Does it feel some days like you are buried under a pile of papers? Do you worry if you start organizing it could eat away days, weeks or months of your valuable free time that you could otherwise spend researching your family tree?
I get it, I've been there. But it doesn't have to be that way forever. I've created a printable cheat sheet to break down your organization into small easy to accomplish, bite-sized tasks that will help you start to get organized and stay that way once you get there.
Wondering how to get on the track to a more organized life? Well, wonder no more.
Weekly: On a weekly basis do these three things.
- Mark Your Papers. As you work, mark your papers so you can easily identify where you will need to file them. In our Historical Research Planner: Filing Pack we include small color coding labels that are meant for this purpose. You could also write a surname to further break down your papers into individual file groups you will eventually place them in.
- Sort Your Papers. Once a week, sit down and sort your "To File" pile so that it will be easy to file everything in one short sitting. Arrange them in the same way that your filing system is arranged. If they need to be 3-hole punched to go into a binder, separate them by binder the order you will put them in. If you have a file cabinet where all of the files are color coded by family group, alphabetized by surname and chronological by family member - organize your papers in a way that will make putting them into these files as quick and easy as possible.
- File Your Papers. Now that you've taken out a lot of the leg-work, use one day each week to put your papers where they belong so they will be easy to find in the future.
Monthly: On a monthly basis do these three things.
- Keep Your Binders Relevant. Binders should include only the papers you need easily accessible because you are currently working on them. Each month go through and decide what needs to stay in these binders. If you haven't worked on a particular project in a month or more these items probably need to get taken out of your binders.
- Move Your Papers from Binders to Filing. The papers you took out of your binder still need a home, start new folders in filing or put them into the folders they belong in.
- Move Bulky or Grouped Files into Boxes. When you notice your filing system is getting a little cramped, it may be time to move your less active files into boxes. Another way of making space is to move grouped files into boxes. What does this mean? It means you can use your biggest categorization - For example, in our system, you might break down your filing system may be COLOR-CODING > SURNAME > FAMILY GROUP > INDIVIDUAL - so to begin with you would make four boxes, one with each color, then put the coordinating color in that box. As your research grows, you may need a box for each surname.
Yearly: On an annual basis do these three things.
- Update Your Labels. Go through all of your filing and make sure that everything is labeled appropriately. Replace labels that are falling apart, or that reflect out-dated information. If there are files that are big and bulky and could be broken down further into smaller sub-folders do this now.
- Index Your Boxes. When everything is where it belongs, create indexes so that you can find the information quickly and easily. This will become more important the more information you amass in your research. Start with boxes, and place the completed index in the front of the box or on the top if the box isn't used often. Make two copies of the index, one that goes inside the box, and another to be kept in a "master index" which you will file to keep track of all of your boxes.
- Assess Your System. The best system is one that works. Look at how you are organizing your information and the process you are using to keep up with organization. Is it working for you? Could it work better? Tweak accordingly and come up with a plan for the following year.
Did you like this information? I put it together in a printable so that it would be easy for you to keep somewhere visible for a reminder.
Get your free copy now!
How do you keep organized? What strategies work for you? Let us know in the comments!
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