6 Questions to Help You Smash Your Genealogy Goals

Wow! Is it just me or has the first half of the year whizzed by? It’s amazing how quickly 6 months can go by. Christmas feels like yesterday, and paradoxically it’s a distant memory. All that motivation we felt whilst setting our New Year’s Resolutions seems to have evaporated. Our goal setting fever is a hazy memory and if we don’t review our genealogy plans and targets we can end up finishing the year feeling very under-whelmed by our performance. Ask yourself these 6 questions and you’ll smash your genealogy goals.

Don’t despair! There’s still plenty of time to recapture your “mojo” and ensure you finish the year with a sense of pride in your accomplishments. The key to staying on track? Don’t wait for the end of the year to review your goals. By then it’s too late to change anything! Give yourself the best chance of finishing the year on a genealogy high!

1. Have you completed any of your goals?

Completed your research plans? Answered those thorny questions? Blown open that brick-wall? Well done! Give yourself a pat on the back. Finishing a goal ahead of schedule is a fantastic achievement. But don’t rest on your laurels, set some new smaller objectives to really stretch yourself before 31st December.

2. Are your goals still relevant?

Sometimes our goals become irrelevant. They either cannot be completed, or there is no benefit to us from finishing them. Something has “shifted the goal posts”.

Example 1: Your objective was to discover the names of one of your sets of 2x Great-Grandparents. In January you’d clearly defined a research plan and now you’ve executed it to the best of your ability. That research has revealed that your Great-Gran was illegitimate and her father was not named on her birth, baptism or marriage docs. You’ve checked wills, newspapers, local records etc etc. You’ve exhausted all paper options. It’s possible you’ll never discover the name of your 2x Great-Grandfather on that particular line.

You cannot complete your original goal. It’s not “done” but it’s not helpful to leave it on your list “as is”. It needs to be updated. Your new target might be to complete DNA testing to seek answers. Or perhaps you’d rather leave the search for the 2x Great Grandfather and focus on the life and lineage of your 2x Great-Grandmother.

Example 2. You’ve discovered that someone you planned to investigate isn’t actually an ancestor – or maybe they didn’t do the things you thought they had done. Maybe you’ve successfully proven that your ancestor died a young ag-lab and merely shared the same name and birth date as someone whose life seemed particularly interesting. So you no longer need to become a Shakespeare expert because it turns out that Shakespeare is not your Shakespeare!

3. Are your goals still desirable?

Working on your genealogy should be interesting and fun. After all for most people it’s an engaging hobby.

It can’t all be “sunshine, lollipops and rainbows” but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. #genealogy #goalsmashing

There are always bits that you are going to enjoy less (for me it’s the data entry) but the good should out weigh the bad. If you feel you are consistently internally groaning whenever you decide to work on your goals then STOP. Life is too short. Shelve that goal, or perhaps ask a professional to take it off your hands. Focus on what you love and re-find your genealogy passion. Otherwise you might find you kill it – and we try to stick to just killing off ancestors, not the fun!

4. Are your goals still SMART?

For more information on SMART goals, see here

Full of the heady optimism of January perhaps you set yourself some ambitious targets. You thought that, with some determination, they’d be achievable. Suddenly it’s 6 months down the line and you’ve not really made the progress you’d expected. It’s easily done, and don’t beat yourself up about it. Making a once a quarter trip to that local archive may have felt reasonable at the beginning of the year. You weren’t to know that you’d be up half the night with a teething baby or facing that hip opp, or taking on more hours at work. Real life sometimes just gets in the way and it can’t be helped.

Or perhaps you made what you thought was a SMART goal, but now reading it again, you realise you weren’t actually as specific as you should have been?

The beauty of a 6 month review is that you still have time to achieve. Adjust your goals accordingly and you can still get that sense of achievement come the end of the year.


Not that kind of smart!

6. Have you been sticking to plan?

Sometimes you have to be really honest with yourself. Having re-examined your goals, you may decide that actually yes they are still SMART, and yes you are still interested in them. However, you’ve been letting yourself get side-tracked. That’s fine. We all do that. Take this opportunity to recognise your bad habits and work on staying focused. I hold my hands up to being seriously side-tracked by newspapers. I know it’s my weakness so I try to put controls in place to manage this. Set a timer. Restricting yourself to a set time to do that ‘shiny thing’ can help you avoid getting too side-tracked. Alternatively create a ‘bright shiny object’ list – and set aside some time after goal completion to look at it. Use Evernote to clip findings and dump them into a log.


Don’t be a magpie. Step away from the Bright Shiny Object and FOCUS!

Alternatively incorporate whatever is distracting you into your goals. If you find yourself repeatedly looking at the village of X, perhaps what you really want to do is a one-place study? Or do you find yourself often preoccupied by persons of a certain surname? Maybe you should be doing a one-name study?

7. Am I missing something?

OK, you’ll notice I said a 6 point review and here I am making 7 points. But this one is a bit separate. A little extra. After completing the above list, it may occur to you that your goals didn’t take into account something which you are now really excited about. This could be the release of a new data-set. Or maybe you’ve uncovered a maiden name and you are itching to find out about this new line. Maybe you really enjoyed attending a family history show and are now determined to go to more? Or you keep thinking about how much you’d love to blog about your ancestors?

Your goals are not set in stone. We often feel beholden to our targets, especially if they are written down – or shared publicly in the form of a blog, or Facebook post. BUT if you’d like to add extra goals, or swap some out – or even smash up the lot and replace them with something new – then have the courage to go for it. After all you’ve still got half a year to achieve those targets and it’s so much easier to hit the goals that fill us with joy and passion.

Don’t be afraid to take a hammer to those goals and start afresh!

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