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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

In this post I have seven ways you can make more time in your schedule. This post will describe one way that I think is really important. Then I have a "handout" for you with six more tips!

Get the printable of 6 Productivity Tips to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder.

There are also bonus topics sprinkled throughout this post so you can craft your own unique solution to "making" time!


Let's talk about keeping a planner so you create more time for genealogy.

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 spends all day running from one appointment to another but for most of us, a timed schedule doesn't make our day go 'round.

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

Keeping a planner can help you complete what you have to complete more efficiently. That can in-turn mean you have more time for genealogy. Sounds like a good idea, right?

As with a planner, these tips can be used for your whole life so you complete your "have-tos" and still have time for genealogy. I've included some genealogy specific uses, too.

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 and 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.

It was most likely through Pinterest that I came across "planner decorating" and 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 and keep me learning more about productivity and managing my day so I can spend less time on my "have-tos" and more time on my "want-tos.")

Many of the ideas found on Pinterest (or Instagram) are "home management" centric so if you don't work full-time, you may find the perfect organization tool for your life. If your work and personal life are just not meshing because of a lack of organization, borrowing some ideas from a planner-fanatic 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 that are tied to a time or you just 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 but 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 (but you can have three lists so 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 but right next to something like a doctor's appointment -- which obviously impacts your work time that day.

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 using this three-section approach on my next multi-day research trip.

In the past, I've tried setting a schedule to keep from getting bogged down in something that isn't what I really want to do (or to make sure I work on all the client work I've brought).

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.

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! Whether you're visiting a repository with lots of hours (like the Family History Library) or will spend the evening in your hotel room reviewing your research, the two breaks can represent lunch and dinner or your two longest breaks.

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

It will help you think about realistic goals and hopefully encourage you to create some more specific research plans to maximize your research time. If you honestly can't find time to create a full research plan ahead of time (you really should but I know life sometimes gets in the way), scheduling your research can break your research into specifics closer to a plan.

RELATED: Learn about the alternative of using time blocking for genealogy, here.

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.

For most Occasional Genealogists, this isn't going to be a to-do list or a spur of the moment research log (I've written about genealogy lists for a bullet journal, though).

If you're really an Occasional Genealogist, you do too little genealogy to give up the planner real estate for that (it is an option, though and more practical if you can add sections to your planner, such as with a disc-bound planner).

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 (the same is true if you keep a bullet journal).

Even if you're able to carve out time for genealogy organizing or, heaven forbid, actual research, a genealogy journal can still help you.

A popular suggestion to be better motivated is to write down what you need to do the next day before you go to bed. That way you sleep better. Writing things down gets them out of your head.

You really need that in genealogy. You can NOT carry it all in your head. But 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 6 Productivity Tips to Work Smarter, Not Harder.

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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