Friday, January 17, 2020

Day 17: Organize Your Calendar

To be organized, whether for genealogy or for other purposes, there are several important categories of tools that you need. You've got email for communication and a to-do list for task management. Later in the month we'll talk about taking and managing notes. Today, we focus on ... well, today! And tomorrow, and next week, and next month. In other words, your calendar.

No matter how many items you have on your to-do list, none of them may get done unless you find a home for them on your calendar. Unless they are so trivial that you can get them down in a few minutes, you'll need to find a block of time in which to focus on that task. It could be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or even 2 hours.

There are three types of things that you can do wrong with calendars. You can forget to schedule things, which means that you might forget meetings or opportunities to do research. It can also mean that you accidentally double-book a block of time, which can be embarrassing. So all of your time-dependent events need to be on your calendar.

The second thing you can do wrong is to put too much on your calendar. If you book every minute of every hour, you have no breathing space, no time for a break, no opportunity to let a task run a little bit longer than expected.

The third thing that can cause you problems is if you try to do too many different things in the same day (we talked a little about this 2 days ago). If you are trying to work on too many different research projects in the same day, you may not have more than a few minutes for each one. And our brains take some time to switch between tasks. So if you can reduce the number of important different things to do to a small, manageable number, you can give each task sufficient time to get into it, establish focus, and then finish it up (or leave it at a very good stopping point).

So what do you do if you find yourself having leftover time in a time block on your calendar, after you have completed a primary task? You can take a longer break. You can get up and move around and drink water (or coffee) and call a friend and...well, just so long as your break doesn't turn into something where you lose track of time.

You can also scan your to-do list for future tasks that look like they can be done in just a few minutes. Booking an appointment. Replying quickly to an email. Reading a genealogy blog post.

Use your calendar as your road map. At the end of each day, set it up for the next day, and then put it out of your mind. It'll be ready for you the next morning.

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