Tag Archives: Goals

Writing: Stay Focused!

Spread the like and love! #WhowearsthegenealogypantsWho among us genealogists doesn’t struggle with maintaining focus? We all know too well about finding a tantalizing record that sends us down a road that we find ourselves still traveling at 3 a.m. Lack of focus can happen in the writing aspect as well. Distractions are often procrastination in disguise, particularly if you find writing difficult. We will always find something to keep us from writing. Procrastination feeds writer’s block and forms a cycle that is hard to break. Below are a few of my tips for maintaining focus when writing.

When it comes to writing, time management is going to be your biggest asset for maintaining focus when writing. Try some of the following:

  • Set a daily or weekly goal. Try a target number of words per day or a number of pages.
  • Set a timer. Determine how many minutes you can work without interruption. I like to work for 50 minutes and then spend 10 minutes taking a break or doing another task such as folding laundry.
  • Set a daily focus. Maybe today you are going to only work on a certain topic such as those land records or wills you just haven’t taken the time to transcribe. Or maybe you’ll work on fixing up your citations. Or changing your passive voice (to be verbs) to active voice. Having one focus boosts progress.
  • Turn off interruptions. Turn off your phone or better yet put it in another room. Shut down your email program. Take off your smartwatch. Shut off the electronic doorbell. Whatever you’ve got that can interrupt you, shut it down. At least for the 50 minutes that you’ll be writing.
  • Schedule your time. And stick to your schedule. Find a consistent time in your schedule that you can dedicate to writing and give yourself PERMISSION to stick to that time. Set an appointment in your calendar. You are just as important as everything else in your calendar (if not more so).

When we allow ourselves to work on our own projects, and we make progress, it refills
us and gives us some of our passion for the project back. When I think about all of the
things I’m not getting done, it really weighs me down and takes away some of my enthusiasm. I find when I set aside time, and stick to my schedule, my energy, passion, and enthusiasm “bucket” gets refilled and I’m much happier.

I hope you’ll give it a try!

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 5, Writing Goals

In the last post, I talked about setting personal research goals, primarily in the form of giving yourself permission to work on your own research. Set aside whatever amount of time your schedule can afford and work on some of your own projects! Along with that research, you should also tack on some writing goals. That research doesn’t do a whole lot of good if it isn’t in a form that can be shared whether with your family or through publication. I challenge you to submit your work to be published. This can be at a national level, but if that intimidates you, try a local or state publication instead.

books-690219_1920I can hear many of you saying “I’m not a good writer.” And to that, I say “pish posh!” That is what editors are for. Editors (whether they are a trusted friend, someone you hire, or that from a journal) make your writing better! Don’t let that “I’m not a good writer” thought stop you from doing it. I sit in my office every day and look at my binders and worry that someday I’m going to come to a point in my life when I don’t get that work published somewhere, anywhere, where it can be used by future researchers. (I used to say “what if I’m hit by a bus” until a friend was literally hit by a bus, don’t worry, she’s ok. Another friend told me to think “what if I win the lottery and move to a private island” instead. She’s right. That’s a lot more fun to imagine. But even then, I’d probably figure out how to get the internet and do genealogical research even on my island.)

Just get it down on paper (or computer screen)!

There are ways to do this. I have plans for a future blog series as well as a possible online group for writers (stay tuned!). There are local writer’s groups at many genealogical societies. Consider starting one if there isn’t one near you. At the very least find a genealogical friend or two who you get along with and who is also interested in getting editing/writing help. You can do this with friends you meet at institutes or conferences and use online means such as through email, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or some other online communication system.

My writing goals for this year fall into two categories:

  • Write one article per month, of any style: how-to, biographical sketch, case study, etc. (12 articles by the end of the year) for publication somewhere.
  • Write one article for consideration for NGSQ.

I find I am working or writing a lot. I need to try to translate that into smaller articles that can be published in my local or state society quarterlies, or in larger national magazines. I also want to put the work I do into one of those personal research projects into an NGSQ-level article. They may not accept it but the goal is not in the accepting at this point. It’s in the submitting.

If you are interested in getting better at the act of writing (not necessarily the nuts and bolts of it), the biggest obstacle is the blank page. Just get started! Easier said than done sometimes, I know and understand. But sometimes it just takes some brute force to get going. Once you’ve got words on the screen, the magic of cut and paste, deleting and rewriting will help you make it “pretty.” Don’t worry about “pretty” when you’re getting started. Just get it out of your head. Worry about pretty later.

Let me know about your writing goals. Stay tuned for writing classes and groups in the future!

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 3, Business or Professional Goals

If you are a professional genealogist or want to be, then you may want to set some professional or business goals. This starts with an assessment of where you’ve been and where you’d like to be. I shared some of my business accomplishments for 2019 in a previous post. From those numbers, I can make some goals for 2020.

Typically, I assess areas where I am weak in business (marketing usually) and try to find some educational material to help me improve on that. I also assess my numbers from previous years and make some goals for the new year. For example, last year I presented two all-day seminars. For 2020, I’d like to double that. Or I might extend that goal to say in 2021 I’d like to have six all-day seminars scheduled.

I also look at the number of clients and/or client hours worked for each year. Some client projects are longer/larger than others, so the number of clients may be misleading. But I try to pay attention to both. Last year I had sixteen total NEW clients. Every year projects will overlap a bit so I try to focus on new clients, those that signed new contracts in the calendar year. However, several of those new clients renewed their contracts two, three, or four times. So I also pay attention to the number of client hours.

Now, you can’t just say “I’d like to double the number of clients I sign up this year” and expect that to work in your schedule. I still have a kid at home, one who just moved out, and a husband, so I need to plan for family time. I also, speak, write articles, and take consultation clients. I have to leave time for those activities, not to mention my own personal research and continuing education time. Having said that, there is a threshold bullet-2428875_1920that once met, you could hire a virtual assistant and/or subcontractors and take on even more clients. I haven’t met that threshold yet and so will cross that bridge when I get there!

So, take a look at your business or professional setting. Are there areas you’d like to expand? Are there areas you’d like to eliminate or phase out? (Sometimes letting go of one aspect of your business allows you to grow in another.) Would you like to take on more research clients? Speaking gigs? DNA consultations? Does public-speaking stress you out? If so, consider writing articles instead.

Find a way to track this information, whether it is in a spreadsheet, database, word processor, a notebook, something. Then you can have real data to work with. I personally use a combination of tools: Toggl (time tracking), 17Hats (client management), Quickbooks Online, and my Full Focus Planner (paper planner). It works for me. These systems are as individual as the people using them. Find something that will work for you.

Take an inventory of your business/professional life. Make some assessments. Set some goals. Be organized and methodical about those goals. But most of all, have fun doing it. Stretch yourself a little bit more every year.

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 2, Set an Education Plan

Continuing education is an important part of any vocation or hobby. Keeping up with the latest developments, learning about new topics, and strengthening areas you are weak in are vital for growth and development. So, let’s look at developing a genealogy education plan.

First, you’ll need to do some self-assessment. There are ways to go about this, usually, they are quite individual so take my process for what you can and adapt to what will work for you. Typically, I ask myself these three questions:

  • Where am I weakest in terms of record type, geographic area (that applies to my research or client work), ethnic group, or methodology?
  • What research (usually personal, not client-related) do I want to expand? And what kinds of education do I need to do that (usually geography related)?
  • Are there areas in my business where I need help, more information, a better system, or another area where I can find a class or webinar to help me improve?

Then, I examine the lecture, webinar, institutes, conferences, and other opportunities to IMG_3920_1024fill in those blanks. I will also seek out books, articles, blog posts, past webinars, and YouTube videos that might help start my education in that area.

Over the last several years, my education, in general, has focused on DNA and genetic genealogy methodology. When I moved from Colorado to Texas, I spent the first year learning about Texas history (fascinating!), ethnic groups, repositories, and research techniques specific to this area.

Looking ahead to 2020 and 2021, I know I want to dig deeper into my personal research overseas, specifically in Germany. I am planning on attending the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP) in July and taking “Foundations of German Research” with Warren Bittner, for example. There are also a number of webinars on the topic at Legacy Family Tree Webinars1, and over the years I have purchased several books that I need to read (you don’t have a pile of books to read, do you?).

You can get very specific with your research plan. I know colleagues who employ entire spreadsheets to the topic. I try to set aside time each week (usually a couple of hours) devoted to something on that education plan (a webinar, article, book, etc.). Then I try to apply what I’ve learned to what I’m working on. It is a real shame when you attend an institute and then don’t have time to work with anything you just learned! So, that couple of hours per week is spent learning and applying to a research project.

There are a lot of new opportunities coming up all of the time, many of them online which cuts down the cost of travel. There are many webinars as well as several new online courses available through Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), National Genealogical Society (NGS), Virtual Genealogical Association (VGA), and others. I am working on some new online courses in addition to the NGSQ study groups I started so stay tuned for those.

Let me know what your 2020 education plans might hold. I’m always interested in what educational opportunities are available in the world!


1. This is an affiliate link.  

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 1, Get Organized

It’s 2020! Every new year I get a bit excited about the possibilities. It is like a blank page or a new canvas. The possibilities are endless and amazing. But if you are a disorganized mess, you might miss out on those opportunities simply because you are buried in your disorganization (whatever that looks like in your life). I’d hate for that to happen to you! It took me a while to get a hold of it and it is still an ongoing process. I get busy, things pile up, and before you know it, I need a day just to get back in control.

This blog series will touch on the five categories I generally set or review for myself each year: organization, education, business/professional, research, and writing. First, let’s talk about organization.

I’ve written extensively on getting organized recently, so I won’t go into detail here. But books-948411_1280getting your genealogy organized can be a big time-saver in the long run. I encourage you to look at any system for organization and just take the leap and get it done. This is not something you sit down and do one day, usually. There’s a process: pick a system (this involves a little trial and error) then DO the system (get everything “synced” to the new system).

Beyond what I’ve written about, there are a lot of resources for getting organized when it comes to your genealogy. Thomas MacEntee hosted a Genealogy Do-Over a few years back (there’s still an active Facebook Group). Dear Myrtle did a “Finally Get Organized” series on her blog. Most recently, the Genealogy Guys have been posting on their blog 31 days to getting organized, starting with Day 1.

Here are some more resources:

There are plenty more out there. This is just a short list of resources. The main point is, do some research, think about your personal genealogy, and decide on a system that will work for you. Then get started. I’m a big fan of just working on a large task in small bites. Set a timer and do 15, 30, or 60 minutes per day, whatever your schedule or patience will allow. But get started!

Goal Setting: Looking Ahead to 2020

I don’t know about you but I have some big plans for 2020! I always feel a bit of excitement as the new year gets closer. I am not sure if I feel exhausted at the end of a year from all of the hub-bub of the holidays, or if it’s the Winter doldrums (short days and the yearning to hibernate), but I start to feel a bit “draggy” and thinking about the new year gives me excitement.

For 2020, I already have a considerable number of conference speaking contracts as well as three all-day seminars scheduled so far! I list my upcoming lectures and seminars on my Speaking Calendar on my website (can be found in the menu bar at the top). I have also just received a contract for a large project to be done at the beginning of 2020.

One of the biggest plans I have for 2020 is the development of my new National Genealogical Society Quarterly with Mastering Genealogical Proof (NGSQ/MGP) discussion groups. There are still a couple of seats available in the Monday afternoon session. I am excited to work with old and new friends in these groups, studying these scholarly journals through the lens of MGP and the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).

Some of my 2020 travel plans include:

I will be presenting three lectures for the Houston Genealogical Forum in February. The Tulsa, Oklahoma Library has hired me to present an all-day seminar in March. And I have a few other things that will be announced as the details are settled. I have a busy speaking year ahead of me!

Other goals I have are to write several articles (ideas still forming) and continue building my client base through speaking, writing, and blogging.HappyNewYear

I hope you can find some time to assess what you’ve accomplished in the previous year and make some plans on how to grow or change in the new year.

Happy New Year!

Goal Setting: 2019 Accomplishments

Every year at the end of the year I assess what happened during the year, what I accomplished, what goals I achieved, what continuing education I participated for myself, how many new clients hired me this year, articles I wrote, and so on.

I have examined my records and can report the following accomplishments.

Speaking

  • Workshops: 3
  • Online Discussion Groups: 3check-1769866_1920
  • National Conference Presentations: 6
  • Webinars: 6
  • All-Day Seminars: 2
  • One-hour lectures (for hire): 4
  • Local Classes (volunteer): 10

Client Work

  • New clients: 16 total
    • 8 projects finished
    • 8 in progress

Writing

  • Articles Written: 9
  • Blog posts: consistently, once per week, usually on Wednesday, since June 2019
  • New Lectures: 6
  • NGSQ article submitted for consideration: 1

Continuing Education

  • Institutes attended: 3
  • Seminars attended: 3
  • Discussion Groups: 2

Other Accomplishments:

  • BCG Renewal Portfolio turned in! (Yes, it’s been five years and I’m still waiting for the results.)

I tend to delve a little deeper into each of these categories and really assess what worked and what didn’t (in my eyes), paying particular attention to what I enjoyed, what stressed me out more than I like, and what I really feel is worth continuing. Then I focus on those items and make goals for next year.

My next post will examine my goals for 2020 and discuss some of the plans I already have implemented!

Making Goals: Assess Your Wants & Needs

We are nearing the new year and it’s always a good time to make assessments. Where have you been? What have you accomplished? What did you enjoy? What did you hate? And then how can you improve on what you’ve done before?

Begin by assessing this year’s activities. This can be done for all aspects of life, but we will focus on our genealogy life in this series. I tend to assess things like how many lectures did I deliver this year, how many new lectures did I write, how many institutes did I attend (as a student) and what were the topics I focused on, what research did I do this year (general topic/surname), list any big projects I completed, etc.

Some of my goal categories are:

    • Blog Posts
    • Lectures
    • Continuing Education (institutes & conferences)
    • Clients
    • Articles
    • Research Projects

I keep track of what I do in several ways. I have my digital calendar. I use the built-in Mac calendar synced to a Google calendar. On there, I have several calendars such as my family calendar, my personal work calendar, and my speaking calendar (that I’ve posted to my website, see the menu bar above). I also keep a folder (both digital and paper, imagine that) of my speaking contracts for the year, as well as a paper calendar where I calendarsketch out the speaking agreements I’ve made. This helps me visualize when I have free time, when I need to plan time for travel, and so on.

I also use a paper journal/planner system. I personally like Michael Hyatt’s Full-Focus Planner (this is NOT an affiliate link). It incorporates goal-setting with a daily planner. I find that I am more productive when I can have my paper planner sitting open on my desk in front of me. I can see my daily goals and tasks. Digital calendars, to-do lists, and notifications are too easy to ignore. They start to blend in with all of the other “noise” that my devices make.

Toward the end of the year, I sit down and tally up the above from my system(s). Then I compare that from the year before (if you haven’t been keeping track, it will take a year to catch up). I assess if I’ve done better (hopefully) or worse (hopefully not). I also assess what I enjoyed and what I did not enjoy. There’s no sense in making goals and completing them if you aren’t enjoying doing it.

Once you’ve assessed your past performance and activities, you can then look ahead and determine your needs and goals for the next year. I will dig into this more in the next post.

A Quick Update

It has been several months since I’ve managed to post on this blog. I have plans for several new series topics so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a quick update on what I’ve been up to.

I have been asked to give a lot of NEW lectures this year, which means I have a lot of work to do to get prepared. So I’ve been working on all of the leg work required to create an entirely new lecture for many lectures! This is a blessing but it has taken time away from blogging, but will no doubt give me ideas on blog topics to share with you later.

My 90 year old grandmother came to visit for 2 weeks last month. This too was a blessing, but one that kept me from my typical work schedule. (This is not a complaint at all, just letting you know that what’s happening in the “real world” is often much more important than what is happening in my computer world.) We had a great time visiting, touring Austin and surrounding areas, and trying to come up with things that a 90 year old may not have done yet. (We took my grandma to a Roller Derby. There was a fist fight, just like in hockey. That did the job!)

IMG_3864
Me on the left, grandma on the right, Roller Derby in the middle!

I have recently been appointed the Education Chair for the Austin Genealogical Society and have had a great time developing and teaching Saturday classes for the group. I have also been asked to speak at local societies and so my speaking schedule is picking up since moving to Texas about 1.5 years ago.

Not to mention all of the other projects I do such as writing articles, curriculum and Quick Guides.

I haven’t even mentioned that my 15 year old son has gotten his learner’s license and we take drives on the weekends. He has gotten better each time and so I no longer feel like I might die each time we go out, only sometimes, typically when he drifts across the shoulder line because he is not sure how big the car is or when he takes a 90-degree corner without slowing down enough. And my daughter was in basketball and the school musical and in band…

The list could go on and on. But I wanted to let you know, I’m still here, still working, and am hoping to be back on a regular blogging schedule soon.

Looking ahead to 2015

Austin_NewYearAnother year gone… How did that happen? They say time flies when you are having fun. I find it flies when you are busy. And 2014 sure was busy for me, many life changes and major projects happened for me. Now, looking forward to 2015 here is what I have planned:

  • Since I just recently moved to Texas, a state I know very little about and have almost no genealogical connections with, I plan on adopting a Texas ancestor or two and working on their family histories just so I can see first hand how Texas genealogy works. For fun, my husband and I walk cemeteries along with the Find A Grave app on our phones and photograph tombstones. We did this recently and I found some precious, hand-carved stones in a not very well-kept cemetery and I plan on looking those folks up, just to see who they were. Perhaps they will have their stories written. (Watch for blog posts on this one, I expect it to be fun!)
  • In line with the previous goal, I plan on finding and exploring the repositories here in the Austin area that are unfamiliar to me. I know of several but have only visited them virtually. For example, the actual Perry Castaneda Map Collection is only 29 minutes from my new home. I have visited the map collection many times online, but imagine visiting in person!
  • Make new genealogical friends. I plan on doing this by joining some new local societies. Some of my best friends are genealogists. And I’m sad I had to leave some of them when we moved, and I miss the opportunity to meet them for coffee and chat about our research.
  • Begin speaking locally be the end of 2015. I imagine I will make connections by joining societies and will likely be able to garner a few speaking “gigs” in the area.
  • Continue my genealogical education. I already have several opportunities in line for this. More and more online opportunities are happening every year making it much easier for those of use who can only travel so much per year, to still have contact with the wider genealogical community.
  • Write articles. I let this one “slide” last year. Well, maybe it got put on the back burner because of my portfolio. But I love to write and I want to get back to writing articles.

While working on my list of goals, an excellent post was published on the Evernote Blog by Michael Hyatt detailing an amazingly simple way to use Evernote to create your list of goals, detail why you want to achieve them, and track them. You can read the blog post here.

I think I’ll keep my goals “light” for this year and see what happens in my new surroundings. I am finding it difficult to make too many plans in this new location. I’m not entirely sure what is available, what needs there are in the community, who is “out there” already doing genealogical “things” and whether they want help or a different perspective. I am going to take this year to get used to my new location and make new connections. Then I can probably make better plans.

Perhaps I will do a six-month renewal of goals. Who knows?