January Blog Series Round-Up

In January we looked at the different housekeeping tips that were published throughout each decade of the Twentieth Century.  This is the series end round-up, if you will. 

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Where I Work: My DIY Office

Since I've talked so much about organization and the importance of having aesthetically pleasing surroundings, I thought it might be interesting to show you where I work and ask to see where you do your best work!  I thought it would be a new spin on "Motivation Mondays" where we can get inspired by eachother.  

Although I have to admit that I do not spend all of my time here, one of my favorite spaces is my own office.   In my opinion, that's the way it should be! Afterall I designed it to be a space I would work well in, with all of the conveniences necessary for me to be productive and engaged in my projects.  

DIY Office

My office was a bunch of little projects, and I love every single one of them.  

Return Desk: My skirted desk used to be an old vanity that I had when I was a kid.  I added the skirt, made a knob to look like a rose and painted it a soft ballerina pink.  

Filing Cabinet: The filing cabinet was painted with a slightly darker pink, kind of a 1950s mamie pink, then I used this fun vintage inspired fabric print to cover the drawers attaching it with Mod Podge.  I painted the hardware because mine was in really rough shape.  

Chair: The chair was this super comfy vintage piece I picked up for $2 at Goodwill.  I stripped all the old gross fabric off and recovered it with fabric to match my filing cabinet.  I also polished all of the chrome colored metal with goo gone and painted the armrests to match the return desk.  

White Boards: I love to keep track of my schedule and daily  to-do items, and rather than having hundreds of lists everywhere, it is way better to keep one and keep it current somewhere that I won't lose it.  I took some old photo frames that I have had forever and some pretty scrapbook paper that matched my fabric.  I spend some time deciding what kind of layout would work best for me and then cut the scrapbook paper and glued it to white tag board cut to fit my frames.  I used some pretty scrapbook details like sparkly letter stickers and some flourishes to add some detail.  

Curtains: These were a little bit of an after thought, mostly I had some left over fabric and wanted a way to blend the two different patterns a little more. It wasn't quite enough to make traditional curtains, so I used some ribbon tied into bows around the top to hang them.  


I've added some other little details here and there, a little organization caddy with some binders to sort my current projects with all the supplies that I need to keep up with them.  A rug and some plants to warm the space up a little bit more.  It is a space I love to spend my time, which makes getting my work done a whole lot easier.

Where do you work? I want to know! Show or tell me about your space in the comments!  

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Get Your Priorities Straight in 10 Easy Steps

Do you struggle finding your focus? Does it seem like you don't get as much done as you could with your time because your mind wanders or you are paralyzed with overwhelm?  If so, this blog post is for you.  

Working with big projects used to freak me out.  When I first got started, I felt like I had no idea where to start so every time I would try I was so scattered I would waste hours getting nothing done.   Now, I have strategies that can help me work through even the most complex and seemingly endless projects imaginable.  Which means I can get more done in less time.  Isn't that what we all want out of life? 

In the end, a big part of this process comes down to priorities.  The reality is, there is no way you can get everything done every day.  You will have off days, family obligations, emergencies, and other things that come up and detract from your productivity.  You can't do anything about those obstacles, but what you can do is decide in advance what your priorities are and how you are going to accomplish those things that rank at the top of your list.  Here is how you can do it in 10 steps:

  1. Think about your general priorities in your life.  What are your top five? Some examples might be: Family, Friends, Health, Home, Work, Hobbies, Etc.  Where do you place research?
  2. Formatting a to do list for success.  When you write a to do list,  start with major categories that point to what category the activities fit under.  Those get capitalized roman numerals (I, II, III...) beneath those, an indented list of tasks which get numbers (1, 2, 3) and if they are complex they get broken into sub-tasks that get letters (a, b, c) which are further indented. 
  3. Choose two categories that align with your life priorities.  When you write up your daily to do list, make sure to rank activities that top your general priority list as more important. Pick two to three categories and highlight them.  Those are your priorities for the day.  
  4. Simplicity wins. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your list, then simplify it.  Re-write, using only those highlighted items.  You can add to it later after you finish it.  Sometimes this act of re-writing is like clearing your slate and giving yourself permission not to get it all done.  
  5. The 80/20 Rule. This rule has gotten a lot of press in the past couple years, but here is why I think it is awesome.  In theory, it says that if we go at something without a plan, twenty percent of our time will be spent being productive in tiny increments over the course of the entire span of time we use up.  The other 80% of the time will be less productive.  There are two ways you can use this:

    (A) If you have a lot you need to do in a day, you can spend the first 2 hours doing the most important tasks.  Use your most productive 20% all at once.  Then, there is nothing to say the other 80% of your day won't be productive, just less productive, in setting the bar high right away, you raise your average output for the day.  

