Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Genealogy Resolution for 2018

In addition to being a genealogist, I'm also a writer. I've participated in a lot of writing classes and workshops throughout my life. When you participate in writing critiques, you come across two types of self-declared people: plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are the people who follow the most-oft given advice in every writing class, and create outlines for the projects they're working on. They have enough common sense not to reinvent the wheel, and the determination to accomplish what they start. They probably even put their laundry away AND empty the dishwasher regularly.

Pantsers are the opposite. They go through life by the seat of their pants, hence the name. They are the human element that bends towards entropy. Whether they struggle to adopt structure or simply refuse to use it, it doesn't matter. They comfort themselves by saying that true genius can't really be planned, after all. It simply exists on a higher plain that can't really be touched by human hands, let alone duplicated or transferred to someone else. Because art.

(Guess which one I am.) 

Genealogists are no different. When it comes to doing research, there are two types of people. There are the people who sit down and actually plan out what they're going to do, then actually DO IT like some sort of responsibility wizard. And then there's the rest of us. People like me who have owned no shortage of planners, white boards, calendars, to-do lists, and productivity apps. If those things were really the secret to transformation, I'd be the genealogy fairy godmother already.

I refuse, however, to believe I can't change. I may be the dictionary definition of a genealogy pantser, but I can learn to be a plotter. I can make and use research logs on my computer instead of writing everything on post-it notes I never see again. I can remember to put #genchat on my calendar, and actually show up on time like an adult. I can achieve the kind of productivity where I get twice as much stuff done in half the time. Because every time I plan out my research, that's exactly what happens. I know this.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our planners, but in ourselves.

I knew I wanted my genealogy goals in 2018 to center on planning and organization. I want to be more intentional in how I spend my time, and accomplish more. I knew at the outset this was the hardest thing I could change about myself as a researcher. And without the goals and plans to back it up, I know it'll never happen.

So once a month, I'm going to share some of my research goals and plans with you on our YouTube channel. I'm going to pick one person or family, and make one or two goals (no more!) for what I want to accomplish with them in that month. It'll be the first video I make every month, and I'm gonna hold myself to doing what I said I would do.

I'm not off to the best start in terms of being intentional and following through on my research plans. Almost immediately after I made this video, I veered off course to play with my mom's DNA. And sure enough, I made an enormous discovery that has allowed me to check one of the most important items off of my genealogy bucket list. And I'm not even sorry, which isn't going to help the next time I try to fight any kind of temptation to deviate from my plans.

For every genealogist, there needs to be room for plotting and pantsing. Nothing makes me more excited than when I blow some barrier to my success out of the water spontaneously. But many of the problems I'm up against now require a particular flavor of diligence and single-minded concentration that I just don't possess. There's only one way to get it, and it's through a kind of inward labor I'm not accustomed to doing. But 2018 is the year I'm dreaming big, and making the hard attempt.

What are your genealogy goals for 2018? Leave them in the comments, and don't forget to join us in our Facebook group for more discussions like these!