Finding Time for Genealogy

Fitting time to do genealogy into a busy lifestyle

How do we accommodate genealogy into a busy lifestyle? One of the more common issues I hear from younger people who are interested in genealogy is that they are so busy that they have no time to do genealogy. Now, we had four children when I graduated from law school and we raised seven children. I have always been involved in my church, civic organizations and I have a whole variety of hobbies and special interests. I know what it is to be busy. In fact, I am still busy.

Whenever I hear that someone is too busy to do something, I remind myself of one word: priorities. We choose to do what we are interested in doing. But many times we get caught up doing things that we like to do or are in the habit of doing that aren't really our priorities. For example, some people have the priority to sit down and read or watch the news every day. I do not spend any dedicated time to the news. I catch what I need to know at times and places when I cannot do anything else. I use technology and electronic devices to give me information when and where I want it. If you are really honest with yourself, even brutally honest, you will have to admit that you spend a considerable amount of time every day doing things that don't really need to be done.

Now, I don't pretend to be an expert on time management but I do know that you have to set priorities to get anything done. This is especially true of something like genealogy which probably does not rank very high on most people's list of essential things to do each day. If you really want to do something, such as genealogy, then you need to move it up on your list and start making it a priority. When you tell me you don't have time to do something you are really saying to me that the activity is not your priority.

For most people I know, genealogy as an activity competes with many other activities and is usually categorized as a hobby or leisure activity. It competes with work, maintaining a family, and in the leisure time activity, it competes with entertainment, sports, gardening, bird watching, and a multitude of other activities. As I found out recently it also competes with health and keeping alive.

For some, the competing activities are overwhelming and totally time consuming. So what is missing is the interest and motivation to move family history or genealogy off of the back burner and put it into your lifestyle. When you start thinking of genealogy, not as an obligation or a task that is to be completed some day, but as an essential part of your lifestyle, you will give up some other alternative choice of an activity and begin to do genealogy.

Why would you want to make that choice? That is a complex question that can only be answered by the individual. Our dilemma as genealogists is helping other people to see the value of putting genealogy into the mix of activities they feel are worthy of attention. This turns out to be a difficult and, in some cases, almost impossible task. Young people have an automatic alternative, they are young and their optional activities are almost limitless. But as we get older it becomes much harder to do some of our youthful activities and as the choices narrow down we have to evaluate our priorities.

For example, when I was a lot younger I was a technical rock climber with ropes and pitons and all that. This is no longer a viable activity for me. I had to realize at some point in my life that rappelling down a cliff was no longer an advisable option. How hard would it have been at that time in my life to convince me to give up rock climbing and downhill skiing to do genealogy? You don't even need to speculate. So, one of the challenges of the genealogical community is helping people move genealogy and family history into a higher position of priority in their lives.

Written by James L. Tanner. Used with permission.

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