15 February 2020

Taking the Pro out of Procrastination

Okay, I'll admit it...I'm a natural procrastinator. I don't procrastinate on everything, mind you--only those things most guaranteed to screw myself over. When it comes to getting stuff done for everyone else, I do...and usually in a timely enough fashion. Meanwhile, stuff for myself inevitably falls by the wayside, but then that's Mom's Law, isn't it? You'll happily kill yourself to get things done for your friends and loved ones, even if it means sacrificing yourself every. single. time. For example:

Got people coming over? The downstairs will be spotless for your guests while your master bathroom with the discreetly-closed door remains one mold spore away from become a pandemic outbreak requiring Hazmat suits and flamethrowers to clean.

Did you volunteer to help do computer work in hobby communities? Because if you did, reorganizing the bookmarks on your computer is never going to happen now. Nor is dusting. Face it, the dust is now your asthmatic roommate.

Have you been contracted to alter bridesmaids dresses and/or a wedding dress before someone's wedding? Then I guarantee you will be the one walking down the aisle with the raggedy, non-hemmed dress because no one is going to be looking at you, Cinderella.

Is someone hosting a spontaneous bake sale and requesting dozens of your ubiquitous, go-to cookies? Well, you didn't need to make yourself a birthday cake anyway, did you? Stick a candle in the one burnt cookie you culled from the herd and have yourself a par-tay.

Such is the life of the inveterate procrastinator, we who frequently rearrange our entire lives to help others or put off tedious tasks so long that neither they nor the things we could have been doing instead get done. Perhaps Jim Croce said it best: "There never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do." That's why I still haven't finished curtains for three rooms of my house. Or why, ten months later, I still haven't gotten around to posting photos of my trip to Portugal...or updating my sewing portfolio. There's always something else that takes precedence, like meeting your 972 new relatives instead of getting your genealogy business going--as if that isn't the epitome of irony considering you wouldn't have found one without the other.

Porto, Portugal, on the River Douro (there...one down, a hundred to go).

How do we take the "pro" out of "procrastination?" Good question. I think for me that comes from creating more discipline and focus so I don't get as easily sidetracked by shinier objects on the side. My deluge of new family members seems to have stabilized and I've now met most of them. The girl child is married and settled. Nothing on the house has blown up in the last ten minutes (as Mary knocks on every available wooden surface within reach). I also think slaying the Procrastination Dragon will come from recognizing that--occasionally--it's perfectly okay to put ourselves and our needs first. How many times do any of us get on a plane and promptly ignore the dictate to put on our own oxygen mask first before attempting to help others? As women or moms we have been programmed for generations to put everyone else's needs before our own, but when we do that, we become so depleted we have nothing left with which to help others...even those most important to us.

So grab the oxygen mask, folks...sleep the extra hour if you can. Drag yourself to the next workout because you know you'll feel better afterwards if you do. Give yourself permission to say "no" from time to time. Practice self-care. When you take those moments for yourself, when you suck in that first drag of pure oxygen, it will give you the energy you need to complete tasks you don't really want to do and thus free up more time for all the things you DO want to accomplish...like finally starting up that genealogy business you've been trying to open for two years (dang prolific relatives everywhere!)

Don't think of this as a resolution, think of it as a revelation--"now listen to MY declaration!" (See what happens when you start working out to the Hamilton soundtrack?) This is going to be my year...I'm getting my business back on track and refocusing my energies to be more disciplined and successful. What will be your declaration this year? Where are you headed and how will you get there?

Now then...who wants to help me build a website and a professional blog? I'm not above trading cookies or alterations or finding dead relatives in exchange. Just saying. ;)

22 January 2020

Watershed Moments at SLIG Academy 2020

I have a confession.

Tom Jones terrifies me.

Or at least he used to terrify me. And no, I'm not talking about Tom Jones, the Welsh singer who doesn't find love unusual, but rather about Tom Jones, the genealogy legend who literally wrote the book on Mastering Genealogical Documentation. I've spent the last three years hearing tales of the man's encyclopedic knowledge and of the all-night study sessions required to finish homework for his advanced methods course. I admit I assiduously avoided those courses in spite of knowing I would be a better genealogist for taking them; “intimidation” doesn't even begin to cover it. Still, there's only so long you can plausibly avoid learning from the Jedi Master just because you're secretly afraid you aren't remotely in his league.

Now that I've finally had Dr Jones for a few lectures, my perspective has changed dramatically.  Tom came into our Client Report Writing course this morning to present his twenty principles for Technical Writing, and again in the afternoon to fill in for the ailing Angela Packer McGhie. Tom was nothing less than stellar (not that I really expected anything else), but his depth of knowledge and the clarity of his presentations were still a revelation. As I sat in the morning session listening and watching slide after slide, I was immediately taken back to my grad school courses in English. Suddenly everything seemed so very familiar and the intimidation factor melted away. "You've got this" started playing on a loop in my brain and I began to believe. It certainly didn't hurt that Tom was both charming and impossibly patient with all our questions.

Being afraid I wasn't “in everyone else's league" has been a bit of a theme for me at this particular Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (or SLIG for short), in part because I've been feeling like my professional journey had derailed in recent months and that I'd fallen behind my genealogy buddies.  I know, I know--it's foolish to compare my journey to anyone else's. Nor is my "delay" particularly surprising considering I spent most of the last two years discovering and then traveling to meet a plethora of new birth relatives. Let's face it, life is what happens when you'e busy making other plans. I don't regret a moment of the last two years because I can no longer imagine my life without these new family members, even if getting to know them meant I haven't always had as much time for traditional genealogical research as I might have liked.

Spending Tuesday morning learning from Tom was transformative, as was the opportunity to review BCG portfolios over lunch in my classroom. Several pages of copious notes later, I finally realized I've got that too. Much like a Tom Jones class to the uninitiated, the idea of building a certification portfolio can certainly be daunting but, once broken down into clearer and more manageable units (not unlike Tom's 20 principles of Technical Writing), the BCG portfolio magically becomes less frightening. Even if I'm not yet quite ready to go on the clock, I now know that when I do, I've got this. At the end of the day, we've all got this.

Nothing like a week and a half at SLIG to give you back your genealogy mojo, right?

Ultimately, that's what's so fabulous about about attending programs like SLIG--they provide you with opportunities to do so much more than deep-dive into a particular genealogical topic. Relationships are built both inside and outside the classroom, supplying attendees with invaluable connections for future collaboration and giving support and encouragement regardless where any of us are in our personal genealogical journeys. Institutes like SLIG allow us the rare privilege of learning from the best in our field--from mentors who help us to embrace our future by lighting our way through the darkness of our self-doubt.

What could be better than that?

P.S. Inspiration for this post may have struck yesterday, but it's still taken me two days to write up because Tom Jones now lives inside my head. I have heard his voice continually while writing and rewriting each paragraph ad infinitum; I have absolute faith that, should he choose, Dr. Jones could still strip this post by at least 20%. I know I have.

Mission accomplished, Dr. Jones...mission accomplished.