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Planning Your Hobby Project

Between piles of gray sprues, dozens on unfinished models, and perhaps a few pieces of terrain, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by what is supposed to be your hobby. I’m hoping that my notes below will help you with planning your hobby projects and get some of them done.

How to plan your hobby projects

Unfortunately, too many people think of planning and organizing from school days. It was a chore, something that was graded.

Instead, the planning process I’m talking about here is how I organize my hobby projects and blog posts. It brings enough order to my chaotic life so that I am able keep from getting overwhelmed.

Why Plan


For me, there are three big reasons to plan:

1. Create Mile Stones

Buy, build, and paint a whole new army is a ton of work. For most of us, this is an overwhelming about of work before it’s done.

But break that down into buy, build, and paint a new unit or character – and that becomes a whole lot more manageable. It’s no longer this big beast that will never get done, but steps that seem doable.

2. Set expectations

Plans also allow you to spell out exactly you are trying to accomplish. An ambitious goal of “paint an awesome model” or “build the best, most crushing army ever” are hard to accomplish. Because what does an awesome model look like to you?

So writing up a plan and specifying what it is you are trying to accomplish make the goal tangible, and realizable.

3. Accomplishments provide incentive

Creating an achievable plan and it’s incremental milestones gives you a dopamine hit every time you accomplish a task. These small wins push you to keep finishing more steps, and eventually, the whole project has been completed.

Getting Started

If you are to this point, you are ready to get on with it and help you in planning your hobby project. As you read through this, don’t be surprised if it seems like obvious steps. We all know what to do, sometimes we just need someone to remind us and write it down. So, here it goes.

Step 1: Write Down Your Objective

Grab a sheet of paper, a Word document, or whatever you want to take some quick notes one. At the very top, in large letters, write down exactly what you want to finish.

I want to build, paint, and finish my Dreadnought by October 31st.

In the business world, they like the term SMART goals:

  • Specific = details and exactly what you will do (paint my dreadnought)
  • Measurable = can you determine success (it’s built and painted)
  • Achievable = is it actually possible to do (I’ve built and paint them before)
  • Rewarding = is it even worth doing (I enjoy painting and want to finish more)
  • Time bound = provide a deadline (October 31st)

If your goal meets the five criteria it increases your chance of actually finishing it. If not, then rework the wording until you have something that works for you.

Step 2: Write Down the Major Milestones

Now it’s time to break that goal down into manageable steps. Under your main goal, write down the big steps it will take to get there. Leave some space between each task to add in the details.

  1. Assembly the Model
  2. Paint the base colors
  3. Paint the details
  4. Weathering
  5. The base
  6. Photograph it
  7. Post it to the blog

Each step should help get you toward the end goal and in a way, SMART. They don’t have to be equal in time and effort through. In my example above, painting the base may only take an hour, while the details and weathering could take weeks. If you need to, break down some of the big steps into smaller blocks.

Step 3: Break Milestones Down into Tasks

For some, this may be getting to details and prescriptive, so if you are happy with the milestones, skip this step. For others, especially for those who love to cross things off, it can be helpful to break down the milestones into smaller, detailed tasks.

So for 1. Assemble the Model, may break down into:  Clip bits from the sprue, assemble the legs and body, adjust the pose, assemble the arms, attach the details.

Each task should be what you could accomplish in a hobby session. So if you are able to get half an hour in each morning, then what can you do during that time. The small, incremental tasks give you a more focused look at what to do next and what you have left to do.

Step 4: Set Deadlines for Milestones

For each of the major milestones, set a deadline for completing it. This is why challenges like Dreadtober are so popular. The deadline provides an incentive to put in a few extra hours and just finish the step.

The deadline creates an urgency but also helps make it more manageable. If you have a big project to finish (like completing an army before an event) you can break each milestone down into individual deadlines. This unit will be completed this day, that unit the next week. It gives you a sense of how far along you are and if you really are falling behind or way ahead.


Awesome, at this point, I hopefully have convinced you of the importance of goals, planning, and all those amazing milestones.

But how do you keep track of it all?

A lot of that depends on how you work and if you like digital or old-school pen and paper. For the digital people, I have two suggestions that I have used. Both are free and aim at two different styles of organizing tasks and projects.

1. Trello

Trello is the tool that I use every day at work and for this blog. You can think of it as a digital note card holder where each card is organized into little piles. I wrote up how I use Trello to organize in another post that is well worth the read.

Who it’s for: I like Trello because it’s more big picture and you visible move cards around. You could add checkboxes but I found they aren’t helpful for my work style. If you use sticky notes on your desk/wall or coloring in Excel documents with progress, then check out this tool.

2. Asana

I tried Asana, and found it to be easy to create projects and break them down into milestones and tasks. While the style didn’t work for me, I know many people love it for getting things done.

Who it’s for: anybody who likes lists, crossing of checkboxes, and tracking priorities will like Asana.

3. Pen and Paper

Not everybody likes fancy apps, I know some of you like the analog way of doing things. To be honest, when I’m not using Trello for keeping track of things, I am a heavy notebook user.

My favorite method of tracking projects in a notebook is the Bullet Journal. A creation of Ryder Carroll that keeps the process simple so you can focus on getting the task done rather than using the journal. Simple bullet points done for today’s tasks and reviewing previously unfinished tasks.

The Process

No matter which tool you decide to use, break down your milestones and tasks into it.

For Trello I create a column for “Waiting, Built, Painting, Finished, Photographed, Posted.” Each project gets a card (like Mentor Legion Dreadnought) that moves from column to column as I progress. You could even break it down further for larger projects and create cards for the base coat, highlights, weathering, decals, etc.

In Asana or the notebook, create a checkbox for each milestone and add subtasks to each. Break it down as detailed as you want without getting overwhelmed with the process.

The idea of using these tools is to help track progress and see what needs to happen next. If it is getting in your way, do something different. Try a different tool or don’t go as detailed. Think of it just as you would a paintbrush, make it work for you or try a different brand, but don’t let it hold back your painting.


A plan is great, it keeps you on track and allows you the satisfaction of checking off boxes.

But a plan without action is only a fancy plan. To help you accomplish your goal, find others to keep you accountable.

This is why challenges and blogging are so popular in our hobby. It brings the community together to encourage each other and provide that gentle nudge when we don’t do something we pledged to do.

So if you are having trouble making progress, share your goal on social media, your blog, a Facebook group, where ever you hang out to play games. Get some other people to check in on you and keep you going.

Keeping it Going

Finally, just do the work. You can make glorious plans, get all your friends following your progress, but you now need to do the work. A plan sets the direction, accountability keeps wind in the sails. And perseverance gets you to the other shore.

So in wrapping it up, planning your hobby project comes down to the following:

  • Set small, incremental milestones
  • Keep at it every day
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new
  • Have fun