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What I learned (day after) Wednesday: ProGen May 2011

Posted by on August 18, 2011

The May 2011 ProGen Study Group was on chapter 13, “Time Management” in Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (affiliate link) edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. The practical assignment was to keep a time journal for a week to determine what your “time thieves” are and find ways to eliminate the “time thieves” that aren’t as important to you.

As you can imagine, keeping that journal was eye-opening and embarrassing. I do like television. But it put not only home life time thieves into perspective but also work. I will never wonder again where the work day is gone. It’s constant drop-ins and diversions.

One of the additional study suggestions is the famous Randy Pausch’s Time Management lecture. You may not be in ProGen, you may not like genealogy (why are you punishing yourself by reading this blog??) but listen to this lecture. The slides are also posted.  This is a compilation of all good time management strategies, including some you may not have considered, all in a little over an hour. It is worth it.

I missed that month’s discussion. Ironically enough, I completely forgot. Totally unlike me. But looking at the transcript showed alot of good discussion about note-taking systems, to-do systems, and other productivity solutions. In addition, genealogy efficiency solutions were discussed such as GenSmarts. I would call it a “genealogy virtual assistant” and their website says:

GenSmarts Finds Missed Research Opportunites 
Are there research techniques you’ve missed or under-applied? Here’s an example: You’re probably aware that the 1880 U.S. census asked for the birthplace of a person’s parents. Suppose you have an ancestor born in 1780, and his son, your direct line, was born in 1800. Since both the father and son died prior to 1850, you might not think about the 1880 census for this family. BUT WAIT… this son had a younger brother, born in 1815… he might still be alive in 1880, and could give you the birth location of your 1780 ancestor. GenSmarts applies complex research logic like this to identify research opportunities. 

GenSmarts Finds Under-Explored Limbs In Your Family Tree 
How many people do you have documented in your file? 1000? 10,000? 250,000? How do you manage to be on top of all that data? Do you fall into the trap of spending too much time in a favorite/familiar part of your tree? When’s the last time you went through each person and looked for new research ideas? How long would that take you? GenSmarts can cover your entire tree in seconds and point out areas that deserve more attention. 

GenSmarts Makes Research Finds With Sites You’d Given Up On 
Have you under-used some online research sites because they’re just too hard to use? That’s what our customers tell us – GenSmarts has rekindled their interest in sites they could never figure out, or were too slow. GenSmarts can navigate the search screens and fill in the forms for you with just one click. 

GenSmarts Keeps You Current With New Online Research Sites 
Are you up to speed on the latest online research opportunities? GenSmarts stays current with new sites as they become available. And instead of just informing you of the site, GenSmarts tells you why you care – which of your ancestors you should be searching for there. And… gives you a link so you can do that search in a single click. 

I haven’t tried this out but it is on my to-do list. I use toodledo for my electronic to-do list which I can modify (mostly adds, very few completions) from any Internet connection or the nifty toodledo app on my iPhone. Here’s a screenshot of the task I just added:

Another productivity tool I use is EverNote which is a cloud collection of all those tidbits of life. I star blog posts as I  read them on my iPhone and later move the key stuff that caught my attention to an EverNote notebook (work, genealogy, project management are my primary ones) and tag it if appropriate (e.g., copyright, blog idea). I do the same from maillists.  Websites. PDFs I want to read later. I’m content with the free version which can hold images and PDFs. For only $45 a year, you can hold any file type. Dump it all in EverNote and search or browse for the information when you need it.

My calendar is GroupWise at work and only the personal items affecting my work day are included (e.g., doctor appointments or notes to “leave on time you have a ProGen chat!”). I have a monthly paper calendar (can you believe it?) for personal items and things affecting my work day (like a vendor meeting that I need to dress decent for).  Contacts are on iPhone with the two postal addresses I use (my grandma and my brother) written in that dinosaur-like paper calendar. My inbox is my work to-do list (which is a no no according to Randy Pausch) and my sent items are my pending items. Everything else is deleted or archived.

If you feel time management challenged, please read Getting Things Done (affiliate link) by David Allen. And there’s many productivity and life hacker blogs that have great ideas. I follow:


So go forth and waste some quality time on these suggestions!

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