To Do Organizer

Be Smart, Then Smarter in Your Goal Making

To Do Organizer

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I tend to start thinking about my goals for the coming year once the leaves start changing; and this year is no different.  I love that feeling of making a list of goals and being able to cross things off throughout the year.  Sometimes that list is quite extensive and possibly a bit unrealistic, but all the same I push myself to try to do more and more.

I make goals for my personal genealogy research, writing, business, health, family life, and personal growth.  Things like writing blog posts and articles well ahead of deadlines and developing research plans that I will actually stick to are important to me.  My college days were a blur with regards to planning ahead and usually involved putting out the latest fires.  However, through my involvement in Alpha Phi Omega I learned about the value of SMART goals and breaking them down into smaller more manageable steps.

What are SMART goals?

Specific- This is the Who, What, Why, and Where of your goal.
Measurable- How will you know when the goal has been reached?
Attainable- How can this goal be achieved?
Relevant- Does the goal seem worthwhile? Is it the right time to reach the goal?
Timely- What is a reasonable timeline to attain your goal?

I was also taught the value of adding an E-R to the end of the acronym.

Evaluate- As you are working toward your goal it is important to check your progress.
Revise- After you evaluate it is a great time to make adjustments to your goal and plan.

When you consider the SMART goal guidelines what do you see?  It makes me realize that I probably need to break down my goals into more specific chunks and include intermediate deadlines.  Keeping up with goals isn't always easy, but having a set of steps to reach the goal is a great start.  Let’s go through an example of a goal from my 2013 list of goals and see how I did (or did not) make it follow the SMART criteria.

“Take advantage of at least one free webinar each month.”

So, how was this goal?  Was it specific?  Yes, though it probably could have been phrased a little more clearly.  It states my intention to attend a free webinar each month.

Was it measurable? Sure.  Each month I could check to see if I attended one and I’d met that goal for the month.

Attainable?  Yes, thanks to the Legacy Family Tree Webinars there are free ones almost every week!  This year I had many choices with the Association of Professional Genealogists, National Archives, and Federation of Genealogical Societies all providing great opportunities to learn.

Is the goal relevant?  Definitely.  As any genealogist will attest- we must always be keeping up with the latest and greatest research tools out there.  Learning keeps us on our toes and gives us the opportunity to break down brick walls.

So then what about Timeliness?  I really didn't phrase the goal in a way that could be crunched into a timeline.  I did say that each month I wanted to do this, but I didn't say if it was for a year, 6-months, or more.  This will be something I will need to revise for next time I make this goal.

As I’m sure you've realized the year is almost over and you may be wondering (as I am) how I did in accomplishing this goal.  So let’s Evaluate and Revise so that next year I can make the goal a little better.  After reviewing my calendar I was able to find the following results for each month:

January: SoCal Gen Webinar

February: DearMyrtle: Metadata is Your Friend

March: Rootstech Live Streaming Sessions, Legacy Webinar: Behind the Cheese Curtain (Wisconsin research)

April: None!  Though I did get education that month with a Palatines to America seminar with John Colletta (aren't’ you jealous?) and the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference

May: Nope.

June: Nopers.

July: Nyet.

August: Legacy Webinar: Colonial Immigrants

September: Legacy Webinar: More Blogging for Beginners

October: Legacy Webinar: Using Court Records

So, even though I didn't accomplish my goal for the months of April through July, I do feel like as a whole the goal was realistic and beneficial.  I may not always be able to watch a webinar, but once a month is certainly within my powers.  This is one goal that I’ll be continuing for the next year.  What about you?  What is a goal that you’d like to accomplish?

About Jennifer Alford

Jennifer Alford is a writer, artist, and genealogy professional specializing in research in Jewish genealogy and the Midwest. As the owner of Jenealogy ( she creates engaging family history treasures to enhance the bond between generations. The love of photography, storytelling, and history combine in her blog and unique products. As part of The In-Depth Genealogist's Leadership Team, Jen is Publisher of IDG's monthly magazine, Going In-Depth.

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