Are you making it easy or hard to work on your family history?
Here’s one simple get-it-done principle that could make the difference between achieving your family history goals or not!
Here’s a quote by James Clear, author of Atomic Habits:
“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.”
James goes on to say that every habit is highly dependent on our environment, but that we don’t have to be the victim of our environment: We can intentionally design an environment that’s a positive influence for us—and I have certainly found that to be true for working on my family history.
Let me tell you a little story…
I’m fortunate to have an office I can call my own. It’s MY space and I can do anything I want with it, and yet it never occurred to me to arrange it so it was friendly for scanning my photos.
I kept saying the same things everyone else says, “I’ll get to that someday.” But you know how it is… there’s always something else more urgent grabbing our attention and keeping us from following through on our commitment to Get It Done!
Then I read Atomic Habits by James Clear and I was inspired to set a small achievable goal of 5 minutes a day to get some scanning done. I made some minor changes to my office to make achieving that goal easier, and set a specific time early in the morning for doing it. I didn’t always meet my daily goal but I often went more than 5 minutes, so it kind of averaged out.
Then came disaster—at least for my habit.
We were doing some renovation in my office so I had to move my scanning into a more public place in the house. This totally skewered me because my normal time to scan was first thing early in the morning, 4 or 5 or 6 a.m., but in my new location I was worried I would wake up Charlie.
So first, I had to change the time and that messed me up. Getting any work done on family history seemed harder at any other time of day.
Also, the new location wasn’t friendly to scanning at ANY time of day since it was right in the middle of all the action.
Over the next month I moved to two other locations, each time feeling disrupted and off balance.
And, of course, things always take longer than you think they will, so guess what?
I’m STILL not back in my office!
How do you think I’m doing with my scanning habit?
Hmmmmm. Not so well.
Learning From Setbacks
Circumstances can temporarily or permanently alter our environment, but here’s the takeaway:
Just like in real estate, location matters. If you want to turn family history into a consistent habit that will eventually conquer those boxes of photos, you’ll have to be intentional about your work setup and keep everything you need for scanning in one spot—YOUR scanning spot.
You should definitely discuss the location of that spot with anyone else who lives in the same house, just so everyone agrees and understands that this is Your Spot.
Even if it’s in a public place have an agreement that it’s YOUR spot and make sure they understand that you’ll be working on your family history during an scheduled time. The equation for this is found in Chapter 5 of Atomic Habits: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]
So that could be:
I will scan family photos right after breakfast in the guest bedroom,
or maybe the only place you have is a chair and end table in the living room,
or a corner desk in the kitchen.
That’s OK as long as everyone knows this is YOUR spot. Every time you see it you’ll be reminded of your new habit, and as the days go by you’ll be amazed to see all those small wins stack up to a lot of accomplishment!
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