Friday, October 7, 2011

Finding time...

Gotta love that smile 

In one of the comments, a reader asked me how I find the time for my hobby, family, friends, and work (and presumably blogging). Sometimes I wonder how I do myself. I thought a bit more about it, and realized that it isn't really about "finding time", it's about "making time". I'm not talking about building a time machine (although that would be cool), but making the most of the time you have.

Prioritizing is, in my opinion, the way to go. Obviously family comes first, that goes without saying (although I've said it here for added emphasis). We have a nice little routine going. From the moment I wake up until I take my daughter to daycare, that's family time. From the moment my wife brings her home until I tuck her in bed, that's family time. Weekends while she's awake? Family time. Of course, sometimes my wife will take Emily shopping or to the movies, that's a bit of time for me, which I usually spend hobbying.

For me, work comes next. Without work there is no money to keep the food on the table or a roof over our head. Simple really. I'm also "lucky" that I really love my job. I say "lucky" in that I decided I wanted to work in the toy soldier biz, and my wife supports that decision.

A new Empire army and her favorite models on the table were my 5-year old Knights 

After family and work comes friends and hobby. Those two are kind of on par. Fortunately most of my friends are hobbyists too, so hanging out with them generally means doing something hobby-related (gaming, painting, Games Day, Adepticon, etc etc). Also, the part of the hobby I love the most is the modeling and painting, something that's very easy to do by myself, at my desk, once my family has gone to bed.

Married...with Children. My wife and daughter made the trip to 
Chicago with me for Games Day (and sightseeing obviously) 

Apparently this Ogre Bellower was yelling "Peekaboo, I love you!"

My wife is a morning person, I'm a night owl. It took us a little while to get used to that, but we've got it worked out by now. So, on any given night, I'll usually be able to get in three or four hours of hobbying (or blogging). Add that up over a week and you're looking at 21-28 hours. If my wife has given me a few extra hours on the weekend, things look even better.

But let's get back to the "making time" thing. The following ideas typically work best if you have an army project you are working on. You can more easily keep your models/materials in a tray (like the one on the table above) and keep that handy in the kitchen, dining room, office etc. Try:

• Clip your bitz from their sprues ahead of time into a small plastic tackle box. If you have a desk job you can clip during your lunch break.

• Once you have everything clipped, you can do the basic assembly at any time you have a few minutes (like when you're on hold with your phone/electricity/cable tv company). Gluing legs to bases is a fairly menial task that doesn't always require all your focus.

• Do your basing/base painting in the morning while the coffee is brewing. A simple task like gluing on flock doesn't take too long and you can get a squad done in the time it takes to brew a pot.

If you are feeling the crunch of family/work/friends on your hobby time, look for opportunities during your day/week to make time for your hobby. Oh, and things like watching TV and playing video games are a complete time sink. Cutting back on both, or cutting them out altogether, is another great way to "make time". Although I often have the TV on while painting, I rarely look at it. There are movies I've heard a hundred times, and I'm often surprised by things I've never seen ; )

So, that's how I "find time" for the four most important things in my life (family/work/friends/hobby), I "make time" wherever I can, without compromising the most important things. I'm sure that's how many of you do it too.

And just so we're clear on what I do for a living, I'm the US Editor for Wargames Illustrated. That means that 95% of the time I'm liasing with contributors, planning with our UK team, photographing cool games/models/tables, and laying out 40+ pages a month. I enjoy all of it. Sometimes, however, I also get a chance to work on a modeling or painting project for a particular article. The last one was the frozen French battalion (seen here). And this 18th Century Massachusetts farmhouse is the latest.

I converted up one of the Perry's plastic American Farmhouse kits to loosely match a few buildings that probably dotted the countryside during the turbulent times of 1775. Look for the full article in our January issue (WI291).

Of course, my daughter loves it when I bring my projects up to the dining room table. Above you can see her impression of the Big, Bad Wolf, huffing and puffing and trying to blow the farmhouse down. How cool is that? : )


PS. Oh, and in case I haven't mentioned it before, we have another daughter on the way. She's due in late November. I'm hoping she'll be just as intrigued and delighted by this toy malarkey as her big sister is!


  1. Dave, I've gotten the same questions, and seem to be in the same situation with my wife as you are with yours as far as the hours of the day we're awake. It's funny, but even my son, who turns 4 in January, knows what "Daddy's toys" are and loves it when I take them down for him to look at and touch.

    You've gotta make the time, and we do slot of the same things to prep and save time as we can, and keep productive with the time we have. Anyone who has a family and thinks he can't hobby and have fun with his or her toy soldiers needs to read this post.

    Well done, sir.

    PS: had to edit my comment for some embarrassing typos :P

  2. Great work on the conversion of the Perry building I love what you have done there and hope you don't mind if I do something similar?

  3. Most of our home improvement projects are done now so I will be trying out a similar approach once we establish a bedtime routine for my little hoardling. Good to hear it can be done, even if it takes a little work.

  4. Nice article, and congrats on the second child! My first is due in 2 weeks but could arrive any time now :)

    I'm trying to get as organized as possible and to nail down a routine so I can keep all of those priorities/activities in the schedule. Thanks for sharing that it can be done!

  5. Good to read about your experiences, which are similar to mine in many ways - particularly the daughter due in November (congrats to you!)

