So how's your workspace doing? Has a week of a clean desktop helped you unwind and clear your head? Be honest with at least yourself, have you kept it clean? Good. So what's next? Oh yeah, that big pile of crap we cleared off of it. That'll take so much time that it'll be weeks before we see research again! Well, yeah, if you do it the wrong way.
As the old saying goes, "A journey begins with a single step." The only way to make the pile smaller is to go one page at a time. One hint at a time. One person at a time. It sounds daunting, but it doesn't have to be. You don't have to do it all at once. Let's think about this as a household chore. Having a laundry day makes sense for many, but I know some that have a "do laundry when there's enough for a load". It makes sense to wash dishes as the meal is finished, but I know some who wait til the dishwasher is full even if it takes a day or two. Some choose specific days (usually weekends) to clean their house, while others pick up as they go and have fewer days dedicated to deep cleaning. On the other hand, there are those who have piles of clothes, clean and dirty, scattered about the house. Their dishes are cleaned only before they use them and never make it to the cupboard. No room is ever clean, but they seem to always be in a state of cleaning.
Organising your genealogy can be the same way. You can pick one day a week or month to do all the "boring" stuff like digitising records and filing papers. You can do a little everyday and possibly have once a month or so that you clear out any unneeded files. Or you could be where many of you are probably right now: buried under piles of paper, drowning in gigabytes of data, watching the piles grow and no sense of order coming out of the chaos. You want to clean, but it's just so much work and all you get is another pile when you don't keep up with it!
In the end, how you organise is up to you. How you chose to make things work is up to you. The last post I told you about my system that works for me. It may not be right for everyone, but I don't care, it works for me. I want you to think about what broad organisation system will work for you. And then do it! Will you be paper or digital or a combination? Will you separate your photos or keep them with your documents? (I separate mine to keep them in archive safe boxes and out of the light, you may not) Will you have a box or a filing cabinet or a shelf? Will you use file folders or binders? How do you envision your organisational workspace. Write it down if you have to. Let the idea of it flow from you. I love Martha Stewart. I get her magazine and have found some great ideas for the look of my office space. When I first set it up, I had taken pictures of clean offices and cubbies for all sorts of projects (scrapbooking, classrooms, offices, craft rooms) and put them on a bulletin board. As I set myself up, I used that visual for my inspiration. I now have maps with dry erase laminate over the top for writing location notes while researching set up on one wall. I have my desk with my action file and my computer. My filing cabinet with surnames alphabetised and individual files listed behind their surname starting with my earliest known ancestor. I use a numbering system for each individual so that I can place them in order. I keep a sheet that is my register of all names in the front of the surname file (where I keep any group information like a list of books on my shelves that reference the family in general or notes not specific to any individual).
Now, I'll give you one tip: Separate by surname. Keep women under their maiden names, reference their file in their husband(s) file, but keep them by maiden name unless she is an in-law you don't plan to research. A woman may have more than one husband, so filing her under her married name could get complicated. She may not marry at all. If you stay consistent on how you file people, it will be easier to remember where to find them. The easiest way I've found to deal with women is by maiden name. Every surname you research should have it's own file drawer, box, cabinet, hard drive space, or whatever. Your broad stroke organisation is easiest by surname. No matter if a cousin marries a cousin on the other side or you're tracking your family and your spouses, surname filing is so intuitive I feel ashamed even having to mention it.
I know what you're thinking: "This has been all well and good, but what about this pile of crap near my workspace?" This week, you're going to make that mountain into molehills. Take a small pinch of your pile. (maybe a book you need to read, a stack of photos you need to scan and label, a list of relatives you need to call, or literally pinch 1 inch of papers and take those to your desk) That's today's work. Finish that bit if it takes a minute or an hour and then use any remaining time you have for your research. Tomorrow or your next research day, do it again. Don't think about how big the pile is or how much you need to do. Take that pinch and finish it. Every day remember to clear your workspace before you go to bed. If you pick up something you can't do anything with right now, figure out when you can. Do you need to go to a court house? Pick a day and make a folder. Write the court house on the folder and the day you chose on your calendar. As you organise, if you come across more things that need to go, add them to that folder. As the day nears, review your folder so you know what you need, what you have and what you want. Don't leave it for the day before, you never know what will happen in 24 hours. Prepare at least 3 days ahead.
Make your mantra this week: "Do It Now!" While we whittle away at your pile of chaos, don't go adding to it. If you find new documents, cite them and file them now. If you find new photos, label them and file them now. If you need to talk to a relative, call them or email them NOW. Plan for a get together NOW so you and your interviewee have time to prepare. Call the court house NOW to know their hours of operation and what restrictions they have on cameras and scanners. Log your research NOW rather than forget it later! Anything you can do right now, do it. If you can't do it now, make a calendar entry for when you can.
I can't tell you the number of times someone says "if I could just plan a reunion." DO IT. You may feel your life is too busy, but let me ask you, when will it slow down? When will there be enough time? Never. You have to make the time. Call relatives and enlist their help. Pick a day you're comfortable with and then break down tasks like getting a location and inviting family into monthly or weekly tasks so that it's not just "plan reunion" for a year and nothing gets done. A common habit for organised people is to take a large project and make it into several small time-sensitive projects. Do that. Make that pile of "to organise" into several smaller piles that are manageable daily. Make that list of "I should do" into smaller "to do today" lists that you tackle a little at a time. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Know there is a finish line, but just keep your mind on that next step. Just make it for one more step and then another. "Just one more step".
For this week, every time you think you should, or you have to, do something, just do it. Or make a solid plan for the day you can do it. And then follow through. Make yourself the promise to do what needs to be done.
Yesterday is gone, Tomorrow may not be, Today is all we have
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