There is an inescapable truth about hobby gaming: buying a miniature is always faster than painting one. This can be a real problem especially when companies are more and more moving to cheaper high quality plastics that look great and don't cost a ton - unless you're Games Workshop, then you just make them cost more.
I have a whole stack of Reaper Bones miniatures from my wife for my birthday that I have barely made a dent into so far plus a handful I picked up on my own. I also have five new Lance Packs (20 mechs!) for BattleTech to paint up for my Sword and Dragon campaign. Not to mention making enough terrain to fill a battlefield around these nice minis. For that, I have a set of hills to finish flocking on top of a big bag of trees to base and a whole smorgasbord of card stock buildings to assemble.
The question of course is how to tackle all this without feeling overwhelmed and getting demotivated by seeing a pile of grey unpainted miniatures, like this one:
The easiest way I have found to think of it is to focus only on exactly what I'm going to need for my next gaming sessions. There are some models that have a really cool look or that I bought more recently than an older model that I would love to jump to the front of the line, but for me it makes more sense to save those models for when I will be needing them.
I've got a lot of gaming coming up with friends and family over the holidays so I'm focusing on what is going to maximize the amount of fun we're going to be having.
First, I know we'll be playing some 4 player, 2vs2, Song of Blades and Heroes. So that is going to be a 4'x4' table that needs to be covered in a reasonable amount of terrain. Plus having whatever miniatures finished to include in the war bands we'll be using. Luckily, most of my Reaper minis are painted and some war bands will use pre-painted miniatures from the official Dungeons and Dragons lines.
Second, I need to finish preperation for the first two missions of Sword and Dragon. My opponent and I will both be taking the recon mission track first which means I have around 2 lances worth of mechs to paint. But I also know we won't be having time to start this until probably a week or so after Song of Blades and Heroes, so I'm tabling this for now until I finish my terrain.
Prioritizing my backlog this way has let me feel like I'm constantly making progress. For a game like Warhammer 40k or any system where you're trying to paint a huge army, you can still make use of this by building out a few points value lists. Instead of viewing your 2000 points of Chaos Marines as a solid block you need to finish, break it down into four 500 point combat patrol lists you could play before you finish the whole thing. For me, thinking like this lets the hobbying motivate the playing and the playing motivate the hobbying and I have more fun with both.