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Newbie getting close to burnout


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Is there a support group for first time Christmas Light fanatics? I have spent so much time (and $) getting the power infrastructure in place for my Christmas light display that I'm completely burned out. I have been taking vacation days to work all day on the display and and it's components; every weekend is occupied by the display. Countless trips to Home Depot and Lowes only to find that I have purchased the wrong stuff and need to go back again. I have come close to jumping ship and saying the "heck with it". I don't want to ruin Christmas by having a display take up all my time and money. Now, the purpose for my message: Is anybody else experiencing the same frustration? Was your first year a real bear (no stock market pun intended) ?

-Darin

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If you are getting discouraged, sit down and take a look at your project.

Rather than attack it the way you have, lets plan it for incremental installation. Do a bit now, a bit later.

If you have the power in place, you have the hardest part done.

Certainly, in your first year, it is hard because you have to have so much at one time (as opposed to building on previous years works).

Before I start any project, I put the answers to the following questions on paper:

What is the purpose of the project?

What materials and supplies are required for the project?

What outside resources are going to be required for the project?

Provide a general outline of chronological steps required to complete the project with roles of those involved (resources, materials and/or supplies).

What is the project going to cost to implement?

and after the project is over, What would you do different if you were going to run this project next year?

--

A simple plan can save you tears and heartaches. But mostly, it gets you thinking what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how to get er dun.

--

You are not alone in your trials as the archives are filled with posts from one-year wonders - those that saw a cool display somewhere on the net and decided that they wanted to try it too.

This is not a hobby for the faint of heart as it involves a huge investment of time and resources.

So my advice to you is: Do not get discouraged. If you get tired, step away from the display for as long as you need to do so in order to recharge your batteries.

Sometimes a break like that can give you a fresh perspective and you will discover new and better things to do.

If you have other questions, please post them here as we are your support.

sign me

How I fought burnout and frustration

PS: Some of my projects (for this year at least) were so complex, that I decided to put them off for a year or more until I can determine an easier way to complete them.

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I always get burnt out at the end of October but get a second wind once November gets here. The one thing I've been fighting with this year is creating a new project before the last one is finished. I've decided that I've done enough this year and now I'll spend the rest of the time finishing what I started.

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This is not a hobby for the faint of heart as it involves a huge investment of time and resources.

True, but it doesn't have to be that bad... The problem is so many people see a Carson W. or Richard H. or Marty S. video, and think "That's what I want!" Most folks grossly underestimate what it takes to pull off a show of that size, in terms of financial and time resources... Worse -- people will be coming soon that haven't even researched controller options yet, much less bought them or started sequencing, and asking how to pull it off...

I'm jaded since I started with about 5000 lights in 1996 and have been very slowly building up ever since. At this point I don't expect to grow much beyond my current display size, because I don't want to pour any more time resources into it.

-Tim

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Absolutely crawl, walk, run!

IMHO, the pics and vids on my website bear that out. You can see the transformation from humble static lit house to 80 (this year 128) channel animation.

I personally started with 32 channels, and even then it was hard to get everything done. Most people don't realize the time involved for setup when it comes to animation. For me, it means decorating the whole house FOUR times! (That's once for each of 4 colors used).

Factor in on top of that, all the new infrastructure - including running all those new extension cords, and you are up to your neck! The good news is that once you have all that infrastructure built/purchased you don't need to do it again!

You may think we are kidding, but for many of us this is a year-long hobby - not something that is thrown together in October/November.

If you are completely overwhelmed (and it's easy to get that way), you may want to think about scaling back. It's better to have a 32 channel show this year, than a 64 channel one that kills you (and then next year you scrap the whole thing).

Otherwise, remember this: It's not a job, it's a hobby. Take Tim's advice: Do as much as you are having fun with, and no more.

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You may think we are kidding, but for many of us this is a year-long hobby - not something that is thrown together in October/November.

Very much true. My display was designed in my head the end of December of last year. I had to know what to buy at the after Christmas sales. :) Been working on parts for this years display ever since then.

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I must agree with Tim and the others. This is my 3rd year with LOR and I am at 136 channels this year. I started with 32 and had about 20,000 lights and have grown each year. Had I started with my current channel count and the 70-80,000 lights I would be pulling my hair out by now. That is if I had hair.

One thing I will tell you is once it is up and running and people come to view it and enjoy it. The frustrations turns to joy knowing you made people's Christmas that much more special.

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Hang in there. The first time the lights dance and you see what you did it's all worth it. The first year is tough, plain and simple because of the learning curve.

I'm taking vacation days to get things done as well and I'm OK with it because as Tim says, "its still fun". :D

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There is no crying in Christmas Lighting. :D

In all seriousness this is my first year too. I'm going with 128 channels and about 40,000 lights. I can honestly say this is the single biggest project I have undertaken. It has required skills in electrical, woodworking, lawn maintenance, audio editing, computer knowledge, radio broadcasting, plumbing, etc. etc. etc. I started planning for this last December because I figured it would take a full year to implement.

The first year is the hardest obviously as no infrastructure is in place. Every single extension cord has to be bought or made, every single shingle tab, light, etc. I've had to make wooden frames for my windows, mount an FM antenna to the chimney, paint bulbs on clear strings when I couldn't find the right color in 20 and 35 counts.

What keeps me going is the image in my mind of how beautiful the display is going to be and how excited people will be when they see it.

YOU CAN DO IT!!!

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I wish to thank everybody for sharing their experience. This is no doubt a year-round hobby. I made the mistake of telling friends and co-workers about the display and now there is the "expectation." I certainly don't want to disappoint. A "normal" display involves stringing lights and running a few cords. I knew something was different when I was in the basement measuring power consumption for section of lights while recording them in a spreadsheet for analysis.

