"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
July 25, 2012
I Can Do This: Attainable Goals and Family History
by Kathryn Grant

In his book Getting Things Done, Dave Allen observes that people sometimes make the mistake of putting projects on their task lists instead of specific actions. As a result, they’re likely to be paralyzed, to procrastinate, and to feel guilty — while the project remains undone.

As an example, suppose you need to paint the kitchen. As long as that’s the task on your list (written or unwritten), you’ll probably feel overwhelmed and keep putting it off.

But the truth is, you can’t just “paint the kitchen.” Rather, you have to take a series of actions, none of which is overwhelming on its own: decide on a color, buy brushes and paint, prep the walls, decide on a day to do the painting, and so forth. Once you break the project down and put those tasks on your task list, you’ll start making progress.

If you’ve attended sacrament meeting or general conference any time in the past several decades, you probably have another task on your task list, one that may seem even more overwhelming than painting the kitchen: doing your family history.

I can empathize. Not only did I get this message from countless meetings, but from the time I was young I also got it repeatedly from my mom, an avid and accomplished genealogist. Family history was her delight and passion. She was careful not to pressure me, but I could tell she wanted me to be more involved than I was.

And believe me, I tried. I filled out a few pedigree charts and family group sheets. I went to the Family History Library several times to look things up for her. I helped her with extraction (in the days before indexing). But even though these things fanned the spark into a temporary flame, it died out pretty quickly. So the years passed with an uneasy feeling of guilt that I wasn’t doing more. But I wasn’t sure how to change things.

The breakthrough came when I realized that I had no clue what concrete action I should take to move ahead. In fact, it turned out that this realization was the clue: since I didn’t know, I needed to get serious about learning. So I signed up for a five-day class at the Family History Training Center in Orem, Utah.

Long story short, attending this class changed my life. I learned how to make family history doable. The guilt is gone, replaced by an exciting and rewarding hobby.

Of course, you don’t have to take a certain class to make family history doable for you. There are a lot of simple ways to get started.

So here’s this week’s challenge. Choose an idea from the list below, based on your situation, or choose an idea of your own.

1. If you haven’t started working on your family history, pick a day this week and do one thing to get the ball rolling. Possibilities:

  • If you live in Utah or will be visiting there, go to the Family History Training Center Web site and sign up for a class.
  • Call your ward family history consultant and make an appointment to get started.
  • Gather the information you need to complete a four-generation pedigree chart.
  • Visit the FamilySearch Learning Center and take a short, free online course.
  • Sign up to be a volunteer indexer, working with others around the world to make historical records easily searchable.

2. If you’ve started your family history but haven’t done anything on it for a while, pick a day this week and do something to start up again. Suggestions:

  • Review the research you’ve done and prayerfully determine where to focus next.
  • Call or write to someone in your family who might have information you need.
  • Do any of the items suggested in the previous list.

3. If you’re actively doing your family history, share this column with someone who could benefit from getting started and encourage them to take the challenge.

Be warned, though—you may be about to embark on one of the most exciting adventures of your life!

Send your comments on this challenge—your observations, obstacles, and successes – by August 1, 2012. I'll share some of your experiences in future columns.

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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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