Time, Energy, Motivation -- Pick Two

Lately I’ve been struggling to find the right intersection of free time, energy, and motivation to work on bicycle projects. What are some strategies you use to keep chugging away on your projects? Especially building vs. riding…?

-Jim G


I feel ya. Motivation is usually there but between the day job and two young kids, time and energy are precious commodities.

I keep a fairly detailed to-do/projects/goals list. I break it down into small tasks so I can find something to fit my time and energy. If I have a couple hours of workshop time, I can find some big tasks for that. If I have 15 minutes of computer time, I can find something for that. And everything in between. Sometimes it’s just 5 or 10 minutes of tungsten sharpening or cleaning. The goal is constant progress, even if it’s just a very small step.

Having a routine has helped me a lot also. My wife and I alternate putting our older and younger daughters down for bed. The younger one has an earlier bedtime, so on days I put her down I go out to the workshop. And on days I put the older one down I free my mind from and just relax. It’s helped me a lot, both knowing when workshop time is coming and not having guilt on days I do nothing.



I came across a cool book the other day in the book store: Steal Like An Artist - a book by Austin Kleon

There was a cool graphic that summarizes every project:

I’ve found it helpful to write down todo items in a clear state of mind, and just check things off one by one. If I dwell on things too much, I just end up going in circles and dealing with too much self-doubt. That forces me to get past the “This sucks - and it’s boring” to “It’s done and it sucks, but not as bad as I thought”

I also make sure riding is my priority, my brain and body work better after I bike!


I found to keep the end goal in sight and work backwords. Especially if you have a cut of date./time. Plan back to what you can achive each week and each day. Don’t be too greedy with your estimate of what you can achieve. Some days you’ll get more done than you thought and other days you may end up going backwarsd. Nature of the beast.

If you find you just can’t face the workshop and you have a bit of time then go ride your bike.

Also, I should follow my own advice more. :laughing:


For me, projects mostly depend on whether there’s a deadline - if yes, then I know I just have to plug on and do it but it’s usually very late in the day when the bulk of the work gets done.

Often I find it much easier to get motivated if it’s open-ended, especially if I’m the only one who notices/cares*. I too am time-limited by work/kids/riding/other things, so it takes a little planning to get good chunks of time. But when I get the youngest to bed early and the wife knows I’m going out to the shed, I find it really easy to knuckle down and tackle even those tough jobs I’ve been avoiding.

*unless the wife is nagging about anything DIY round the house, then it’s physically impossible for me to start work within the first 2 years of the project.


This is definitely something I struggle with.

Learning to keep momentum during a build helps. Some may love every part of the process, but I don’t. Cleaning, organization, and material prep are necessary but not the most enjoyable. These are things I like to sneak in when I don’t have the motivation or focus to devote to a build.

If you have 15-20 minutes that you are willing to invest in your project figure out what the best use of that time would be. Small goals that set you up for when you do find that perfect time where you wind up with all three (motivation, time and energy) in alignment.

The worst time for me to work on a bike is when I’d rather be riding one.

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I’d also like to add that understanding your dopamine system and how to leverage that system can drastically improve or explain your productivity.

There is a wealth of listening knowledge on the huberman lab podcast. There are several episodes on the dopamine system itself, along with other science based protocols (cold water exposure, morning sunlight exposure, delaying caffeine intake after waking) to follow that will with out a doubt give you a better tool kit to work with.

How to increase motivation and drive

Maximizing Productivity, physical and mental health with daily tools


Andrew has sooo much information on his podcast.

Last winter I committed to doing something every day in the workshop, first working towards machining my new frame jig and then building my hardtail frame. The deal was that I would do some task which took the current project forward every day, no matter how trivial. Some days, if I couldn’t find the time or motivation, that might have been as simple as purchasing a new tool online or thinking about the order of operations on the next part. Other days, I’d get completely absorbed in the project and have trouble stopping. Most weekdays when the winter weather had set in, I’d spend an hour or two after work cranking through the list of machining tasks. It’s amazing how much you can achieve when you consistently spend an hour a day working on something.

I found, once the habit formed by sticking to that “progress every day” mantra, that the projects built up a real head of steam. It was a really intense time and, when I got to the end, I needed to take a break from it so I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labours out on the local trails for a while. I’m only just starting to think about the next build now, almost 3 months later.

Assuming it’s a hobby and not paying work, sometimes you’ve just got to go with what you feel like doing. If the sun’s out and you’d rather be riding, go with it, enjoy it and stop beating yourself up. Maybe commit to spending more time in the workshop in the autumn when the weather deteriorates and spend the time between now and then planning and building up the excitement for the kick-off.


I’m in the same boat as many of you with a job, family, house, riding, other hobbies, etc. I can fit-in design time on the computer around the edges of life, but the actual building is more difficult. I seem to need a minimum 60-90 minute block to make shop work worth it.

I’ve found when I have everything ready to go, I hit it hard and fast. I tend to take a weekend day or two, and some evenings and get the frame done. That often means moving a little faster than I should, but I don’t let perfect get in the way of done. I think this also suits my place in the frame building journey, as I’m focused more on testing geometry and riding characteristics than I am aesthetics.


Jim, for me it’s 10lbs of shit to fit in a 5lb sack.

Kids, full time job, etc gave me few, short windows to get torchwork in. Now my kids are adults, so that’s opened some time up. I’m retiring in a coupla months, which will give me lots of time back.

There’s 168 hrs in a week. Start allocating time for sleep, work, and family, and there has to be a compromise. It gets down to what’s important to you.

This is the curse of the hobbyist/semi-pro/pro-who-doesn’t-put-food-on-the-table with the craft. I think Sachs said something like the difference between current builders and those who he learned from is that to those guys ('70’s England) framebuilding was a job, not a pursuit or a creative outlet. I could have that wildly wrong. Anyway, the gist of his message was that those guys got proficient at their job and did it every day even if they were tired, didn’t care or had kids, wife, houses that needed repair or whatever.

Duane “This frame took 9 months” Draper