As I may have mentioned on the blog a time or five, something I often struggle with is finding enough time to do the ridiculous amount of nerdy things I want to do. I have so many hobbies that I could comfortably fill about three lifetimes with all the things on my to read/watch/make/play list, and as one might expect, it gets a little overwhelming. However, that’s starting to change due to my new favorite hobby-related strategy!
I’ve talked before about managing your time as a nerd, but I want to take a more in-depth look at a trick that helps me maximize my free time, set goals for the things I want to tackle next, and even get a better sense for which of my many hobbies I most value and want to devote more time to. While your mileage may vary with this tool, I’ve certainly found it useful enough to want to pitch it to other nerds who might find themselves having the same difficulty I do.
I call it…the Hobby Calendar!
Lackluster name aside, I’m of the opinion that it’s one of the better ideas I’ve had in a while. The concept is simple, but I’ve found it really helps me stay focused and keep from being paralyzed with indecision every time I have a moment’s free time. I find myself thinking, “I could do anything…anything at all! But what will I choose?” and then end up waffling endlessly over it and consequently wasting a sizable chunk of that precious free time, without making progress on anything whatsoever.
Last year, I decided I’d had enough, and that it was time to take charge. So I sat down, opened up a new spreadsheet, and made a list of my main hobbies in one column. In another, I listed the months of the year, and then proceeded to arrange the hobbies by month in a way that I felt made sense. Here’s what I ended up with:
As you can see, there aren’t many moving parts, and there’s nothing to regularly record (yet, anyway); it mainly serves as a reminder for what’s coming up next. Unsurprisingly, choosing what to put where was the hardest part. Some of the choices were arbitrary, but there was a method to my madness for others — for example, November is National Novel Writing Month, so naturally, that one had to be writing. And I know February is always the month that I end up feeling apathetic and really bogged down by winter, so I picked video games for that month since it’s low-key, doesn’t require much work, and allows me to hibernate.
You’ll also see that some months are doubled up — instead of breaking my hobbies down into twelve different activities, I chose to keep things more broad so that, while the calendar removes the “blank canvas” effect, I still have some freedom to decide what “crafting” or “writing” means to me on a given day. However, this is another spot where you can change things up to work for you. Maybe you work better when things are parsed out in more detail, or maybe you like the freedom that comes with broader categories — either method can be useful; it just depends your preference.
I’ve been using my calendar since June, so I won’t come full circle until May, but so far, this method has been really helpful — and even eye-opening — for me. One thing I’ve realized is that the thing I most often wish I were doing when I’m doing something else is crafting. This tells me that when push comes to shove, if I really had to narrow it down, making stuff would be my top priority. Knowing this, I can proceed with planning future months accordingly (whether that means setting aside more time for crafty activities, or keeping more variety on the list so that I’m more likely to branch out and learn new stuff).
As I more or less expected, some months have gone better than others — for example, reading month was easy, since I can pick up a book for just a few minutes and still make a little progress, which isn’t something I can do with, say, a story I’m working on or a show I want to watch. And sometimes months just end up being really full and I don’t end up with much free time at all (Artwork month just wrapped up, and, well…let’s just say there are a lot of ideas in my head that haven’t made it to paper yet).
But regardless of what I accomplish in a particular month, the sense of focus I get from the calendar means that I still get more done than I would have otherwise. And beyond getting rid of some decision fatigue, the calendar helps me put aside the guilt I’d normally have while working on something, wondering if my time would have been better spent in another way. Say in February I spend an afternoon playing Legend of Zelda, and the thought strikes me that maybe I should be getting more done on the craft languishing on my shelf instead. But when that thought comes, I can just remind myself that it’s video game month, and regardless of what else I could be doing, this is what I’ve chosen to do, and therefore, I have permission to not feel bad about it. In fact, I can enjoy it even more because of that!
So, what do you think, friends? Would you give the hobby calendar a try? What are some other tricks you’ve found helpful in your quest to do All The Things?
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