The genealogy buzz word today is "brick walls." I have grown to dislike the word, not only from its over usage, but also from its nonsense application. To remove brick walls, they need to be destroyed or torn down. If you run into them, you receive injury. None of those are applicable to genealogical research. Instead remove the word "brick walls" and evaluate ourselves and then our research problems.
Goal setting is the key to any genealogical research. It may be a conscious process or even an unconscious process. Do you set goals in your life? Are they daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals or yearly goals? The key ingredient to a goal is motivation.
What kind of researcher are you? Do words such as purpose, decisions, benefits, desires, procrastination, skills, prioritization, apply to your motivation and goal setting? One of the biggest culprits in genealogical research is procrastination. It is easy to put something off and off and off. Tomorrow may be too late. It is also easy to tell yourself that you don't have the necessary knowledge to work through a genealogical research problem. Studies do not end with graduation.
Without concrete goals in our research, we are floundering. It is time for you to become responsible for your research. Goals will help you focus and make better research decisions. Things to consider in setting goals are effective time management, dating your goals, writing out goals, scheduling research, mental blocks, to-do lists and notes, and disruptions.
Goals become overwhelming when they become complicated. It is easy in the research process to complicate a goal by adding too many names, places and dates and eliminating the focus of something achievable. Try to keep the goal simple and then set a deadline for accomplishing your goal. Be realistic about the deadline and compare it to your skills and your daily life. Will you be able to realistically accomplish the goal in one week, one month, three months? Break the goal down into segments, short term research and manageable areas.
Write it out! Nothing is more important than this. Just having a concept in your mind is not enough. On a piece of paper, in a research notebook, on your computer, draw up a research plan, including your goal. From that plan create a to-do list. Do not let your to-do list control you. Be flexible and allow your to-do list to become flexible by adding to it and deleting from it. As you work through the genealogical research problem, keep in mind that even a negative result can be turned into something positive. The positive aspect is that you have checked that source and found nothing, but your research has been positive, not the results. At this point you need a personal pep-talk. The information was not there, but you can keep researching, you know you can ... just do it.
Leave yourself notes. Have paper and pen handy to jot down your ideas and then transfer them to your goal to-do list. You can leave notes to yourself on your iPod, computer, iPad, or iPhone. Be sure you keep track of the notes and utilize them in your research.
In order to achieve you must analyze yourself. Effective time management is first and foremost in achieving those goals. Is your world spinning? What can you accomplish in five minutes? Look at your routine, personally and at work, then decide if you can change your life style to include a few minutes for genealogical research. What is realistic in making such a change?
Allow yourself a block of time each day, each week or month to work on your research goal. Squeeze research into your busy schedule. If you miss that set aside time, keep going with the goal and resume research as soon as possible. Days often do not go as planned, but do not become lost in the trivia of the day. What can you control or not control?
Many of us have "road blocks" in our head. Clear your mind by writing out what is pertinent in your life and your daily tasks. Then organize your work space. If you are spending twenty minutes looking for notes or files, do some rearranging both on your desk and computer desktop. Organize your environment. Those twenty minutes of looking time can be converted into twenty minutes of productive research.
What is wasting your research time? Chances are you are going to reply the telephone, television, too many e-mails, lost on Internet and daily disruptions. Enter into this words such as stress, emotions and procrastination. Do those also apply?
How much time do you spend waiting? Those idle moments, such as in traffic grid-lock, in check out lines, at events and doctor offices, can be used to read, analyze a pedigree chart, and jot down ideas for research. It takes five to fifteen minutes to gain back momentum after disruption. Turn off the telephone, television and escape to your genealogy world. The three time robbing emotions are fear, stress and overwhelm. It is easy to succumb to any of those emotions.
Become an optimist, but understand the reality of your life. There is no perfect record and there is no perfect genealogist. However, perfection is no excuse for not doing genealogical research.