    This kind of experience will become all the more common as we gamers 'mature' through our 30s and 40s. I think it was Lewis Carroll who said something like: if you think it's time to 'put away childish things' then you've never really grown up at all. Wise words.

  6. Great article on a topic thatnis rarely touched upon!

    Sounds like you have a good system and definitely the right priorities. Yet still you manage to churn out great armies at a phenomenal rate! It must be some kind of black magic really, right? :)



  7. As a father of two boys, working mostly at home, I have similar routine. I'm working at something I like (editing and writing military history publications), my wife and kids are used to this, and I'm night owl too. Every night I try to spend at least an hour, preferably two, painting, modelling, taking photos, etc. Sometimes I'm able to squeeze some additional hobbytime just after work... If I would cut out computer games... well, let's just say that it would be another hour or so daily... BTW - congrats on Your family, my younger boy is in Your girl age and shows similar interests in daddy's toys (Daddy, I wanna have such skeletons too, many of them.) :)

  8. Great post! My first is due in February so it's nice to see I still have hope of getting my toys painted with a little girl in the house.
    I laughed at the TV/movie comments because it's so true - I've heard a thousand episodes of Law and Order but have only "watched" a handful. Foreign films are almost out of the picture entirely...hard to read subtitles and paint at the same time! - Tim

  9. great post, my daughter is 3.5 years old :)

  10. Thanks Dave. Good information here. I have a 5 yr old daughter and an 18 month old son who as you said come first. I think the night owl thing is looking to be a norm amongst gamers. I'm in college full time right now and will not be able to squeeze in as much time as you were talking about. It's a good starting point though and that's what I needed.

  11. Great stuff Dave, your a lucky guy.

  12. oh, and please build her a house from straw that she can blow down.

  13. Great article Dave. You're right about TV being a big time sink which is why I do a lot of painting and modelling whilst half watching the TV. I am so used to doing that now that when I'm not doing anything whilst watching TV I feel like I'm wasting time.

  14. I had real challenges balancing hobby time and family time early on when the kids came along, and hobbying always lost. After a few years, I managed to get a better rhythm down. Right after bedtime came some time doing work around the house and then hobbying. As they've gotten older it has gotten easier. I even have a weekly hobby night now where a few guys come over and paint, after the kids are all in bed.

    And I loved it when the kids would supply names or dialog for my minis. Get her painting! That's what GW started boxes are made for!

  15. Great article Dave. I know how hard it is to do stuff and keep everything balanced and in perspective. Your article has helped me regain my focus. Congrats on the new rug rat by the way. Hope all is well with the wife and new addition.

  16. Dave, that's some great work on the miniature so far, and on the one on the way! It's interesting that as a kid we're time rich but money poor, but as we grow up we become time poor. Family always has to be a priority, however, it's always nice to get some "me" time!

  17. I admire your time making abilities! I've recently started back to college after 20 years out of school and my schedule is a mess. I keep saying I'm going to stay up a little later and work on something "fun", but after a full day of work and a couple hours of class, nothing seems like a bigger priority than sleep. I do like your hobby tray idea though. I'm just not sure my two year old (the terrible tornado) and my one year old (deceptively cute but almost as ornery as her older brother) would make the venture possible.

  18. Hi guys

    Thanks for all your comments. It's great to see so many dedicated fathers (and fathers-to-be) reading the blog.

    My congratulations to those going back to school (or still there), I know I couldn't go back. Obviously throw that on top of all the other stuff I talked about and something's got to give. My best wishes to you all. : )


    PS. Vinnie - feel free to convert away. I look forward to seeing the results on your blog!

  19. Congrats on the child-to-be. I certainly have to say that you're lucky in more ways than one.

    I have to unfortunately 'forcefully' make time to hobby. I have about 4 hours a weekday that I'm not working, commuting or sleeping and in those 4 hours I need to eat dinner and spend time with the wife piece. So I find myself compromising time and forgoing non obligatory affairs to be able to fit in small amounts of hobby. Pretty much the only time/day I can manage this are Sunday afternoons/evenings. It's an unfortunate reality that I have become a slave to the paycheck (meaning I work all the damn time). :(

  20. It is always interesting to see how others fit in work/family/hobby/friends - good to see that life is good for you at the moment and good luck with the new baby.


  21. Great post Dave! probably my favorite in years. Time management becomes a quest when a gamer gets a family going. :)

    Although I probably only get in 1.5-2 hours to your 4ish, I still love the way my life is set up. My whole family wakes at 6am and so starts family time.

    If you are lucky enough that your wife understands your hobby and sometimes gives you crunch time before a tournament, even better.

    Good stuff,

  22. Good post. I echo a lot of what you say, and find similarities; wife the morning person, me the night owl..., painting after kids go to sleep, and avoiding wasting time watching TV (but listening...) or playing computer games. I also found my blogging increased over last year with a blogger upgrade, and getting internet at work, I can usually find a spare moment there for an update. I also trim plastic figures at work during my brief lunch break. You've gotta find time when you can.
    Nice to see your families involvement too.

  23. I think you're speaking for the majority that play this hobby, it's pretty much all or nothing at times personally I feel a lot of it is to do with the people that you play with or at times the lack of them to play against, dictates your eagerness in the hobby after all it can end up being work.