What is holding you back from making progress on your family history projects? Too many to count? Not knowing where to start? If just thinking about your projects sends you into panic mode, it’s time for an intervention.
I previously wrote about Family History & Getting Things Done, using David Allen’s book, Getting Things done: the art of stress-free productivity, as a model. The ideas in the book have been a game changer for me. Sometimes a simple mind shift is all we need to move forward. What did I discover? I have a multitude of personal family history projects I want to do and no idea how to ever get to them. When I walk by the box of folders my mother gave me a year or two ago, I know I should be getting them organized. Thinking of the brick wall research I need to work on and the histories I want to write overwhelms me and I continue to put them off. It’s not that I don’t want to do these projects, I do. I just haven’t put any kind of plan into action.
The 1st task for this journey was to capture all the family history stuff that comes into your life. Projects for the future, papers to organize, education to pursue, histories to compile, and more. If you’ve been working on this, you likely have a long list compiled. Now what?
You might be itching to start putting papers away or dig into a research project, but first its time to stop and think. What is the big picture? Look at your list of projects broadly. Here are some questions to consider.
How committed am I to this project? Should I be doing this, or would it be better delegated?
Many of our family history projects can be shared. Who says we have to do it all! A few years ago I wanted to upload to FamilySearch the audio I had of my father talking about his growing up years during the dust bowl and depression. I was overwhelmed at the thought of breaking up the large file into smaller pieces that could be uploaded, but my techie son found a solution and soon had the project completed.
I was thrilled when my daughter-in-law offered to scan our family photos – a project I had been putting off for years.
If we want to get the next generation interested in family history, perhaps we need to consider the unique talents of a child or grandchild.
Does this project need to be done now, or would it be better for the future?
Certain projects will take priority: interviewing an elderly relative, collecting DNA samples from the oldest generation, making a book for a 50th wedding anniversary, planning the next family reunion.
A simple way to do this is to review your list of projects and rate them on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being “do immediately” and 10 “do someday.” Reorder the list to see what project should be started now.
What is my purpose in doing this project? What outcome do I envision?
Really thinking about your purpose will make a difference. Do you want to create a family history book that will preserve years of research for posterity? Are you hopeful that learning to use DNA in your research will break down a brick wall? Determining the true purpose for each project and the hoped-for outcome will help you clarify what you truly want to accomplish with your family history.
Once you have a prioritized list of projects, it is time to go deep on a specific project. Review again your purpose in tackling the project and the outcome you envisioned. Now do some brainstorming to get all of your ideas on paper. Creating a mind map is a fun way to get these ideas down. I love using my whiteboard for brainstorming. Taking a picture of it, I can save it for further project planning.
One of my future projects is to do a sisters book with photos and stories. I purchased a beautiful album a few years ago and have had intentions for completing this project ever since. I keep putting it off though, because it sounds too overwhelming and I don’t know when I’ll fit it into my busy schedule. I decided to tackle the brainstorming phase of this project and created a simple mind map. Seeing my written ideas is energizing and gives me a starting point for this project.
After the brainstorming phase, next it is time to put some thought into organizing your project. What are the specific tasks? Who will take on the various tasks? What is the very next action that needs to happen?
For my sisters book, I’ve determined these tasks:
– Gather photos and stories.
– Choose how to organize the book.
– Get the photos printed because this will be a physical book.
– Put together the physical book.
-Digitize the physical book.
What is my next action? To gather photos and put into one digital file folder. This next action can be scheduled on my calendar and I’ll actually make progress on this project.
Let’s look at an example of how I took a project from start to finish.
Purpose and Vision
After my dad passed away in 2011, my sister and I decided we wanted to make a quilt from his shirts and jeans we had saved. My dad wore a distinctive type of blue jeans and liked button-down shirts in strips or checks. We were daddy’s girls and missed him terribly. We wanted a quilt that we could curl up in and feel closer to him. This was a large project and we were both busy women living in different states. How were going to get this done?
Brainstorming and Organizing
I had planned a trip to Idaho and we decided that we’d spend my time there working on this project. We already had the jeans and shirts. My sister knew of a quilt shop that sold a variety of fabrics we could use for the backing, stripping, and binding for the quilt. We could do this! Once in Idaho, we pulled out the jeans and shirts and designed a simple quilt block. We cut and sewed until the blocks were completed.
We had envisioned using a fabric for the quilt back that embodied dad’s cowboy persona. Our next action was a visit to the fabric store. We found the perfect print complete with horses, hats, and spurs. My sister chose it in black and I chose red.
I left Idaho with the quilt blocks done and the fabric to bring it all together purchased. With the momentum from the weekend spurring me on, I continued with one “next action” after another until I had finished quilt and even made pillows with the leftovers for my children for Christmas presents.
The 2nd Task: Clarify
For the next month, clarify each project on the list that you made. Consider your commitment to the project, the purpose and the outcome of the project. Prioritize the projects, then choose the top project and go deep. Brainstorm ideas, organize the project, then think of the next action needed to make that project a reality.
Next up we’ll be talking about specific ways to organize our projects so they stay out of our head and in a system that we trust.
Best of luck in all your genealogical endeavors!