Time Saving Tips

Other than money, the one thing that historical organizations tend to lack is time. Instead of focusing on that lack, I thought it might be a good idea to share ways in which we’ve learned how to make efficient use of our time, thus giving us more time for other tasks. How do you save time during your work in local history?

To start your wheels turning, here are a couple of things we do at the Morrison County Historical Society:

  • Make a list of things to do for the day or week. Absolutely critical for me, or I’d never stay focused.
  • When going through the mail, sort items out by order of importance. Junk mail goes in the recycling bin immediately. Bills go in the “to be paid” basket. Research requests go to whoever is in charge of answering them. Etc. Etc. Once sorted, deal with the easy stuff first. The point is to get through the mail in such a way that you are not having to handle unnecessary items more than once. Ditto on this for email.

Okay, your turn to share your time-saving tips. I’ve got a bunch more to prod you with if you get stuck.

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About Mary Warner

Museum Manager for the Morrison County Historical Society, which owns and operates The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum in Little Falls, MN.
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4 Responses to Time Saving Tips

  1. Much like the Coffee Can Disaster Plan you mentioned, it seems that the smaller the institution the more boiled down things need to be. This idea of time saving seems similar to conversations I’ve had with teachers who likewise do not have lots of time to devote to new things and consequently, like Joe Friday, want “Just the facts, ma’am.” This is not to suggest dumbing down, but more along the lines of clearly written primers that introduce knowledge in bite sizes. Would you say that captures a sense of the issue?


  2. Mary Warner says:

    Yes, David, that sums it up to a certain extent, but even when we take into consideration issues of scale, there are still particular tasks that will potentially take the same amount of time whether being done by a large organization or small. How do we build efficiencies into those tasks?

    Let’s examine newsletter writing and layout, for example. We tend to produce newsletters that contain heavily researched articles. We could produce a newsletter that simply updates members on the activities of our organization, and that’s one way to speed up the newsletter task. Our members have come to depend upon our well-researched articles, so we aren’t going to skimp on those. Instead, we build our efficiencies into the newsletter in other ways, like by having a template to plop articles into.

    Some of the efficiencies are seen over time. For example, once we’ve written our articles, we put them on our website so that other researchers can find them. The articles do double and triple duty for later reference and research. We also theme our newsletters to match other things we are doing at the museum. We are currently gathering history on local musicians past & present, so the last newsletter we did covered that theme. We are also building an exhibit to match the music theme.

    Structuring activities, events, publications, and web content around themes is one way history organizations can save time, whether large or small. It isn’t always about boiling things down for small organizations so much as it’s about putting out a quality product and service in a highly efficient way.


  3. Several years ago, I stopped mounting on foam core the photos we used in our displays and switched to printing images on our printer and framing them, sometimes w/text other time alone. Why? Well part of it was that I got tired of spraying the 3M mount junk, getting it all over my hands, and then cutting the foam core. But that was not the only reason.

    When the display is done, I file those images and re-use them in other ways. One is putting them in our display case at the local nursing home. Another is for handouts at group presentations (school classes, civic groups, etc.). Foam core mounted images are just not workable for those applications.

    This is just one small way I try to re-use what we have for maximum benefit.

    That and I just like how photos look in frames.


  4. Mary says:

    One of the time-saving processes I developed within the first year of employment with MCHS was to create a Research Response Form. Prior to this form, we were responding to researchers by writing letters to each one. This wasn’t a particularly efficient use of time because whatever research we were sending out tended to be self-explanatory – no need to list it all or explain it in a letter.

    Our Research Response Form also serves as the bill for research staff have completed and it has a space for us to write a note to the researcher if necessary.


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