Fifteen minutes a day

Last Updated on November 23, 2018 by Dave Farquhar

I’ve been spending entirely too much time on train forums lately. So have a lot of other people. Places that used to be good for learning things have turned into cliques, or worse yet, hateful arguments over stupid things like whether Lionel O gauge is more popular than HO scale (something that hasn’t been true since about 1957, and I’m shocked anyone has believed otherwise since about 1960).

A few months ago, someone actually posted something helpful: a suggestion that you spend 15 minutes a day working on your hobby instead of talking about it.

Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot of time, but that’s the point. You can almost always find 15 minutes. And 15 minutes isn’t enough time to accomplish anything major, but you can accomplish lots of little things, and getting those little things out of the way can make things more productive on those days when you have a big block of time you can dedicate to it.

Here are some 15-minute projects I’ve accomplished in the last couple of weeks:

1. Drill holes in the supports under the table to accommodate a bus wire.

2. Run a bus wire around the underside of the layout to make wiring anything and everything above the table a simple matter of running feeder wires down to the bus. I needed four: one common (or ground), one for each loop of track, and one for lighting.

3. Run feeder wires to one track section or one building. Or two if there’s enough time.

4. Remove one building from the layout and put glazing in the windows. Spend as many days as necessary on that building.

Here are some other ideas for 15-minute projects:

Install one streetlight. Wiring can be a separate project if need be.

Assemble one Plasticville kit.

Make one tree.

Place a couple of figures someplace to make some kind of interesting scene–the best layouts are made up of mini vignettes that tell lots of stories.

The cool thing is that most of these build on one another. And while there was no visible benefit to the first two projects, which admittedly took several days to accomplish, now I’m at a point where each of these 15-minute projects creates something highly visible.

Also note that a lot of people would consider steps 1-3 one big project. The problem is that such a project, even on a small 8×8 layout like mine, can consume a whole weekend. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t sit under my layout messing around with wire for hours at a time. I believe that I often accomplish as much in four separate 15-minute sessions as I do in a couple of hours because I can keep my focus.

And there’s another nice thing. At the end of my 15 minutes, I’ve accomplished something with some tangible benefit. It’s OK if it isn’t visible, because it will be in a few days. Spend 15 minutes on a train forum, and you might learn something or help someone else, but depending on the forum, it seems more likely that somebody’s just going to make you mad.

If I manage to keep this up, in a year I will have spent 91 hours and 15 minutes working on the layout. There’ll be days when I won’t have 15 minutes, but I should be able to find that much most days. Even if I only do it half the time, I can still spend more than 40 hours working on the layout next year.

And I’ll accomplish more than I would have if I’d taken a week’s vacation and spent it working on the layout. Because we all know that will never happen.

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