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Time Management for Genealogists


Are you as crazy busy as I am lately? Do you feel overwhelmed by the sources of information about genealogy and family history (blog posts, press releases, Facebook, Twitter and now Genealogy Wise!)? Do you also put pressure on yourself about the lack of posts at your blog (or blogs) or the fact that you have over 500 blog posts to read in your Google Reader?  And what about genealogy research which is basically the most important part of all this to most people? When do you ever find time for that?

Take a deep breath – relax – all will be well. What you are experiencing is very normal, even for people who think they are experts at social media and genealogy.

So how do you cope?  Here’s some tips and a call for your input on how you deal with information overload:

  • You are not the only one. Look at some very good recent posts by fellow genealogists such as Researching, Blogging, Social Networking, and Finding Time by Greta Koehl at Greta’s Genealogy Blog.  Judging by the comments it isn’t just Greta who wonders why she has not time for research what with all the various ways of getting information.
  • There is way too much information out there. Do you realize that in one day we receive more information than our ancestors 150 years ago could receive in one month?  Realize that you can’t possibly digest and mull through everything to then spit out blog posts or incorporate it into your genealogy research.
  • Drop the guilt. Gena Philibert Ortega’s recent post Finding Time To Do Genealogy at Gena’s Genealogy is a good look at how one genealogist and blogger deals with the issue.  The lack of time can often be a perception problem and also invoves prioritizing your time.  I love it where Gena says, “You can clean the house til it is spotless and it will still get dirty tomorrow, especially with kids! So think about what you can cut out or cut down on.”
  • Keep a journal. I think following Randy’s Seaver’s practice of tracking his genealogy research and blogging activities (as well as others) at The Geneaholic is a great way to figure out where the time goes.  Much like that admonition your doctor keeps making about keeping a food diary (yeah, right!), you don’t need to post about your daily activities but you’d be surprised to look back and see how much you actually do or don’t do when it comes to genealogy in a given day.
  • Opt out. Just because all the other genealogy kids are joining a new site like Genealogy Wise doesn’t mean you have to.  See Bill West’s post Not That I’m Trying To Be Anti-Social at West in New England and you’ll see it is okay to just sit back and not participate.  Don’t let peer pressure convince you to join a site or a project which you perceive as a “time sucker.”
  • Quality not quantity.  Your time is yours and you are the only one who can decide how to spend it – and to which genealogy activities (on-line and in-person) your time should be devoted.  Don’t feel guilty about not having recent posts to your blogs or that you don’t have as many as other genealogy bloggers.  Get away from “the numbers game” and realize that a) your blog with all its surnames and research info will still be out there on the Web for others to find, b) a quick note to your devoted readers about needing a “time out” will make sure they check back in a few weeks and c) it is summertime (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) and the living is easy and busy.  While having lots of posts and lots of traffic to your site might sound good, if the quality content isn’t there to keep people coming back, you are truly squandering your time.

So what’s your current genealogy time management dilemma? Do you have any tips for other genealogists and genealogy bloggers?

©2009 Thomas MacEntee

17 thoughts on “Time Management for Genealogists

  1. What a timely post, Thomas! I did a major overhaul of my online life early last month. I’m still overwhelmed, but more productively overwhelmed. That makes ALL the difference.


  2. Great points, Thomas. We have to remember that all of these are tools to be used to help us in our genealogical endeavors. We must run the tools, so to speak, and not let the tools run us!


  3. Thomas,
    After our meeting last night my thoughts were running the same way as yours. I can say “thanks for writing that article” now I do not feel I need to do it on mine.
    I think our lives have to do with our Priorities and Needs. Some times we think we need to jump on each band wagon and wave every flag. I do not post to my blog page daily it was not intended for that. I want the things I put up to be meaningful to those whom I know will be reading them. I put on Twitter items I feel will help others if not commented on by others if I have time. If not someone else will find and do it.
    Maybe that is what helped me to make fifty years with the same partner and friend. :>)
    Thanks for saving me the time for not having to post.

