Today is Fight Procrastination Day! I learned this from the latest APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) Quarterly, where Karen Gridley published a great article entitled “What Is Procrastination Costing You?”[1. Karen Gridley, “What Is Procrastination Costing You? Change with Productive Action,” APG Quarterly, 32 (September 2017), 25-29.]
Let me turn Karen’s question around–what is procrastination costing each one of us? Karen’s article mentions four generalized consequences: missed opportunities; high stress; loss of time, money, and energy; and decreased self-esteem.[2. Ibid., 25.] What are more specific consequences for genealogical work? In my opinion, the answer is, it depends on what we are putting off. Here are some areas where I’ve seen students and colleagues procrastinate. I myself, of course, hardly ever procrastinate. 🙂
Connecting with relatives
How many of us put off interviewing or recording or videotaping or collecting DNA from family members, especially the older ones? And how many of us wish we had done so when a family member passes or loses the capacity to share their memories, identify family photographs and heirlooms, or give consent to test their DNA? The consequence of procrastination in this area is pretty obvious–we lose the knowledge those family members carry, and it’s knowledge we won’t be able to glean from other sources, no matter how exhaustive our research is.
Obtaining missing records
Have you ever conducted research on an individual or family, then discovered that you had neglected to obtain one or more vital records, deeds, tax lists, or whatever? I have! Filling in the missing bits tends to remain on my “to do” list for long periods. It prevents me from completing what I consider to be reasonably exhaustive research (the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard).[3. If you’re not familiar with the standard, you can find a brief synopsis at “The Genealogical Proof Standard,” Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/resources/standard.html : accessed 6 September 2017).] Although I certainly can–and should–write up my findings and interim conclusions before I have all the evidence in hand, knowing that I am lacking evidence I know I need prevents me from feeling fully confident about my research results and enjoying the satisfaction of knowing my research is as complete as I can make it.
Filing and/or scanning
I know few genealogists who don’t have piles of documents in their offices! Somehow, filing and/or scanning is never as exciting as finding new documents. Having started in genealogy with a preference for paper, I am moving ever closer to a digital work environment. Documents that are “born digital” or acquired in digital form–downloaded from websites or obtained from repositories in digital format–are easy to incorporate into my digital files. It’s when I acquire materials on paper that piles accumulate. Typically incoming paper is marked with project names and source information and kept in a special bin, but it does tend to sit for periods of time until I get around to scanning. The consequence of this is clutter. I lose workspace. I lose storage space. I lose time: when I want to pick up the project to which the unscanned papers belong, I have to scan and file or dispose of the paper before I can move forward with analysis, correlation of evidence, and writing.
What are your areas of procrastination?
Please feel free to share your procrastination!