When you sit down at your computer for that devoted family history / genealogy time, how do you decide what to work on first? Should you go to work on a research project, watch a webinar, or browse new DNA matches? If you’ve been following the Getting Things Done method, you’ll have a task list of next actions for various projects. Now it’s time to engage. Choose a next action and go to work.
This is the final article in this five-part series based on David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done: the art of stress free productivity. If you’ve been following along then you’ve started to follow the process to bring more order and productivity to your genealogy world. Need a review? Here are the previous posts:
Family History and Getting Things Done: Introduction to the book and step one – capturing every family history and genealogy project large or small.
Family History & Getting Things Done Part 2: Clarify : Prioritizing each project, brainstorming ideas, making a plan, and identifying the next action.
Family History & Getting Things Done Part 3: Organization : Creating a trusted system for organizing your papers and processes.
Family History & Getting things Done Part 4: Reflecting: Using a weekly review to get clear, current, and creative.
The final step in the Getting Things Done process is to engage. What exactly does that mean? It’s all about making the right choice of an action at any given time. Allen suggests thinking of this in terms of context, time, energy and priorities. I think we often do this subconsciously, but making a conscious choice can eliminate guilt and help us feel good about what we’re doing. Let’s consider each element.
How you choose to spend your family history time will depend on where you are. I don’t like to do serious research on my laptop. With only one screen, and a smallish one at that, it’s not the optimum scenario. I save my billable client research time for working at my desk with two monitors and a fast internet connection. This enables me to work efficiently.
If I’m away from my computer, I could study an article, listen to a podcast, or read a book. If I’m visiting a relative, I could record stories or scan photos. Choosing an action from our task list that matches the context of where we are physically makes sense.
We all have different times of the day when our brain works better than others. For me this is first thing in the morning. I choose to do my “heavy lifting” in the morning – complex DNA analysis or writing a research report. I save tasks that take less mental energy for the afternoon or evening such as searching a microfilm following my research plan. Scrolling through images for a research subject is necessary work but doesn’t always take a lot of brain power. I save organizational tasks such as filing papers for times with even less energy.
Certain tasks might take priority based on a deadline or a commitment you’ve made with yourself or someone else. If you’ve promised to give a presentation at your society meeting, your action of choice might be to get started. If you feel like you don’t have enough time for the project you really want to do, perhaps you need to make a commitment with yourself to work on it in one hour a day and then make it a priority.
THE RESEARCH NOTEBOOK
What about interruptions? Emails, phone calls, and texts are wonderful communication tools, but they can interrupt the best planned day. if I don’t get to something on my list, it can be evaluated and perhaps moved to the next day or eliminated. With my trusted system in place, I’m able to enjoy my work and make progress in my family history and genealogy work.
If you’ve been considering trying the Getting Things Done method, I wish you the very best in your journey!
Diana thank you for blogging and for all the podcasts you and Nicole do. I love the podcasts and blogs on getting organized with genealogy. I never thought of organizing my to do lists in context of how much time, energy and by location. This has given me the idea to organize my tasks by using my smartphone vs at home at my computer ( I am like you I have 3 computer screens) or with my laptop somewhere.
Thanks for this comment! I’m glad it is helping in your quest to get organized and be more productive. Being thoughtful about our systems and actions really can make a difference.
Thank you for this series! I have been feeling very overwhelmed by all that I want to accomplish in my genealogy research. These steps are exactly what I need to start making headway in my research and organization!
Great, I’m so glad it will help! Let us know how things are going down the road.