I thought it would be easy.  I have no small children at home.  I have no paid employment.  Life at the moment is, generally, calm.  Surely it wouldn't be hard to pretend I had a half-time job, and dedicate 40 hours over two weeks to genealogy work.  However, this task turned out to be surprisingly difficult.  It took 18 days, not 10, to log the 40 hours, and before it was over I found myself heartily sick of genealogy.  It was an instructive exercise, however.  A few observations:

  • I can make a surprising amount of progress if I hole myself up in my office, ignoring phone calls, e-mails, Facebook, and even to some extent my husband.
  • Ignoring other responsibilities in order to meet my genealogy goals (or any other specific goals, I suspect) eventually builds up so much psychological pressure (guilt) that the once-pleasurable work becomes a chore.
  • Phone calls from grandchildren cannot be ignored.
  • My goal was to work in concentrated segments of at least an hour each, but I found that surprisingly hard to manage, and eventually allowed myself sometimes to count the accumulation of smaller time periods.  Otherwise, it was too frustrating to find myself with, say, a half an hour to work and yet know I couldn't count it towards the goal.
  • The original impetus for this exercise was the expiration of my Ancestry.com subscription.  Deciding to renew it took a bit of the wind out of my sails and slowed my progress, but I did eventually pull myself together and finish only one day later than my end-of-January goal.
  • I had hoped the push would make a good dent in my accumulated backlog of genealogy work.  Ha!  Infinity minus anything is still infinity.  Still, it really did help, and I made some good finds, though in trying to "beat the expiration clock" I spread my work very thinly, and concentrated more on new data than on entering the old, so the backlog looks more worse than better.
  • Having a full year's subscription ahead of me, however, and a plan to put in a steady hour or two each week, I'm hoping some more methodical plodding will bear good fruit.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 2, 2015 at 7:25 am | Edit
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I don't know. I think this might be where we part ways. I can sit down to work on genealogy and look up and several hours have gone by. I ignore other things I should be doing (which could include making dinner. "Tonight, everyone fends for themselves!")

Perhaps if I put a set goal in front of myself it would suck the fun out of it, but I don't know. I have to get back to it at some point here, but I guess I should get some other stuff in order before I disappear into that black hole.


Posted by dstb on Monday, February 02, 2015 at 8:45 am

Really, I'm with you Sarah. In the past I have easily done exactly what you describe. I love being able to concentrate on one thing (be it genealogy or some other project) for extended periods. And at first I really loved those intense hours of guilt-free genealogy. I'm not sure what went wrong, except that I also like to "jump ship" to another project as a break when I start spinning my wheels on the first one (that's a Don Aslett thing), and trying to fit in a dedicated 20 hours/week wasn't allowing that. Most of all, I think, it was the time pressure of other deadlines that sucked the joy out of the project. At first those genealogy hours were lovely, but later the ever-present reminder of the approach of some unchangeable and more important deadlines became too intrusive. It was hard, for example, to stick with the tedious work of entering data that has been sitting around for five years, knowing that the baby quilt I need to make has a very real due date approaching.

Posted by SursumCorda on Monday, February 02, 2015 at 9:40 am

I know you have mentioned it somewhere before (maybe a David Allen thing?) where it is nice to be able to move from one project to another depending on what is interesting you. By doing that you make the most of your time because you WANT to do whatever it is you are working on. That is definitely me.

I do tend to procrastinate on things that have a deadline even if it is self-imposed. It's a little of the "no one can tell me what to do" push back. Even if it is me who is saying it needs t be done!

Posted by dstb on Monday, February 02, 2015 at 10:52 am

dstb, your comment reminds me of Gretchen Rubin's personality type "rebel" as you resist outside and inside demands. http://www.gretchenrubin.com/happiness_project/2013/01/four-personality-types-which-one-are-you/

I'm firmly a questioner - I find her categories interesting.

Posted by Janet on Saturday, February 07, 2015 at 7:28 am

I identify with both the joys and struggles, and very much know how making something official can take the joy out of it. Part of that has to do with the fact that anything worth doing has a part to it that isn't really much fun and it just has to be done to get to the prize. If we HAVE to finish, it feels more like a weight because we don't have the option of quitting (or taking a long pause . . .) when it's no longer fun. Learning how to get past those places is a key to doing anything large or long-term. That's why I like scheduling work, because it helps me keep going when the going gets boring. Of course, if I overschedule, other factors set in, like rebellion.

Posted by Janet on Saturday, February 07, 2015 at 7:34 am

Interesting bit about Rubin's categories. I can see myself as an upholder in certain areas - I am a first born, after all, and don't like to get in trouble. I am more likely to follow the rules (like laws) if I might get in trouble if I don't.

Posted by dstb on Saturday, February 07, 2015 at 9:16 am

Wow, I thought I was an upholder until I saw the last one. I am SO an obliger! Even if I make a "rule" for mtself, it is easily overthrown, especially by a "rule" from someone else.

Posted by joyful on Sunday, February 08, 2015 at 7:21 am

Like mother, like daughter. I could have written what you did, Heather. With some twists. I was born an Upholder, I'm sure—first born, and had a hard time learning that sometimes it's important to be flexible with rules. I'm naturally much more inclined to make the best of whatever the situation is than to try to change it. However, life—particularly our struggles with the school system—taught me to be a Questioner. But although the impetus and research into homeschooling was 100% mine, and the implementation 97%, I doubt it would have happened without the push from Dad, which was needed to overcome the authority of rule and custom.

Oddly enough, it wasn't until I read Rubin's categories that I realized I'm more of an Obliger than an Upholder. Actually, that's not quite true, because I very much do like to "adopt self-imposed rules." But as you said, I all too easily let these rules be overthrown by circumstances and by other people. So—I'm an Upholder who sets the authority of just about anyone and anything above my own? That's sad.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, February 08, 2015 at 8:34 am

On a different note, Janet has a point about my genealogy struggles: In the beginning, I was making great progress, learning new things, and didn't want to stop, while at the end—since I no longer had the need to grab as much new data as I could before my subscription expired—I was tackling the boring, tedious stuff, so of course the hours dragged.

Posted by SursumCorda on Sunday, February 08, 2015 at 8:37 am
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