Building a motorcycle takes much longer than you might think. Expect your motivation to rise and fall as you sink hundreds of hours into this project over the matter of months or even years. Setting a deadline helps to mitigate burnout but it needs to be specific. Make it something significant, like a group ride or a show that you want to attend rather that something vague like next year or a few months from now. Nothing will focus you like a hard deadline.
Underestimating how much time it will take to build a custom bike is one of the biggest motivation killers. What you thought was a quick 3-month job suddenly turns into a 6-month process with no end in sight. The bike (still in pieces) eventually gets pushed to the back of the garage under a blanket. Years pass, and eventually it gets sold for pennies to the next builder.
Don’t measure yourself against full-time builders who complete a build in three weeks. Their 120+ hours of available time in those few weeks is often what home builders might be able to dedicate to a build over a whole year!
For your first build, aim for a scope of work that you can achieve within six months based on what time you have available. Builders who work on a bike project for longer than 6 months often find their motivation dwindling and likely never see the build through to the open road.
And be honest with yourself about how much time you can devote to working on your bike. If you work a full-time job and have a family, it's unlikely that you're going to have more than 30 minutes free on a workday. On days off, you might find another 2 hours. There will be weeks where you might only get out to the garage for 1 or 2 hours over the course of the whole week.
Project planning is not only working out the build time needed, but also deciding the most effective time to do the work. You may find that chunking the work (say, 60 minutes every day) results in better progress than scheduling in one whole day on the weekend to work on your bike.
There will be times when you need a solid half a day or day to get some stuff done, or you’re just in the zone and knocking out some cool stuff on your bike. And really, who wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible working on their bike?
However, if you save up all your build time for weekends or days off, there is a higher chance that your planned full day of work will get interrupted by other unscheduled activities, or missing parts and tools might derail the day.
Project planning is about mitigating risks. By spreading out build time, you mitigate this risk of unforeseen problems on one day interrupting all your planned build time. It can also help with motivation to see small continuous steps of progress towards your end goal every day or two.
There is also a certain amount of downtime spent thinking and problem solving (particularly on more difficult areas of a build) where you don’t make any physical progress. Rather than this occurring during a large chunk of scheduled build time and interrupting your flow, if you do a little bit of the build every day, this thinking/problem solving downtime can happen in between while you go about life.
Don’t discount shipping time for parts and tools you have ordered. Project planning helps you arrange tasks so the build doesn’t stop while your parts are on the mail truck.
To help you with this regular approach to build time, setting yourself a daily reminder can be effective. There are plenty of habit-forming apps out there that work perfectly for this and gamify the process, creating ‘streaks’ of habits to appeal to your competitive side. They also allow you to share your build time goals with others to add accountability
Pick a date where that bike has to be done, and lock it in.