I decided to go through the 13 week Genealogy Do-Over for the second cycle that began on 3 April. I got stalled in the first cycle around weeks 3-5 and then finished up by picking and choosing to do only some of the topics for the remaining weeks but never blogging about it. The Do-Over forced me to take a hard look at the way I wanted to approach documenting everything in OneNote while making sure to follow the guidelines of the Genealogy Proof Standard in my research–something I was neglecting in my do-over process started in January 2014.
Previously, I was focused first and foremost on the document itself, ignoring its basic purpose—as a source of information to answer research questions. Downloaded or scanned, every source that comes into my possession is part of a Research Quest[ion].
The very beginning of every Research Quest[ion] is a Research Plan. Whether I am using the source for a Research Plan already begun, or need to begin a new one, that’s the starting point. I have always wanted to breeze by that step. When I breeze by it however, I miss the important step of analyzing what the evidence in the source is telling me in relation to other evidence I may already have in my possession and/or exposing the need for further sources of information.
The topics for Week One of the Genealogy Do-Over are:
1. Setting aside previous research
Breaking up with my old research wasn’t that hard to do. (Like breaking up with a boyfriend who just makes you miserable and you know the relationship is going nowhere.) First, it isn’t properly sourced and second its in file folders which I dislike. I moved all my digital files into a Hold folder during the last cycle.
The Surname folders shown above are where the digital files from the Hold folder get moved into after I’ve revisited them. And (looks under table at plastic file boxes with file folders containing old research), the rest of it is still sitting right where I left it 13 weeks ago.
2. Preparing to research
I feel more fully equipped to research this time through the Do-Over cycle. I have my OneNote notebooks set up exactly how I want them and I have my new tree already started in RootsMagic from the last cycle of the Do-Over.
3. Establishing base practices and guidelines
For this step I need more chocolate. Or maybe more wine. (Are my French roots showing?) During the last cycle, I was relying on the workflow chart I had set up last July. (I started the process of redoing my research at the beginning of 2014 so I had this chart made before I started the Genealogy Do-Over in January 2015.)
As you can see, the flow starts on the left with sources and finishes at the bottom right with inputting information into my genealogy software. I want to rework this chart, rename some steps to match my OneNote templates and simplify the look of the chart. I’ve got that started but it’s not coming together. My brain is stuck. (Thus explaining the need for more chocolate and there’s none here at the house…)
At the end of Cycle 2 Week 1 this is where I am: Working in Scapple on a new mindmap. Because I have very little to do for Week 2 for Cycle 2, I am going to keep working on this until I get it to where I am happy with it. More about my Do-Over process next week.
I have a confession. I am a To Do List junkie but a Task Management failure. Have been since… Well, as long as I can remember. I make the lists and then fail to do them. I won’t bore you with the details of how well I can organize but how miserably I fail at staying organized. Nor with the details of my forays into schedule-making—schedules that look so wonderfully doable on paper—but that I fail to implement for more than a week. Part of the problem is that I was trying to work with someone else’s perfect plan. Perfect for them, not so much for me. (Slob Sisters, anyone? FlyLady? Yes, BTDT and more. I even tried to implement one task management plan for homeschooling moms that had you scheduling every day of the week in half-hour increments. Bahahaha. Not sure why I thought THAT was going to work. Not unless I had a nanny and a chauffeur for my kids.)
But, you know, I keep trying and I have learned a thing or two during all my failed attempts at staying on task and being organized. Namely, why I fail at them. Why do I fail? Because I am a bit of a non-conformist, slightly rebellious and a procrastinator. Oh, and I rarely feel guilty about chasing down bright shiny objects [BSO] that come into view or new ideas (mostly for quilts) that pop into my head that I immediately set off to do—which I suppose is the quilting equivalent to a genealogy BSO. There it is. The plain truth.
Trying to implement somebody else’s grand plan is bound to be a problem for me. I need my own plan and I need some form of self-motivation—some reason—to keep me on task. (If I were more Type A, none of this would be a problem. My mother is Type A. I’ve often thought I should hire her to be my task master. But I think it might kill me, or at least suck all the joy out of my life…) One last thing I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to get through the list as long as I work at getting though it. I can do things at my own pace with no worries. (I learned that one from trying to implement that crazy schedule-your-life-in-half-hour-time-slots-so-you-can-appear-to-be-the-perfect-homeschooling-mom-of-many organizational system.)
So what’s all this about Task Management doing on a family history blog? Welp, the funny thing about research is that it’s a whole heck of a lot easier with a plan. A clear goal. And a To Do List on how best to reach that goal. Another thing about family history research is that it helps immensely if you stay organized. So you’re not scratching your head later, thinking “Now just where did I find that tidbit of info?” or “Where did I put that death certificate for Grandpa Joe?” Add to that some motivation to stay on task when a bright shiny object comes into view and you can see where some form of task management is needed if I want to do this thing properly. And maybe a few forms. Like a To Do List and a Research Log. And, (what the heck?) it’s a topic in Week 4 of the Genealogy Do-Over! Oh, dear.
