Carving Out Time for Ham Radio

On a recent episode of This Week in Tech, Leo Laporte, W6TWT, mentions ham radio, and a guest asks him how much time he is spending on the air. Leo, who just recently got his Tech license says “Zero!” and laughs.

This is not uncommon. Lots of people seem to get a ham radio license and then do very little with it. I think one reason for this is that they don’t take into account how much time the hobby really can eat up.

They get their ticket because it seems like a cool thing to do, but then they have to carve out some time to actually be a ham radio operator. Even if you don’t make any of your own gear, setting up a station takes time, and then there is the operating time, of course. Carving time out of busy schedules—and I would guess that Laporte has a pretty busy schedule being the owner of TWiT—is a challenge.

I see things like this all the time. At one ham radio club meeting that I attended, the club vice president asked, “OK, here’s the question of the month. How many of you actually got on the air in the past month.” Less than half of those in attendance raised their hands. Geez, I thought to myself, why do they even bother to come to meetings if they don’t get on the air?

Making time for ham radio
So, if you’re a busy person, how do you make time for ham radio? Well, being the Internet geek that I am, I Googled, “making time for things you love.” I got a lot of links to sites that talked about work-life balance and some new-age blogs, but none of them offered much in the way of concrete advice.

Then, I Googled “make time for hobbies” and right off the bat, I found two good articles—7 Creative Ways to Make Time For Your Creative Hobby! and 5 Ways to Make Time for Your Hobby. Both articles offered very similar advice. Here are four points that both made:

  1. Schedule it. Set aside a specific time during which you’re going to do ham radio. Don’t let that time get pre-empted.
  2. Designate a place in your home for ham radio. Having to set up your radios or dig out your tools every time you want to operate or build something is not much fun and wastes a lot of time. Having a “shack” and a workspace designated for your projects will let you spend more time on the fun stuff.
  3. Partner up. Arranging to work with another ham will make it harder to blow off ham radio for some other activity. Besides, it’s a lot of fun to do things with other hams. If you’re a newly licensed ham, find an Elmer. There really are plenty around who would be willing to help you.
  4. Create a project plan. Setting up an amateur radio station is no small feat. Breaking it down into smaller chunks will make it seem more doable, and you’ll get a feeling of accomplishment when you meet your in-between goals.

There’s so much to learn and do in amateur radio that it can seem quite overwhelming at first. I think that’s one reason why so many Techs never really get into the hobby, and even more experienced hams eventually drift away. I think if you follow the advice above, though, you’ll not only find the time to pursue amateur radio, but get a lot more out of it.

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  1. Chris, WA5TT says:

    Right now ham radio is low dog on the priority totem pole. And it’s not the time, it’s the lack of funds to buy or build any gear. The national and family economic situation is much worse than a decade ago. Ham gear has become a luxury item for me.

  2. David N8SRE says:

    I’d add: Consider installing a mobile station in your commuter car. Then you can enjoy ham radio while you commute. With the sunspot cycle improving, you may soon once again be able to work the world from the front seat of your car on 10m.

  3. Elwood Downey says:

    Great ideas but you ask “why do they even bother to come to meetings?” Well, maybe it’s all they can do for now. In my case I don’t have any antennas right now (fighting the HOA), but I still read blogs and magazines, check out hamfests and listen to podcasts for a vicarious experience. Until I get on the air again, that’s much better than nothing.

  4. Very good piece, and I am the one on the weekends (as week days are to crowed) with good intentions of getting on the radio “sometime”. Before you know it Sunday rolls around and nothing. Now having said that we do gain an hour this weekend as the clocks are set back….that gives me an extra hour to play with. As for the bad economy…there is used gear out there heck you can even get on Echo link for free if you want. I find there will be always a reason to now get on the rig. When you are young it’s playing with friends and homework. Later school years it’s dating, University and partying. Early adulthood it’s the kids and work. Later in life with worries about retirement and so on. I find the hobby can be as cheap or as exspensive as you want it’s all about how you work it. Sorry I digressed.

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