What potential time thieves are stealing away bits and pieces of your day that could be spent on something you really want to do – like family history? By identifying and eliminating those pesky thieves, you just may find that you have freed up 30 minutes to an hour of time each day that you can now spend on finding your ancestors and sharing those finds with your children.
What is a time thief? Anything that takes up your time without giving you a good return. We all have the same 24 hours in the day. We’re never going to get any more, so we better figure out the best way to use it.
Identify your time thieves by trying an experiment. For a few days, keep track of what you do all day long. This might be illuminating. I tried this and was surprised to see that I spent a lot of time cooking and cleaning up dinner each day. Since my family does need to eat, I can’t really eliminate cooking, but I decided to plan meals that are less time intensive, enlist the help of my family, and perhaps make more freezer meals.
Another thief stealing my time was email. Randy Pausch gives several great tips in his 2007 lecture “Time Management.” He recommends not using your inbox as a to-do list, something that I’m guilty of doing. Just like paper mail, look at an email once, then delete, archive, or put in the appropriate folder. Let’s face it, email will be a part of our lives forever and the sooner we figure it out, the better.
Social media can be a huge time thief. How many times a day do you check your Instagram, Facebook or Twitter accounts? I love my social media and staying in touching with family and friends. But let’s face it, the return on time spent is probably not that great. I decided to limit my social media time to three times a day – first thing in the morning, lunch, and evening. During those times, I can do a quick scan to see what’s happening in the world and respond to any needs.
My final time thief was dawdling. It is the best way I can describe taking too much time to get needed tasks done. I can easily dawdle at my computer, doing the dishes, browsing the newspaper, or many other ways. I combat my love of dawdling at the computer by setting an old fashioned timer for 25 minutes. During that time I work on a specific family history task: researching, writing, scanning, etc. Watching the timer, I stay on task and even if a text message comes in, I wait until my 5 minute break to respond. During my five minute break, I get up, walk around, get a drink, do some yoga stretches, and refresh my mind.
Some days are better than others, but I’ve been steadily working to improve my productivity. We all have good and bad times during the day. I’ve found that some family history tasks take a lot of brainpower – like difficult research or writing a report. Other tasks like scanning and filing documents, not so much. Scheduling high brainpower tasks at a time when I actually have high brainpower makes my time much more productive. For more tips, see my article, “Productivity Counts: Making The Best Use of Your Family History Time.”
When I first started doing family history, my five children were all at home and ranged from a 2nd grader to a senior in high school. With piano and dance lessons, boy scouts, an eagle project, young women activities, baseball games, and more, how was I going to find time to tackle the suitcase full of family history I had just inherited from my dad? I decided to eliminate a time thief of sleeping later than I needed and got up one hour earlier to work on family history. I never missed that hour first thing in the morning and accomplished a great deal during this high brain power time of my day. The end result? Those papers from the suitcase provided the basis of research on my paternal line and I gained a convert to family history work in my daughter, Nicole, as we learned to research together.
In the end, it all comes down to choice. We all have priorities and if one of those is family history, we can make it happen. If we can eliminate just 30 minutes of time thieves a day, we’ve freed up time for family history that won’t be missed and can go a long ways toward making progress in something we love. As we learn about our ancestors, we’ll naturally share our stories and enthusiasm with our children and begin to instill in them an interest in their family’s history as well.
Try an experiment to see where you can free up time for family history.
- For three days record your activities of the day in a time journal.
- Analyze your time journal and find your time thieves.
- Make a plan to eliminate those time thieves.
- Dedicate some time each day to do family history.
- Share your finds with your family throughout the day.
Best of luck in all of your family history endeavors! See the other posts in the #FHforChildren link up here:
You are such an organized lady, Diana. Thanks for sharing these thoughts, and thanks for your excellent example. So an extra hour each morning earned you a kid-convert, huh? Did she wake up an hour early with you, or was it just your example that inspired her?
I think I was just so engrossed with putting together our family tree based on real evidence, that it piqued her interest. She got up early, but to get ready for school, ha ha. During the summer though, she made some big discoveries using census records. I still remember her coming out to find me in the garden and tell me that she’d finally found Eliza Ann Isenhour in a census. It was really a great time for both of us!
But, I don’t wanna to admit that I have a time thief in my midst! Just kidding. Great post. Time to think hard about how I spend my time.
I know, it’s hard to give up those favorite time thieves, but it can be done! I do like to take a day off now and then, however and dawdle all I want.
Time thieves. I love that you phrased it this way. We don’t let other things rob us, but we do have to be vigilant about not being robbed by time thieves. We only get each minutes, hour, and day once. Thanks for the great read!
Melissa, I think being aware of where our time is going is key. That’s why I keep a running log in my research notebook of what I do at the computer each day, so I know I actually did something!
I love “that it all comes down to choice”. Sometimes that is a hard concept for people who have allowed other peoples choices to bog down their day. I was stuck in a work rut like that a few years ago. I felt bound by others choices every day. Until one day I realized that I was choosing to stay in that job. It was a freeing moment for me to realize that each day every decision or event or anything that I’m doing is because I am choosing that. So I quit my crazy job and now I don’t have any money but I have lots more time for family and hobbies that mean so much more to me.
Wow, Amy, good for you for figuring out that you needed to get rid of that job. I agree that when we realize that we have a choice in all things, even if the only choice we can make is to have a good attitude about a sticky situation, we are much happier.
It’s amazing how much time I can waste if I don’t have goals written down.