8 Ways to Avoid Builder Burn Out

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Rob Chappell of ‘Origin8or Cycles’ in Ontario Canada. I work a 9-5 job in graphic design, run a freelance web-design company, have a partner that keeps me busy most evenings and I build custom motorcycles on the weekends and during any spare time I have left.

When it comes to building custom motorcycles I think all of us lose momentum from time to time. Be it due to a client being difficult or simply running out of money so the project sits idle. Finding the energy to start again can sometimes be difficult, so here are some tips that I find help me stay on track with my own builds that may help you as well.

1. Set a schedule

I’ve found that the best way to achieve a goal is to set a deadline. If I tell myself that this build has to be done by a certain date I am far more likely to achieve that than if I just pick at it from time to time. To help me achieve that goal I break my builds down into 5 parts – Engine (be it full rebuild or just cleaning), Frame and Wheels (which includes handlebars, forks, swingarm, cables and brakes), tank and bodywork (including seat and headlight), Electrical (covering headlight, tail light, harness and ignition) and Reassembly/Finishing – putting it all back together after paint and powder coating.

For each stage, I have a set or check boxes that I tick off as I go and I can jump around the order of things while I am waiting for parts to arrive or if I only have a limited amount of hours that night.

2. Learn to say no

None of us like to say no, especially if it’s to a paying customer, but the truth is if it’s going to stress you out. Don’t create a tighter deadline than you are comfortable with, sometimes it’s best to just let it go. There’s no worse scenario than feeling like you have to rush a job and then find yourself telling the client, just a few more weeks now.

I find I am my own worst enemy on this one and it’s why my own builds tend to take a back seat far more often than I would like, but I am getting better at it.

3. Ask for help

We all lead busy lives and sometimes the fear of someone saying they are too busy prevents us from asking them for help. I have a good friend that has been working on his build for 3 years now. He’s always coming over to see what I am up to and lend a hand. The other day I asked him about his project and he confessed he’s at a loss and could really use a hand getting it going. Sometimes all it takes is asking.

If I get stuck on a project and none of my friends have the answer I tend to reach out on forums. There really is no greater resource out there and most of the people are more than happy to help. Chances are if you’re having an issue you’re not the first to experience it. I’ve used forums for everything from wiring to welding, machine shop tips and tricks with fibreglass work. The internet is a great resource for bike builders. That goes for google searches and YouTube videos too.

4. Take some time away

Being in graphic design I learned this one early on. Sometimes all it takes is walking away from the project for a while. Go grab lunch, take a walk and come back to the task at hand. You may see it with new eyes and find the new approach or enthusiasm you were looking for.

5. Learn something new

Anything from taking a welding class at the local college to simply watching some videos online. Learning something new will give you the courage to give it a try. Whatever you learn to accomplish a build is going to help you in the long run. Failing is part of the fun. Not everything we try is going to work right the first time and sometimes the second run at it turns out better anyway.

6. Get plenty of rest

This might seem like common sense but I have fallen victim to it on countless occasions. Working when tired is just dangerous and you’re certainly not going to do your best work. Besides, how many of us have spent the night tossing and turning, dreaming about the issue and the next day you walk into the shop and knock it out in 15 minutes?

7. Get outside inspiration

Sometimes inspiration seems to flow endlessly, other times you may just sit and stare at the bike on the lift wondering what to do next. If you’re not already surfing the internet looking at bikes, flipping through magazines at the local bookstore or coffee shop, or even just going out for a ride and running into other like-minded folks, I highly suggest it. There are a lot of great builders out there and to be honest, I haven’t met one yet who wasn’t willing to have a conversation or answer some questions. It might be just the boost you’re looking for with your project.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked my wife and kids to come look at something. Even if they didn’t quite know what they were looking at!

8. Switch it up

If you’re like me your interests vary and sometimes one bike won’t cut it. If you have the means I find it helps building a couple different bikes at once. This also helps me keep moving on projects. I might be waiting for parts to arrive for one bike so I’ll jump over to the other one and tick some boxes there.

Really though it doesn’t even need to be a bike. Maybe you need a new shelving unit or a new table for the family room. Put those skills to use and get creative. Your bike build will be waiting for you when you’re ready.

Stress, workloads, responsibilities and life will always divert our attention, but if you think back to what prompted the project in the first place and follow some of the above steps, avoiding burnout isn’t impossible. A small change may be all you need to bring that project back to life.