If you are an wargaming hobbyist anything like me then you tend to buy your boxes of shiny at a faster rate than you build and paint them. The consequence is a steadily growing “pile of shame” of unassembled and unpainted miniatures. If you are also like me the issue is not so much that you are buying too much as that you are procrastinating and failing to make good use of your spare time to actually get them done. What we need, dear reader, is a productivity hack. Enter the hobby streak.
A hobby streak is a challenge to the self to carry out a minimum amount of hobby work every day for as long as possible without gaps or breaks. Consecutive days fulfilling this challenge are counted and displayed with photographic proof of work in a public forum such as Twitter #hobbystreak, Instagram or Reddit. Eg: 24 days of consecutive hobby work would be counted as a 24 day streak.
There might well be other reasons for doing a hobby streak but for me and most streakers the reason is just to use it as a productivity hack. A productivity hack is a means to overcome a motivation hump impeding the carrying out of a task.
At the time of writing I am on my first hobby streak and I am at 47 days. I post my progress here at solarcrossgames and also to my twitter and to r/hobbystreak on reddit. Feel free to check it out. I have found the process a huge benefit so far. Many half-done projects were moved along that otherwise would probably be no further along than before. Many too were even brought to completion: 1 Tau Devilfish, 1 Tau Commander and drones, 11 Eldar Striking Scorpions, 1 Eldar Warlock, 5 Eldar Dire Avengers and 5 Ork Nobz for my Warhammer 40k projects. I feel so confident of being able to get paint down now that I started yet another Warhammer 40k army, the Steel Legion.
So from my personal experience I can unequivocally recommend doing a hobby streak as a productivity hack. Later on in this article we will look at some ways a hobby streak might be counter-productive but for now let us look at what makes it work as a productivity tool.
The problem is not time, the problem is motivation.
Hobby work is, by default, work that you do not really need to do at all and is deadlines not included. No one but one’s own self could possibly care if you never paint a single thing. Of course we want to do it because it is fun and because we like the end result of our labours of love.
At the same time though, for those of us cursed with a predisposition to leave any task to the last minute, it is a task that has no last minute. It is a task we can safely put off, and put off forever, at no cost at all. Undertaking a hobby streak can fix that by introducing both positive and negative incentives, carrots and sticks, to induce an effort when otherwise the lazy path would be taken.
My soul is a donkey, and donkeys are smart because they are economical with their energy. They only move for food and danger, carrots and sticks. What a clever donkey?!
A hobby streak can provide you with a virtual carrot to tempt you into action in that each day you do it you get a quantifiable increase to a score, the days of the streak. Video gamers and social media doom scrollers know all too well that virtual carrots: points, likes or upvotes, can divvy up that juicy dopamine hit as well as a tangible reward can.
If you combine your hobby streak with your social media addiction by posting your daily progress to your preferred platforms you can also score the dopamine hit of social recognition. In this way the little virtual carrots you get from likes and upvotes can be leveraged to actually assist your productivity instead of sinking it as they usually do.
No carrot and stick act would be complete without a stick. The stick here is also virtual but, as with video games, virtual sticks still motivate. The stick for a hobby streak is Game Over; if you miss a day you have to go start your streak from the beginning. Do not stress about it though, starting from the beginning just means you can start again with a new score to beat and in the mean time you did get stuff done. And getting stuff done is what it is all about.
The use of virtual carrots and sticks to motivate productivity is the essence of gamification. By making your productivity a game in which there are virtual gains and virtual losses to be won or lost you engage the same dopamine motivators that video games and social media are designed to exploit.
Here are a few thoughts I have had on hobby streak best practices.
A key element to a hobby streak is the length of the minimum amount of time one commits to devoting to your daily practice. The convention for most hobby streakers is half an hour. I believe this to be ideal.
Any more than half an hour and you risk making the requirement feel daunting and consequently demotivating. Also it makes the commitment very hard to keep on off days or days when you are very busy with other tasks. In most cases once you start a hobby session then you will carry on to fill the whole time available to you anyway, even if it is many hours. The trick is just to get started. So small time requirement should not limit productivity.
You may wonder then, why not have an even lower time requirement? Well in practice it can take 15 minutes to settle into any task so any requirement less than half an hour will probably not produce any tangible progress.
Half an hour is short enough to be easy to fit in on busy days and long enough to actually be able to get something done.
As I can tell you from experience, seriously engaging in a hobby streak can seriously increase your output. If do not have a massive back log to work through this can pose an issue. You may find the productivity boost results in you running out of things to work on. The easy solution is to go on a buying spree but you may not want to do that.
You may not have the luxury of daily activity. Maybe you work long hours and your commute is long but you have the weekend free. Weekend hobby binges will work better for you. You can still utilise gamification but the standard hobbystreak is not a good fit. Consider weekend challenges to do x amount of hours in one session marathons instead. #hobbython ?