Making 2017 an Epic Research Year
Happy New Year!
I don't know about you but my new year always starts with some reflection and some planning for the year ahead. I'm all about goal planning and trying to improve myself each and every year as both a genealogist and as a writer. So, we are starting the first week of 2017 with a three-part blog post series, Making 2017 an Epic Research Year!
We are going to look at three areas to help you have your most epic research year; productivity, goals and habits. Spending a little time up front, thinking about each of these will help you to put into place a plan for your epic research year.
Today is blog post 1, and we will look at some tips for becoming a more productive genealogist. Watch for post 2 in a few days, it will be all about setting yourself new research goals. And in post 3, we will look at how to create and sustain new habits that will help you to reach your 2017 goals.
So. Let's get started with becoming more productive genealogists in 2017 with the following 8 tips.
1. Push your comfort zone.
Want to do bigger and better things in 2017, then you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. This just means trying new things and expanding your knowledge. To grow as a genealogist, we all need to do this on a regular basis.
It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. We are comfortable, not taking risks when we are in this state. When it comes to your genealogy research do you ever feel like you are a hamster on a wheel going round and round? Perhaps you need to take a class, go to conference, visit an archives, travel to an ancestral hometown, write their stories. Shake it up, and step out of your comfort zone it just might take your research to new levels.
2. Learn first.
At every step of the way in our genealogy journey, we must learn. Productive genealogists continue to learn, to expand their knowledge of all things genealogy. Everything from genealogy research methods to organizational methods, to finding out more about records and databases. We seek out knowledge about our ancestor’s lives, social history and their local, regional and world history of the time. All of these things will help to move your research forward in a more productive manner. Never stop learning. If we stop learning, then the only thing we can do is settle with what we already know.
3. Ask for advice.
Asking for help is not always easy. Many of us are intimidated when it comes to asking others for advice. We feel insecure, so we decide not to seek help and try to figure it out ourselves. But this can be limiting. There is most likely someone out there who has a fair amount of knowledge about the information we are seeking. Not reaching out and asking for their assistance might be a big missed opportunity. Seek out knowledgeable people in archives, libraries, Facebook groups, genealogy bloggers, and professional genealogists. They are all ready and eager to offer you guidance. You just have to ask.
4. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.
While the details in family history are important, we shouldn't lose sight of the big picture. Often I see genealogists spending an immense amount of time looking for a single document, a date, their research is at a stall until they can fill in that small detail. They lose site of the big picture. What does it all mean? Why do we invest so much time in researching our ancestors? Don’t spend years chasing one small detail of an ancestor’s life and miss the opportunity to share the masses of stories you have acquired with your family. You know the old saying "can't see the forest for the trees," well this is what happens for many. They don't move forward with their research or sharing their research because of a few small details they haven't been able to find. While the details are important, don’t lose sight of the big picture – to bring your research, your ancestor’s stories to your family so that they too can get to know and learn from their ancestors.
5. Don’t multitask.
Multitasking is overrated. Spreading yourself too thin over multiple family lines and ancestors can end up getting you nowhere. Multitasking is known to actually decrease productivity. Those who are successful focus on one particular task and do that task to the best of their ability without interruption. When I focused on my father’s lines, I was able to make great inroads in my research, I was able to fill in many missing pieces and eventually complete a family history book.
When you multitask, you limit your ability to fully focus on one specific task at a time. Successful people utilize the talents and skills that they have by focusing on one task and one task only.
Don’t try to juggle too many lines and ancestors at once. It often leads nowhere.
6. Accept the Unanswerable.
It’s important to accept that some of your research questions will go unanswered. Wasting time chasing a detail that is most likely never going to reveal itself is not productive. Shelve it. Move on. Stop lying to yourself that the answer is out there. Accept that not all your questions will be answered. Proceed to the ones you can answer. You can always circle back at a later date. But in the meantime, if you stay focused on an unanswerable question, you're losing valuable time, and you're not being the most productive genealogist.
7. Don’t Let Mistakes Hold You Back.
The past is something that we will never change, nor should we want to change it. Without the past, we would not have learned the lessons we needed to learn. The mistakes are important.
We’ve all made errors in our genealogy journey, from poor organization, not recording a source, adding the wrong person to our tree, not finding sources to prove a relationship, the list goes on. We’ve all done it. Don’t let those mistakes hold you back. Learn from them, correct them and move forward.
8. Ditch the Negative People.
Don’t hang around with people who don’t support your passion. There are people out there that might be dismissive of your genealogy passion. Perhaps, they believe it has no bearing on today’s world. That it is boring and irrelevant stuff.
It’s important to love what you do and have passion for it. It’s hard to do that when you are surrounded by negative people. So if you wish to be successful, don’t focus on the negativity that others bring.
To be a successful genealogist requires focus, determination, a willingness to learn and seek out advice. Keep these eight tips in mind in 2017, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a more productive genealogist and making 2017 an epic research year.