Category Archives: Setting Goals

Setting Goals

I apologize for not having a blog post recently. Between a job change and the holidays blogging was set aside. So what better time to talk about our Genealogy goals than at the beginning of the new year. One of my goals is to have a blog post twice a month for the next year. I may have to exclude December on that goal.

Amy Johnson Crow posted in her blog last week on How to Set Smart Genealogy Goals. It is a very practical method for setting goals and I would like to share it here. You can see the original post at her blog: Amy Johnson Crow Blog – How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal

How to Set a Smart Genealogy Goal

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.

SMART Goals

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

“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?

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations so they are in Evidence Explained format.”

Measurable

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.

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are inEvidence 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.

Better version:
“I’m going to rewrite my source citations that I have in RootsMagic so they are inEvidence Explained format. I’m going to do this by working on it 15 minutes a day.

Realistic

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.

Better version:
“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.”

Timely

“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:

Better version:
“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? It is learning how to use land and tax records? It is compiling that family history that you’ve talked about forever? Turn that fuzzy goal and turn it into a SMART goal.


Another of my goals is to apply for a pioneer/century certificate for my ancestor Ole Hanson by completing my proof of lineage and getting the birth, death, and marriage records from the appropriate court houses. I plan to work on the application and source citations of each document used to prove lineage two evenings a week. I will have this done by May 1.

Use the Smart goals and post one of your genealogy goals for this year in the comment section.