? Good deal!).

Get the downloadable with 6 productivity tips to finish your "have-tos" so you can do your "want tos."

There are bonus topics sprinkled throughout this post, too. Craft your own unique solution to "making" time!

What's this special way to make time that deserves a blog post?

It's a planner. More specifically, it's writing down what needs to get done in an organized fashion, not just a to-do list.

Call it an organizer, a Filofax, a Day-Timer, or whatever you want. When I was younger this was always presented as a schedule you filled in and that was about it.

That sounds great for a professional who is running from one appointment to another. For most of us, a timed schedule doesn't make our day go 'round.

You have certain tasks you have to get done each day. It just doesn't matter if they are done at 9 a.m., 9:15, 9:30, etc. Today's planners have options for anyone, whether you're driven by time-specific appointments or not.


Also, I'm saying a "planner" but you can also simplify this down to using a daily planning sheet.

I've found over the years that I like a bit of variety. I tend to rotate through a few favorite planning resources depending on what best fits the season I'm in. Some seasons are literally seasonal. During the summer my schedule is very different due to the long school break. Some "seasons" are more seasons of life (having preschool children vs. no children or teenagers).

Keep reading to see why I suggest a planner to "make" more time for genealogy. Just realize you can adapt this to printables, a planning pad, a digital calendar, or just plain paper. Do what works for you.


Keeping a planner can help you complete what you HAVE to complete more efficiently. That in turn means you have more time. You can use that time for genealogy. Sounds like a good idea, right?

As with a planner, these tips apply to your whole life. Complete your "have-tos" and still have time for genealogy.

Planners for Genealogists

I didn't realize a whole "planner" phenomenon had been going on until a few years ago. After I had my second child, I realized I spent a lot more time away from the computer. I had to find a different way to stay as organized as I had been previously.

I had been doing everything digitally. That worked great until I wasn't in front of my computer for large parts of the day.

Through Pinterest and Instagram I came across "planner decorating." There's a whole world of planner fans with lots of customizable ideas. (FYI I don't do planner decorating but the pretty pictures drew me in. It keeps me learning more about productivity and managing my day. So, I spend less time on my "have-tos" and more time on my "want-tos.")

Many of the ideas found on Pinterest are "home management" centric. If you don't work full-time, you may find the perfect organization tool for your life. Work and personal life not meshing because of a lack of organization? Borrow some ideas from a planner-fanatic. It may help you get everything together.

How Today's Planners Are Different from an 80's Day-Timer

Most of the systems or methods you'll see people using now use little to no "schedule" as part of their planner. Instead, there is either a small section for those things tied to a time or you put them down in a section.

I like the weekly or daily planners that show "Morning," "Afternoon," and "Evening." This is much more how my days go. This allows for you to plan to do something within a time frame. If something happens, you don't have to adjust your schedule. It also doesn't require you to get everything in an exact order. You can write things down as you think of them. Since you can have three lists, you don't have such an overwhelming to-do list each day.

This is also a reasonable option if you have set office hours. Your work tasks will go in the section(s) when you are at work. Put it right next to something like a doctor's appointment.

There are lots of other options out there if you don't like the "Morning," "Afternoon," "Evening" approach. I've split a planner of this type into
  • "research" (for the research side of my business),
  • "blogging" (managing this blog), and
  • "personal."

This almost aligns with the types of time I have,
  • "quiet work time" for research clients,
  • work time with my kids around (for any non-hourly work like admin and blogging), and
  • "personal" time.
Quiet time is at a premium so seeing that work separately helps make sure it gets done.

You can adjust a three section planner even if you don't work or want to use it only for the personal side of your life. Simply think about the three categories you'd like to visualize your tasks under.

This can be based on the clock
  • morning, afternoon, evening.
Or another category
  • work, home, genealogy or
  • volunteer, family, genealogy.
Genealogy might not get its own section. My personal research doesn't but I'm still suggesting it).

RELATED: Not looking for a planner, just an offline way to track your week? I love this suggestion from Suzi at Start a Mom Blog. She has a post and quick video about her "Super Simple Weekly Schedule to Get Stuff Done."

I love Trello for the things I can track online and this is a similar concept (FYI, if you want it online, just create a Trello board for your week and use labels to stand for the colors---use my referral link to get started with Trello).

Genealogy Trip Planning

I'm looking forward to the three-section planner for my next multi-day research trip.

In the past, I've tried setting a schedule to keep from getting bogged down. I may want to hit a lot of small research tasks. I don't want to spend too long on some of them. I also usually bring some small tasks for when I need to switch tasks (for a mental break). Keeping those to a short amount of time is important.

I actually scheduled everything with a time. I knew I wouldn't stick to the schedule exactly, that's ok. But it's too time-consuming to try and recalculate the rest of the day's schedule when I make a change.

You can't know exactly when you'll need a mental break when researching. Staying in "the zone" with one research goal is good. Until it's not.

Inevitably, I barely used the schedule. Making the schedule has some advantages itself but I'd like to stay on a schedule a little better. I think the sections of the day will work much better and I'm less likely to over schedule myself this way.

I also need to remember to eat!

Visiting a repository open longer than business hours can quickly tax your schedule. You might also spend the evening in your hotel room reviewing your research. In either case, the two breaks can represent lunch and dinner.

This may sound trivial. But trust me. Working through lunch is not good for your afternoon research.

If I'm on a research trip, I want to make good use of every minute. I don't need to stop researching early because I forgot to eat.

This applies to any day when you have things you want to accomplish throughout the day. Often what suffers is our personal time in the evening. That time when you might get to do genealogy.

If you're making a "big" research trip, consider creating a schedule for your research.

Add Some Genealogy to Your Planner

If you are keeping or decide to keep a single planner with everything in it, consider a genealogy section.

If you're really an Occasional Genealogist, you do too little genealogy to give up the planner real estate for genealogy. UNLESS you can add sections to your planner. You can do this with a disc-bound planner. If your planner has a blank note section, that can also work.

I've written about genealogy lists for a bullet journal before. That's another format where a genealogy section is easy to add.

I suggest considering a genealogy journal (as in diary). If you have a large note section or can add a section to your planner, your journal can easily be in your planner.

You can NOT carry all your genealogy in your head. Sometimes all those charts and forms (or a blank page) are intimidating. Trying to create something formal can sometimes be a hindrance.

I suggest a genealogy journal as a solution. You can read about that concept, here.

Learn More

There is plenty to say about planners and journals. I could provide as many links to learn more as the text I've already written. Instead, check-out The Occasional Genealogist "Paper Planner Pins" Board where you can find some pins for free planner printables and more.

Don't forget to also grab my downloadable 6 additional tips.

If you have a scheduling or planner related tip or question, leave a comment. You can also leave a link to your favorite planner printable(s).

If you have another suggestion for a way to include genealogy in your planner, please share!
Work Smarter and Do More Genealogy | The Occasional Genealogist
Hacks to Work Smarter | The Occasional Genealogist


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