    (B) If you feel guilty for spending some time unproductively, spend 20% of it getting important things done and then relax and enjoy the rest of the day however you wish.  If you were preoccupied and thinking of that fun thing you weren't doing, you wouldn't be getting much done anyway. 
  6. Scheduling Tasks. By designating space on your calendar to the most important things you are mentally making these items an event.  Psychologically events are important and require focus and attention.  
  7. Set a timer. If something is a priority and you are still having trouble focusing on the task at hand, set a timer for a reasonable amount of time to complete the item.  Sometimes, the mental accountability of having a timer that requires you to get the work done can be that extra bit of motivation that you need to get it done.  
  8. Schedule priorities that don't have tasks associated. Some priorities just don't have a whole lot of tasks associated, for example, if you are a working professional, sometimes family time can get neglected because "remember to play a game with Tommy" doesn't always fit nicely into our to do lists.  For this reason, remember to schedule blocks of time to spend on these important activities that fit into your priorities so they do not get neglected.  
  9. Reward yourself for accomplishing priorities. Even little rewards can have powerful psychological effects.  Figure out what kind of reward system will work for you.  Sometimes just visual cues, like putting a marble in a jar every time you complete a task, or even crossing items off of a list can be enough.  Sometimes you may need something a little more tangible, like scheduled time to do something you love - like playing a game or reading a book.  It all depends on you! 
  10. Spend time assessing whether you are focusing on your priorities. In the end your life will be defined by what you do rather than what you say.  What does that mean? It means, if you prioritize something in your life, you have to practice spending time on it.  When you look back on your week, did one of your priorities get totally neglected? If so, you need to think hard about whether that item is really a priority to you.  If it isn't, it needs to come off the list.  If it is, you need to find ways to spend time honoring that priority.  

Whats top priority on your list for today? How do you get things done? Let me know in the comments below!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

The Ultimate Organization Cheat Sheet for Genealogists

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.

  1. 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.  
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.  
  3. 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.

  1. 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.  
  2. 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. 
  3. 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!

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

If you liked this post you may like these products from our shop: 

Last Chance to Win!

They are almost here!! If you haven't heard about the Historical Research Planner system yet, you can find out more here. They will be available for sale as three separate packs beginning October 1st!  I have been hard at work on this system for almost two years now and finally they are perfect and ready for the world!

To celebrate the upcoming launch and the release of my new e-book The Purposeful Family Historian, I am running a giveaway.  Three lucky entrants will be chosen at random to receive three pre-sale bundles including all of the packs available in the system so far, including: The Calendar Pack - to set goals, schedule tasks and keep track of your progress; The Genealogy Pack - with all of the forms you need to keep notes, track sources and color-coding to work with The Filing Pack; finally, The Filing Pack - which has tabs and labels to color code all of your notes, papers, documents and research.


Updated 10/11 - Although our contest has now ended, you can still get your planner.  They are now available for sale in the shop.  Stop by and check them out by clicking here.  Want to make sure you are in the loop for future contests? Subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of this post.  

To enter all you need to do is sign up for the newsletter (or if you are already signed up, follow the steps to validate your registration through the form below).  You can win additional entries by liking The Historium on Facebook, following @TheHistorium on Twitter and pinning our image as well as sharing the contest with your friends through the social links provided below! Altogether that gives you seven possible entries for one of three possible prizes, pretty good odds! 

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Sneak Peek! Family History Research Planners Coming in October!

Things have been so exciting here!  The launch of the new ebook The Purposeful Family Historian is right around the corner, and on that note I have even more big news!  I have been working for nearly two years to perfect The Historical Research Planner System which will be debuting this October!

UPDATE 10/1: They're here!! When you finish with this post, check out the shop to get your planner pack as an instant download! 

Those of you who are on the mailing list got the news first but I have new exclusive details today.  Not on the list yet? Sign up at the bottom of this post to get all the details first AND the Free Photo Memories Workbook in your inbox. 

The system is available as three separate packs, which integrate seamlessly with one another or are useable one at a time, all of which are printable PDF Smart Forms with Fillable blanks:

  1. The Calendar Pack - to help you set goals, break them down into tasks and schedule them for increased productivity and focus.
  2. The Genealogy Pack - with forms to organize your entire family tree while keeping everything color coded for efficiency and organization. 
  3. The Filing Pack - has everything you need to file your whole project, utilizing coordinating color-coded box labels, file labels and binder tabs.  

Are you as excited as we are? Let us know below! Keep checking back to get updates about the launch!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here

Beat Procrastination With Scheduling

September 6 is National Beat Procrastination Day, and the productivity seeker in me couldn't pass up the chance to pass on some goodies I've learned about using scheduling to take down procrastination and make insane progress on your family tree!

So here are my tips to beat procrastination and amp up your productivity by scheduling:

1. Schedule goal-setting sessions.   Everyone else gets a chunk of your time, so why don't you? Set up some time with yourself to figure out what you need to get done.  Make 4 separate 20-30 minute appointments with yourself on different days. In these appointments you will come up with annual, bi-annual, monthly and weekly goals.  

**Make sure you are making your goals reasonable.  A good rule of thumb is to use SMART goal setting and start with one goal for each time period.**

2. Break each goal into tasks and schedule those tasks.  Figure out how many tasks you have, and divide them evenly over your time period.  Do this first with your longest term goals and work toward your shortest term goals.  Schedule the tasks for days and times when you are typically free to work and concentrate.  Remember, none of this is set in stone, just like you can reschedule your dentist appointment if something comes up, you can reschedule these tasks if you just can't do it. 

3. Give yourself credit and schedule rewards for accomplishing goals.  The importance of this step cannot be overstated.  Even if you understand the importance and value of achieving your goals, the subconscious, reward-driven Id in your brain will still pitch a fit like an unruly two-year-old if you ignore it for too long.  Everyone needs a substantial 'atta-boy every now and again.  If possible, match the reward value to the difficulty of the goal.  More difficult goals that you have been working toward for a longer period of time should have a more substantial reward assigned. 

I hope these tips help you beat procrastination!  What tools and tips do you use to make sure you optimize productivity when you are working on a big project? Share with me in the comments!

Tara Cajacob

Hi, I'm Tara!  I am more than a huge fan of history, you might say I'm a little obsessed.  I would spend a Friday night in with a glass of local wine and a reference book any night of the week.   Learn more about me and my work here