It appears it is time, once again, to do something about my propensity to spend my days chasing BSOs in one form or another. Okie doke. I can do this. (I’ve done it before. Numerous times. LOL) So I dragged out a saved copy of this article on the Get Things Done system, finished reading this book on my Kindle and watched Thomas MacEntee’s Project Management webinar. And then I kinda mashed them all up and came up with my own Task Management System in OneNote. (You knew I was going to work it all out in OneNote, right?) It also helped that I had already started my long, long Master List for Getting Things Done back last summer.
Another fail: See where it says Top Ten? It’s supposed to be a chart with the top ten things I want / need to get done. I have FIFTEEN things on my chart. [sigh] For the most part, my new plan is working though. Don’t get me wrong—I still chase down bright shiny objects in my research, or sit with my Kindle and finish off a book in a day, or waste time planning a new quilt that will probably never come to fruition—but I can easily get back on task because I can see what I SHOULD be doing and the steps to getting it done are laid out there for me in my Projects Section. And I can look at my list of completed tasks there in my Top Ten Section and see everything I have gotten done since I started keeping track last month. That makes me smile.
By the way, this is my motivation for staying on task for the Genealogy Do-Over: If I’m going to do family history research, I ought to make an effort to do it properly and also make an effort to leave something that others can easily follow. Something that will show them how I came to my conclusions. Something with a strong foundation for them to build on.
Now moving on to that urgent item [highlighted in red] on my Top Ten List… Oh, and be thankful I spared you the details to all the ‘reminder-type’ and ‘get-things-done’ apps for my phone that I’ve checked into. And then checked out of.
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I have progressed beyond Week 2 of the Genealogy Do-Over. Well, actually I haven’t progressed much beyond Week 2. I seem to be working on parts of Weeks 3-5 all at once. I got stalled on the Research Log (said in that whiney, dramatic way a child would) which is kinda crucial to moving on. I haven’t posted about what I did for the Week 2 Topics so this is a recap of what I have accomplished for the Genealogy Do-Over Weeks 2 through 5.
Topics for Week Two were:
- Setting Research Goals – DONE
- Conducting Self Interview – DONE
- Conducting Family Interviews – not doing right now
One of my research goals has been to start a new proofed tree with proper source citations starting with my paternal line. I am going back through the direct line and will come down the line chasing after the collateral lines. As I do this, I want to organize everything in OneNote, citing sources, using a Research Log with a To-Do List. Establish some good genealogy habits.
I don’t plan to conduct any family interviews as (sadly) there isn’t anyone left to interview. I may try to contact my first cousins or their families from my uncle’s line at some point in the future. My uncle told me at one time that one of his grandchildren was interested in family history.
For self interview I did a MS Word timeline. (I deleted the year of the events so I can still lie about my age.) My timeline gave me a to-do list of things to prove which had me hunting down documents to scan for future use in the Do-Over process.
Week 3 Topics
Week 4 Topics
Week 5 Topics
The task management system came together better than I thought. Posting about that next. (Don’t you hate those teasers?) Really, though, I wrote that post before this one and it’s scheduled to post tomorrow.
Building a research toolbox / toolkit is something I had already been doing in OneNote. I took the time to rearrange the sections in my main Genealogy Notebook to organize it a bit more and added some of the resources that have been mentioned through the Genealogy Do-Over.
These are the things I am still working on:
The three things that have me stalled are interrelated. I am trying to round up and coral my thoughts and ideas on how best to accomplish keeping a research log with recorded searches and something that will make source citation easier all rolled into one. I have gotten better in the last year in keeping track of information for source citation, but tracking research and searches I have not been doing. I need to.
Thomas MacEntee has generously shared his Excel Research Log with Do-Over participants and there have been others who have uploaded their modified versions on the Facebook group. I’m not afraid of tables nor using Excel, but none of them were really clicking for me. No thoughts of “Oh, I could do this to modify it for my use”. Not even a glimmer of a thought. Which kinda meant I had to invent my own forms. And I really want to keep it all in OneNote. So I have been pondering. And pondering. And then avoiding. I finally decided I needed to get this done—this week—if I want to move on with the Do-Over.
Funny how when you DECIDE something should be DONE, inspiration will strike. I like deadlines because inspiration usually strikes right before I have to get something done. (It has to, because I have usually procrastinated right up until the deadline. LOL) But self-imposed tasks−like those in the Do-Over where no one is going to care if I do them−they can languish until I DECIDE they should be done or abandon them completely.
Two nights ago inspiration finally struck! The problem with those other research logs was that they didn’t leave the trail of breadcrumbs I want someone else to easily see and follow. There was nothing wrong with them, it was just me and my process that didn’t fit their mold. So then it was time to turn it around. How would a research log work in my process to leave a trail of easy-to-see-and-follow breadcrumbs? And that’s where I am at. Working on that form.
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