Monday, July 23, 2018


In a previous posting, I talked about how important it is to set genealogical research goals in order to make any real progress. Once you have your goal, it's time to focus on that and to avoid being distracted by the bright shiny objects (BSOs). When the BSO comes along (and it will), you should use a notebook page, a Word document, or an Evernote note to keep track of it. You write it down, and then you don't have to worry about forgetting it, and you can then get back to what you need to focus on.

Focus depends on many factors (other than just avoiding the BSOs). The first is time. You can't focus if all you have to work on your research is a 5-to-15-minute stretch of time. It takes time to get into the flow state, the state where you are working well on your goal. This means you need something closer to 25 to 30 minutes minimum. You can use a tomato-design timer, a special hourglass, or an alarm on your computer, tablet, phone, or smartwatch to alert you to when the 25 to 30 minutes is up. Then take a brief (5 minutes) break where you get up from your computer and move around, and then return to your work. Try for at least 2 or 3 of these focused segments.

Having enough focused time is only part of the problem.  You have to avoid anything that might interrupt or distract you.  If you don't live alone, you may have to close a door.  Turn off as many computer/phone notifications as possible. If it helps, hide your browser's bookmark bar so that you won't be tempted to check email or visit social media (or create a bookmark folder called "Not Research" and put all the non-genealogy resource bookmarks in it). Keep everything off your research desk other than the papers you will need for the research goal. Aim for a minimalist desk style. The fewer the items on your desk, the less chance that looking at something will trigger a thought unrelated to your research goal.

Once you have your research goal and are able to focus on it, it's then time to see where you are and see what needs to be done next. But that's for another blog post.

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