Yogi Berra might not have had genealogy in mind when he said "You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going because you might not get there," but it is a good message to genealogists.
Excitement runs high when we think about visiting a courthouse, library or cemetery. We know who we are researching, but do we take time to analyze exactly what we need and where we might find that information? It isn't difficult if we just take a few minutes to plan.
You may call it a Research Plan, a To Do list or a Check List, but whatever you call it, just make it and use it. It will keep you focused on what you need to find out and where to look for the needed information.
Are you searching for a death date from the 1800s? What records might hold the answer - a will or estate record? Could it be found in a church record? How about a cemetery record? Again, all it takes is a few minutes to come up with a list of what you need and where to look.
I keep a running list for each family I am researching and when it is time to visit the research facility, that list goes on top of my research notebook. When I arrive at my destination, the list comes out and I go to work. After looking for each item, a check mark is made beside it. If nothing was found, a big X goes next to the item. When I get home and review what was found or not found, the items with the X are analyzed. Did I look in the right places or do I need to look elsewhere? If additional research is needed, I start a new list with the new location as the focus. Be sure to keep a list of where you have already looked for the information so that you do not duplicate your search.
Being organized won't guarantee you find what you need, but it certainly makes searching a lot easier.