After my third baby was born last year, I have been relearning how to manage my time effectively. I thought I learned how to do this in college, yet after each new addition to the family, I have to figure it out again. This time, I focused on finding out what was taking up my time, then cutting out non-essentials, and simplifying. This has helped me be able to continue working on my passion: family history. I’ve put together ten tips for making time for family history. I hope something here helps! Please share in the comments what works for you.
1. Notice what you spend your time on.
Pay attention to what takes up most of your time, then evaluate. Ask, “Is this what I want to be spending 4 hours on each day?” As I kept track of where each hour was spent, I was shocked to see how much time I spent in the kitchen – making food, eating, cleaning up food, sweeping. I wasn’t surprised to see that taking care of kids and feeding the baby are a big part of my day. I realized that I was driving a lot, partly because of the many extra curricular activities my kids were doing. Another big chunk of time that surprised me was writing blog posts.
2. Decide on your essentials.
Some of the essentials that I decided on are playing with my kids, relaxing with my husband, writing, learning, keeping up the home, feeding the family, quality time with friends, community service, practicing my faith, and family history projects.
What are my family history projects? There are a few. As with everything that I do, I try to prioritize them. Here’s what I ask myself when I’m putting them in order of importance:
Do I have enough names of relatives for temple work? I try to make sure that I always have researched enough of my ancestors/relatives to be able to do family names when I go to the temple. Discovering and adding relatives to my family tree is one of my favorite tasks. (If you’re not sure why Mormons do family history and temple work, here’s a short explanation.)
What reunions are coming up? Right now, we are getting ready for a reunion on my husband’s side by researching his grandmother’s ancestors. As an extended family, we are also writing down memories of his grandmother and thinking of questions to ask about her.
Is time running out for capturing memories? If you have any relatives who are older, consider talking with them and asking questions before their memories goes. This is an urgent task that cannot wait!
What stories and family history information would be most helpful to my children right now? I consider what challenges or questions they have and try to gather up stories from relatives that might help them. Last year we had an FHE about prayer. My son asked, very sincerely, if I had ever had an answer to prayer. I worked the next week to find family stories from living relatives and ancestors who had prayers answered.
What can I preserve for future generations? I write in my online journal (at JRNL.com) at least weekly, sometimes every other day. I take photos with my phone and they are automatically backed up to the cloud. I am working to digitize my childhood photo albums and those from my husband’s mission. Digitization and preservation is an urgent task because you never know when photo albums can get ruined in a flood or stolen from a moving truck.
What gifts will I create for Christmas? Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? In year’s past, I have created family history books, decor, and photo gifts to give for holidays. If you plan in advance, this can be a wonderful way to share family history at the holidays. The deadline is helpful for me to finish projects that I otherwise had on the back burner.
Once you have a nice list of different family history projects, you can put them in order based on what needs to get done first. Prioritizing helps make sure you get done what’s most important to you.
3. Cut back on non-essentials.
After logging what I spent my time on, I decided to cut back on several things that were taking too long: kitchen time, driving time, extra curricular activities, and some less important blog posts.
The time I spent making and cleaning up food was enormous. I decided to adopt a simpler menu. I was trying to lose baby weight by experimenting with different diets and recipes (paleo, whole foods plant based, vegan, etc.). This took a lot of work. When I went to a simpler menu, instead of giving up on healthy eating, I decided to make a list of my top 15 healthy recipes that we all like, that are simple, fast and don’t create tons of dishes. (Taco salad, fajitas, roasted butternut squash soup, lentil chili, etc.). Now I stick to those. I don’t really try new recipes very often now.
I also eliminated extra work in the kitchen that came from making things from scratch. I decided it wasn’t important to me at this stage of life to make homemade bread, jam, and desserts. I do enjoy doing these things sometimes, but right now, I decided to cut them out. We don’t eat a lot of desserts, but when we do, it’s Oreos or cupcakes from a mix! And I do it for a fun activity with the kids. Also, I stopped making hot breakfasts every day. Instead we have cereal, toast or smoothies.
Driving Time/Extra curricular activities
I was driving to ballet lessons, piano lessons, and soccer. When soccer ended (and I was so relieved because I somehow had volunteered myself to coach the practices), I decided to take a step back from our other activities as well. My 3 year old didn’t need to be driven to the ballet studio 30 minutes away. My 6 year old was a little too young for piano lessons and for daily piano practicing. We are all much happier to be at home instead of frantically going from place to place. The book Einstein Never Used Flashcards liberated me from feeling like I had to do these activities. My kids love pretending and imagining at home and at the park across the street. They didn’t even notice we stopped doing their extra activities.
I was doing a weekly “favorite reads” post, but I wasn’t finding time to research my ancestors, which is more important to me. I stopped doing the post weekly and just do it monthly now. A monthly favorite reads post still motivates me to keep up with the online community and learn from others’ posts, but now I have a block of time that used to be for blogging that I’m using for researching now.
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, spoke at RootsTech in February about making time for family history.
“I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice—and preferably a sacrifice of time—you can make to do more family history and temple work this year,” said President Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Sister Nelson spoke about how she gave up her personal Scrabble games for two weeks as an experiment to see if she could spend that time on family history. She said, “That sacrifice changed my life,” Sister Nelson said. “Sacrifice does indeed bring forth the blessings of heaven. I was blessed to find so many ancestors who were desperate to make covenants with God and to receive their essential ordinances” (Make Sacrifices for Family History, President Russell M. Nelson Challenges, LDS Church news).
