Have you ever set a goal or made a resolution about your genealogy and it just didn’t work out? If those stacks of copies are still on your dining room table and your photos are still unlabeled and unorganized, take heart. You’re not alone. The Washington Post reports that 25% of people give up on their New Years resolutions in the first week.
But you can be successful with your family history goals. The key is to set the right goal… You could even say a SMART goal.
The business world has long recognized that some goals are better than others, not because of what they’re trying to achieve, but how they are set up. SMART goals are:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Actionable (some say “Attainable”)
R – Realistic
T – Timely
When you include these elements in your goal or resolution, you have a better chance of reaching it. It’s hard to hit a mushy goal like “I’m going to research more.” When our goals are vague, so are our results.
A common genealogy goal is “I’m going to get better at citing my sources.” Let’s take that and turn it into a SMART genealogy goal.
“Specific” lays the foundation for the goal. What is it you’re trying to achieve?
“I’m going to be better at citing my sources” isn’t specific. What does “better” mean? Sources from what?
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations so they are in Evidence Explained format.”
Measurable often goes along with specific. Measurable gives us a way to mark our progress and see how close we’re getting. We can cheer ourselves on when we hit a milestone and we can take action when we’re coming up a little short.
“Rewrite my source citations” isn’t measurable. We can take our goal and improve it by making it more specific and measurable.
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format.”
Actionable / Attainable
Goals are pretty pointless if you can’t do anything about hitting them. They also fall short if we set ourselves up for failure.
One way you can make a goal both actionable and attainable is to work in an action plan.
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day.“
The good thing about goals is that they can help us do things we’ve never done before. I’m all for having “moon shot” dreams, but making those dreams come true usually comes from a series of smaller, realistic goals. (“Let’s go to the moon” was attained by having the goal of figuring out how, then by designing the spacecraft, then building it, etc.)
It is possible to be both realistic and stretch your achievements. The following addition to our goal is still a stretch, but is more realistic.
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations for Mom’s side of the tree that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day.”
“Someday” isn’t on the calendar. If you’re going to hit a goal, it helps to put a deadline on it. (Have you ever heard the joke about “If it weren’t for the last minute, I wouldn’t get anything done”? This is what’s that’s talking about!)
Let’s put a deadline on our goal:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations for Mom’s side of the tree that I have in RootsMagic so they are in Evidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day. I will have this done by June 1, 2016.“
Try It Yourself
Consider what you’d like to improve upon with your genealogy. Is it improving your source citations? Is it learning how to use land and tax records? Is it compiling that family history that you’ve talked about forever? Take that fuzzy goal and turn it into a SMART goal.