Getting Things Done When You Have Limited Free Time

Depending on where we are in life, the amount of time we have available to devote to our hobby will vary.  Regardless of our circumstances at any particular moment, however, we all want to have the satisfaction of knowing that we are getting at least a few things accomplished.  That can be much easier said than done if you have other competing priorities such as family, career, home & yard maintenance, etc. Even during the busiest of times though, there are strategies that you can put in place to make the best of the few precious hours you do have.

  • Understand your own personal clock in terms of when you’re at your creative peak.  Are you a night owl?  Earlier bird?  When are you feeling focused and when are you feeling fried?  It’s important to know. A good friend of mine made a good point when he told me, “Sure I have time in the evening but after a long day at work, and a one hour commute, all I have left in the tank is having a cold beer and watching television”.  We can all relate.
  • Split your modeling activities into two groups, “Peak Productivity” and “Brain Dead Activities”.  A peak activity would be something that takes your utmost concentration and generally involves creative or delicate tasks.  Weathering a freight car, hand building a turnout, and structure assembly would all fall into this group.  Brain dead activities would include running to the store to get materials, preparing parts, cleaning, ballasting, etc.
  • Limit social media.  Facebook can be a double edged sword.  On the plus side it gives you access to some great groups but personally I feel the negatives outweigh the positives in terms of its addictive and often toxic characteristics.  Nobody gets to December 31 and looks back with a sense of accomplishment for those hundreds of hours spent arguing about politics with strangers and looking at photos of somebody’s dinner at TGI Friday’s.  I’ve removed the app from my phone and check in once on my desktop briefly in the morning.  I get no notifications.

Knowing when you’re at your best, you want to be solely focused during that time on Peak Activities.  If you only have three hours free on a Sunday night you don’t want to spend half that time at Lowes looking for a part.  If you can spend your peak productive time from a point of total focus on creative production you’ll be surprised how much you can get done over the course of a year.

Last year I was swamped writing the design book for Kalmbach  much of which had to be done during off hours when I wasn’t at work.  I’m now at the tail end of a kitchen remodeling diy project that at times seemed to have no end. That took time away from modeling also.  In order to make any semblance of progress with my personal modeling I had to employ these strategies.  During my brain dead time during the week I make a list of all of the supplies I’ll need from the hobby store and hardware store and pick those up.  I pull all of the tools I’ll need and lay them neatly on my work bench.  If I’m working on a kit I’ll do some light parts prep such as removing things from the sprue and cleaning them up.  When I get those few free hours on Saturday morning or Sunday night I can then make the most of them.

If you’re interested in more depth on creative productivity:

There was a great article in the Washington Post this week on the subject.  You can read it HERE.

A very well done book on the subject is “Manage Your Day-To-Day”