OK; back to work

Thanks

Darin

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One of my mottos I live by is "underpromise, overdeliver". If you overpromise, at best you'll kill yourself and only meet expectations. If you underpromise, there's a good chance you'll exceed expectations.

I use this mantra a lot at work. For example, when giving time estimates, I make them realistic, but not overly optimistic. I've told my boss "nobody's ever yelled at me for coming in ahead of schedule..." Often I *do* come in ahead of schedule, and people are always happy about it. Nobody's ever happy when the schedule slips...

Anyway, regarding displays -- it's best to control expectations. It's like a movie -- I've gone into some great movies with really high expectations and come away a little disappointed. I've gone into some mediocre movies with really low expectations, and come away pleased.

Anyway, just rambling. Good luck!

-Tim

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Guest Jeff_Womack

Darin, your friends and coworkers will always be amazed with what you do because...most of them do nothing! Unfortunately, the viral videos on YouTube have caused a lot of people to jump into this hobby and think they are going to have a huge display the first year. If time and money are not a concern then sure, you can do it. Enjoy your display and don't let it ruin Christmas for you.

Now back to building the "Redneck Christmas" mega tree for me!

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Why are you allowing other peoples expectations to drive your hobby? Do it because you love it, not because others are demanding/expecting to see Carson V2.0. Do what you are comfortable doing, even if that means doing less than you promised for this year.

Always remember: it's your display, not the viewers! ;)

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I have been working since last October for this years display. This is my first year animating and hope it goes well. I am pulling for you Darin. I found that doing a little here and a little there really helps out the stress level. Like others have said, when I get to stressed I just take a step back and clear my head.

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If you are getting discouraged, sit down and take a look at your project.

Rather than attack it the way you have, lets plan it for incremental installation. Do a bit now, a bit later.

If you have the power in place, you have the hardest part done.

Certainly, in your first year, it is hard because you have to have so much at one time (as opposed to building on previous years works).

Before I start any project, I put the answers to the following questions on paper:

What is the purpose of the project?

What materials and supplies are required for the project?

What outside resources are going to be required for the project?

Provide a general outline of chronological steps required to complete the project with roles of those involved (resources, materials and/or supplies).

What is the project going to cost to implement?

and after the project is over, What would you do different if you were going to run this project next year?

I tend to agree with Dale W... In fact I put the layout on paper and set up lists of supplies a few times before I got it to what I wanted and felt I could accomplish in a single season. I had a few setbacks due to others so am well behind my planned timeframe just this week starting in on programming.

I have to make my mini-trees, which don't look so mini at first glance but compared to the Mega-Tree, are definitely mini...

For me the next month up thru Thanksgiving night is pretty much mostly dedicated to working in spare time on the Christmas Lights Display. Of course I head the Ike response for our Church ERT, and have a lot of clients who want my help with their Medicare RX and MA/PD plans for 2009, so that is taking up a lot of time as well. So far it is still all fun...I know that one or two nights in a couple of weeks I will burn out and have to take a night or two as a break...

I am still looking forward to a neat new display in our yard this year!!!

Have fun with it!!!

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This is my first year with animation too. I always had a very large static display, so I had an inkling how much work would be involved. I started working on my display last spring, right after I happened to stumble upon Planet Christmas, and all the great people here. I started making the components of my display last April. I basically did it at night and on Sundays. I'm a home exteriors contractor and make the majority of my income in the warm weather, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, but I attacked everything a bit at a time. But, I had a clear plan, on paper, and a schedule of acheivements, I treated it just like a construction project. On the 4th of July, I had my mega tree set up in the backyard and was practicing with it. At night, I would watch the Red Sox while I wound the lights on my arches. I basically knew exactly what I needed for materials, but because of my proffesion, I have a knack for that sort of thing. it is a year roung hobby.

Last weekend I started hanging lights, and got more done today, and will be at it tommorow too. I have 14 songs sequenced (that, IMO) was the hardest part of the whole thing. I am on schedule to be up and running on Thanksgiving night, as has always been my tradition, but I'll be done the week before so I can have some middle of the night rehearsals. But no, I feel no stress, I have truly enjoyed every moment of this, and can't wait to see it all work.

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I think you've gotten some good advice from everyone. I would like to encourage you to keep going, but only do what is fun. If you need to scale back to reduce the stress and frustration, do it. This is supposed to be fun. Make sure you keep it that way. A little stress along the way is ok. Many of us will be scrambling with something at the last minute. This stuff isn't plug and play, so there are always unknowns. But knowing this, we try to leave a little time for the unknowns. They will happen. Best of luck. We're all behind you. Keep it fun and you'll appreciate it so much more!

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I definitely feel you pain, Darin!

This is my first year, too, and I came very close to throwing in the towel a few weeks ago. But, the frustration passed and I'm finally having fun again. I'll bet it will pass for you, too.

(I actually got laid off from my job last week. The first thought that entered my mind when I got the news was, "Yee-ha! Now I can work on my lights full time!")

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I definitely feel you pain, Darin!

This is my first year, too, and I came very close to throwing in the towel a few weeks ago. But, the frustration passed and I'm finally having fun again. I'll bet it will pass for you, too.

(I actually got laid off from my job last week. The first thought that entered my mind when I got the news was, "Yee-ha! Now I can work on my lights full time!")

Sorry to hear about your job...

I too got brain drain for programming too much in too short a time period... I will go back at it again tonight, but may mix in finishing construction of the mini-trees each evening along with the programming. I still have several songs to modify (from what was purchased) to fit my layout. As I get programmer block on one song I move to another completing an element at at time so I can move between songs slow and fast to make it interesting.

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