  4. It’s easy to say, “opt out”, but take it from someone who’s tried to avoid FB and Twitter… it ain’t easy to do. Not when all your friends are there, chatting, and trading jokes, and passing along a lot of great information that used to appear on their blogs but doesn’t any more.

    I missed the camaraderie that used to go on among the genea-bloggers. I used to be a part of that but it all moved to FB and I didn’t. And then it moved to Twitter and I didn’t. I was in a lonely place…

    Now I’m back on FB and I’m on Twitter too, not because I’ll make family connections (that won’t happen when I’m using a nom de plume) but just to socialize with my blogging friends from time to time. I don’t like to have to do it but I guess it beats feeling left out.

  5. Well said, Thomas. You make some good points about choosing how to spend one’s time and setting priorities. We all know how a short “check” on the email can gobble up the day.

    I’ve been working on goal setting and prioritizing at, a Web2.0 Getting Things Done kind of site. Already, my goals to get back to scanning Grandmother Arline’s photos has seen results — I think I have finished the oversize images this afternoon. By breaking down the goal into manageable tasks, I could see real progress as I worked.

    But truly, Thomas, you must drink Red Bull or something because you get a heck of a lot done for one person. And the best part is that you share your talents so generously. Thanks for a thought-provoking piece.

  6. Thomas this is right on purpose, I think I had mentioned my anxieties of this nature in my email to you over the weekend! Seriously, do we need to create a support group like “Genealogy Anonymous!? Just kidding but I was just getting ready to send out an email to you to ask, how do you do it all? You don’t miss a beat on FB, twitter, Genealogy Wise, blogs, email, carnivals, memes, on and on! I am in awe. Lately I really have had panic attacks and am trying to figure out how to work full time, take care of the daily stuff at home, grandkids living here, my partner, clean my house which has suffered dearly for while because I would rather be reading blogs, catching up on emails and FB. I am exhausted! I have decided to really set my priorities and focus on my blog, my book, geneabloggers, research. My downfall is I go to read and check blogs and before I know it, it is midnight and I need to get to bed, if I can sleep! I feel better now that I am not the only and thanking you for helping us with a common amoungst us GeneaBloggers. You are awesome as always.

  7. Indeed, one must choose. I have chosen to articipate in Wordless Wednesday, even if I’m too verbose. Gives me a weekly deadline to aim at, circle the wagons around, revv up for.
    Yes, I want to do other things, but this is a start on my path to becoming Myrtle.

  8. I’m glad to see this topic being discussed, and to read all of your comments. Althought I’ve been researching for over a decade, I just last week discovered how vast the network of genea-bloggers is! I had stayed away from social networking on this topic, mostly because of the admonitions I’d received early on about being sure to privitize my work so that others wouldn’t “steal” it. But then, last week I gave in and joined, and lo and behold a whole new world opened to me!! Now, I have my own blog (finally) and am following several others. I’ve also joined a couple of more sites, but already I’ve had to turn off the email notifications about other peoples’ postings, because I was feeling overwhelmed! Like many of you have noted, my own research has begun to take a back burner because I’m spending so much time reading these blogs and catching up on all of the information on the various genea-sites! So, in typical self-disciplined “Renate style”, I’m going to a grip on this before it gets out of hand. I will limit my subscriptions and the amount of time I spend reading blogs and such, so that I can carry on with my own work. Hopefully, I’ll stay grounded and keep my focus, although I’ll still be checking all of you out from time to time! 🙂

  9. Did we just do a Vulcan Mind Meld today? I have been swamped this month with home projects, picnics and house guests, with very little (make that “no”) time to actually do genealogy. In fact, just this week we visited a cousin who felt it his duty to tell me that my husband had told him he thought I needed to get away from the computer now and then! Um, genealogy IS very time consuming, but so is keeping a blog running, etc. Then, the wife of this same cousin asked me to help her get started doing genealogy too. What a hoot! Looks like I may be more of a winter genealogist. Hopefully. 😉

  10. In February of this year, I came off a 10 year genealogy break and needless to say things have changed in the past 10 years. I’ve really been pushing myself and think I’m semi-burned out and definitely need a break. Regrouping, no more breaks, and learning how to pace myself and fit my research in with everything else that has to be done.

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