What’s your Scrabble? What time could you sacrifice? What is taking up precious time that you could experiment with eliminating for two weeks? Mine is probably overdoing things that don’t need to be done (my husband’s words). Which leads to the next point…
This is much easier said than done. Even though I’ve cut out the non-essentials so that I’m doing whats’ most important to me, I’m still working on simplifying the way I do them. One of my challenges is that I want to appear to be doing everything “perfectly.” I’m trying to stop that. I tell myself to stop worrying about what others will think and focus on what’s really important. Meditation, journaling, and prayer help me refocus.
One thing I’m particularly bad at is stopping when something is “good enough.” I tend to want to keep working on whatever I’m doing until I’ve done an extra thorough job. Do you have any tips for this?
I recently read Melissa Finlay’s tip to use the pareto principle (80 / 20 rule) to combat perfectionism in blogging. According to George Halachev at Better Humans, the rule says, “80% of the results are coming from 20% of the effort.” It means that when you’ve put 20% of the time working on your task, you’re already 8/10’s done. The more time and effort you keep putting in after that, the less effective you’ll be.” The remedy for this is to stop when something is good enough, of course! (If only I could make myself do that).
5. Do two things at once.
Since I can’t cut back on feeding the baby or waiting in the school pick up line, I’ve adopted the common strategy of many parents: multi-tasking. While I’m spoon feeding mashed carrots to the baby, I eat my lunch too. While I’m breastfeeding him, I read genealogy how-to articles on my feedly app. While I drive and wait in the school pick up line, I listen to parenting books. (I try to listen to everything, rather than read!) When my kids want to do crafts, I’ll often find ways to turn the craft into a family history oriented activity. This way, I get to tell them about their ancestors and they get to do something they want to do.
6. Do difficult tasks when you feel best.
After the baby was born last year, I had to figure out that whole sleeping with a newborn thing again. I was waking to the kids asking for breakfast each morning, feeling frustrated that I didn’t get enough sleep, going through the day frantically trying to “get stuff done,” and then when the kids finally went to bed, I felt too tired to work on anything difficult because I was tired and frazzled.
Last month, when the baby started sleeping better, I decided to try waking up early. I’m a morning person and I wanted to utilize those morning hours when I’m thinking clearly to do some writing and research. I started waking up an hour before the kids to do this and it has been magical. I love my morning time. I feel much more prepared to give a loving hug to my kids when they wake up and be present with them during the day because I know I’ve already accomplished an hour of whatever I wanted in the morning.
7. Receive help.
There are a lot of ways that I have received help from others that I am very thankful for. Having other mom friends is invaluable. We are able to pick up each others’ kids, help babysit, and do all kinds of things. Also, my husband and I work together to make sure each other has time for their passions.
Much of my help comes from above. I have found that when I prioritize, through prayer, the things that are most important to God, He helps me accomplish them. This is especially true for family history and temple work.
The LDS family history manual, Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, which is now out of print, had a quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer and a little comment right after that I have always treasured and found to be true:
“The Lord will bless us as we attend to the sacred ordinance work of the temples. Blessings there will not be limited to our temple service. We will be blessed in all of our affairs. We will be eligible to have the Lord take an interest in our affairs both spiritual and temporal.” (Elder Packer, The Holy Temple , 182).
“You will be strengthened to do this work and the other tasks of your life more efficiently.”
(Member’s Guide to Temple and Family History Work, 2009)
John A. Widstoe also spoke of the help we receive when we commit to doing the Lord’s work to help our ancestors:
“Those who give themselves with all their might and mind to this work…receive help from the other side, and not merely in gathering genealogies. Whosoever seeks to help those on the other side receives help in return in all the affairs of life.” John A. Widtsoe, Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, July 1931, p. 104
I really believe this. I’ve never felt like my time spent on genealogy research and temple work is a burden – it’s a joy. I delight in the time I get to spend doing it and am thankful for the blessings I receive in the other affairs of my life as a result.
8. Don’t get bogged down with feeling unproductive.
What if you don’t find anything when you research? One of my friends said that she wants to do genealogy research, but when she does find time for it, she spends an hour looking for records and doesn’t find any that seem to match her ancestors. She is frustrated and feels like the time was wasted. In his book The Holy Temple, Elder Packer answered this frustration:
“Every hour spent on genealogical research, however unproductive it appears, is worthwhile. It is pleasing to the Lord. It is our testimony to Him that we accept the doctrine of the resurrection and the plan of salvation. It draws us close to those who have gone before. It welds eternal links in family associations and draws us closer to Him who is our Lord and stands in the presence of Him who is our Eternal Father.” (p. 255)
Your time is not wasted when you find nothing! Just remember to keep track of where you looked so you don’t repeat the same search later. A research log does wonders for busy parents who only find time to research in little snippets of time.
9. Make a plan.
Have you ever created a research plan? My mom wrote this post: “Genealogy Research Planning: How to Turn an Hour of Research from Ho-Hum to Productive.” She tells about how she created her research plans during accreditation test prep. Basically, you formulate a research question, then list the best sources you can search to help you answer your question. It’s kind of like making a research log before you do anything.
For busy parents, this is a great way to tackle genealogy research. You can spend a 10 minute block of time checking 1-2 things off the list of searches to do. When you have a longer block of time, you can analyze the documents you find and add more “to do” items to your plan.
10. Take a day off.
I’ve found that in healthy eating, it’s really helpful to have a cheat day. I think this is true with time management as well. It’s okay to take a day off from carefully planning out each minute. It’s okay to sleep in, watch a movie, do nothing, and rest. These rest days help me come back to regular days with gusto and tackle the projects that are important to me, like family history.
So that’s it! How do you make time for family history? Check out other posts in this blog link up here: