Working Smarter, not Harder at Keeping Organized

leroyb's picture

In the last post I mentioned a tip we use for naming our photo files, with the notion of spending less time searching for it down the road. I’d like to pick up where I left of with that thought and look at some ways to become more effective with our time. It starts with priorities.

To set priorities really depends on my intended outcome. To illustrate, if I wanted to develop a well-thought-out narrative about one of my ancestors and publish it on this blog, or even expand it to a life sketch with accurate source evidence, then I would strive to avoid other distractions that would steal away attention from that focus. For instance, consider a recent finding on K Bert Sloan – Radio Daily, 1949. If my focus was to gather research materials to create a more accurate sketch of his life, then it wouldn’t make sense to go down paths of other ancestors not related to K Bert Sloan – unless there is some compelling reason that would support his story, or the story of his family.
When we keep our goals at the forefront, then setting priorities and keeping organized becomes easier. D. Joshua Taylor, from a presentation given at RootsTech this year said, “Managing your online research starts before you click the search button, or enter the URL.” So, what does he mean by that statement? He offers five principles to consider.

1. Keep a family history "golden rule"

On average, for every one-hour you spend in a library, plan to spend at least two hours preparing to research, analyzing data, and compiling your results.

2. Keep an updated research plan for websites

Having a list of research tasks ensures you can maximize the few hours you get to spend on your family tree each week or month. Keeping this list electronically allows you to easily sort, share, and transfer this file between multiple devices. 

3. Organize your digital life

Sometimes, the need to easily access research files, copies of documents, etc. can lead to one being more organized. Avoid a messy desktop and ensure copies of materials can be preserved (and found). Finding a systematic way of naming files and folders is also important. 

4. Develop an "after research" system

When returning home from a research trip or completing an online research session, it is important to create a step-by-step process that involves naming, storing, and organizing your files. 

5. Prioritize your research

Create your own system for prioritizing onsite research (such as numbers or letters) and incorporate it into your research logs. In many instances, when looking at the individual elements of a research project it might seem logical to complete some plans before others. For example, gathering historical and geographical context might be necessary before actually searching online records or databases. 
In upcoming blogs, I’d like to examine ways to expand your research log, and also to develop manageable goals, and to plan ahead.