Seven Habits of Highly Effective Genealogists
Adapted from the lectures of Stephen Covey
Ancestry Magazine Article Nov/Dec 2004
by Beau Sharbrough
Be Proactive. Address the challenges that impede your progress. Whether you do something as minor as listing your brick walls, reading books about mastering your challenges, to attending society meetings or conferences, do something. Ask yourself what things you can do and then take action.
Begin with the end in mind. Have a goal of what you want to accomplish. Do you want to publish a family history or display charts and pictures on a wall? Your next steps will depend on where you want to go.
Put first things first. No matter what your goals, they can be accomplished by working on a list of tasks that you have set for yourself. It is you that must determine what is most important, and that is what you should do first. Do not major in minor things.
Think win-win. Other researchers are probably working on most of your family lines. Through collaboration with them, all of you can further your knowledge of your related families. Covey’s habits would suggest that you look for ways that all parties will gain from the collaboration.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood. When you attempt to collaborate, conflicts will arise. People often confuse broadcasting with communication. In broadcasting you speak your ideas without listening or considering the ideas of others. Communication is bi-directional. If you can’t state the other person’s position in your own words in a way the other person agrees describes his views, you do not yet understand and probably will not resolve the conflict.
Synergize. Find creative ways to communicate with others to resolve opposing views. This does not mean “winning the debate”. If you and another researcher have conflicting data, it doesn’t mean convincing them that yours is right or accepting a compromise. It may mean that each of you agree to attempt to find additional sources until the additional data makes the situation more clear.
Sharpen the saw. Do things to help you work better, to keep current on the “best practices” for genealogists. You can do this through reading about genealogy and attending conferences. There are many other ways to sharpen your skills through learning, practicing, communicating, and thinking creatively about your challenges. To truly learn a subject, try teaching it to others.
Follow these steps, thinking creatively about your challenges, and choosing actions to make a difference, and you will become a more effective genealogist. Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits” are effective disciplines not only for genealogy but for life as well.