Timeboxing the Hobby (redux)

Have you ever heard of Gall’s Law? It basically states “complex systems that work evolved from simpler systems that worked. If you want to build a complex system that works, build a simpler system first and then improve it over time.”

Gall’s Law worked out really well for me in my painting habit. Instead of getting overwhelmed, just adding a little bit of time every day as the step 1 led to me planning more what I was going to do in that short amount of time. I knew it was impossible to paint a full unit in the time I had. In fact, I couldn’t even paint a whole model. This forced me to really look at what steps I could complete in the alotted time.

They absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.

My initial thought on this was that it would work better if I painted just a single model and tried to get it as done as possible. Time spent finding the paints and switching out the water and paint as necessary ate into a non-insignificant portion of the time. It evolved for me to paint up a stage at a time on 5 models (whether character or unit model is irrelevant for the vast majority of models).

Once I started taking this approach, it led me to document each step which evolved into my How I Paint My… articles so it could be reproducible and in those times that I couldn’t even squeeze in a half hour for a few weeks, I wouldn’t completely forget how I did things and have to waste time trying to remember.

Gratuitous Chronomancer picture.

I was reminded of Gall’s Law recently when I started using Obsidian as a personal knowledge management system.

My new job has me working in a familiar role (software QA engineer) in a completely new field (hosting). It has been such a different world that I often felt, and still do to some extent, that I was drinking from the proverbial fire hose. Basically, I had two options: I could either continue to be waterboarded in knowledge, or I could step aside and use cups to get water from the stream. Okay, yeah, I am stretching the metaphor here, but I hope you are following.

Since I have an aversion to outright failure, I chose the latter. I had been taking down copious notes in a couple of different apps as well as a paper journal, but the problem ended up being a difficulty in finding them or even remembering what I had written. I started searching around for some other options and looked at Roam, Notion, and a couple of other options. I finally stumbled upon Obsidian thanks to a youtube video that was pointing out some of the security concerns around Notion. Since I have been prepping for the Security + certification that, that had been on my mind so resonated with me.

Giant robot with spindly legs and huge laser gun is exactly my kind of toy.

Man am I ever grateful I did. Obsidian has a bit of a learning curve, but also an amazingly helpful community in both forum and discord (I miss forums! That is a topic for another day.) I am not going to talk much more about Obsidian right now, but guarantee that I will in the not so distant future.

“Wait a second…” I hear you grouse. “This was supposed to be a hobby post.”

Indeed it is, but I just needed to lay some things out. Right now I am a father and a husband, I work full time, I am outlining a new book, I read daily (alternating fiction and non-fiction), and I am a part time student. I need about 30 hours a day in order to meet my obligations, much less any hobbies (social media has also been largely dropped for a variety of reasons) – if you need reasons to cut way way back, watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3E7hkPZ-HTk .

“Wake up earlier” is the obvious suggestion. However, despite living in Los Angeles, CA (USA) I work on Eastern time (also USA). That means my work day starts around 5:00 AM. I am already waking up at 3:45 to exercise – COVID-19 really was a wakeup call to me to get fit – so that is really not an option. Waking up at 3:45 means I need to go to bed by 7:30.

Actual picture of me circa this morning ~3:45 getting ready to jog.

When I don’t hobby, I get cranky. My wife notices, my kids notice, and my work suffers. Being unemployed I’d gotten a little lazy in timeboxing my hobby. I am starting that back up now. Which gets me back to Gall’s Law. I had worked out a pretty complex system for getting a lot of painting done in a relatively short amount of time. That system had gotten pretty complex, and no longer worked for my current life situation. I needed to strip back to the simple system that started it all for me.

Timebox painting. So that is what I am doing. Twenty minutes a day. Let’s see what I can get done. I am going to be posting them as daily blogs (basically because one of the things I am learning is a deeper diver into WordPress and this helps me rationalize the 20 minutes of hobby time). I am hoping to build back up to a more complex hobby habit, but going back the basics of planning a step, seeing what I can get done in 20 minutes, and then putting it down.

The largest empire is built upon a single conquest.