These are all GREAT suggestions.
Not sure exactly what kind of smoker you have, but this is the method I use in both my offsets. (One smoker has a cooking chamber that's 16 x 31", the other is 24 x 36"...huge difference in size, but the method is the same. I just have to use more of lump coal and bigger sticks in the larger smoker)
I light a FULL chimney of lump, and after 20-25 minutes, when the coals on top are just starting to turn red (they are still kind of black) then I dump it in the firebox, and let it go another 10 - 15 minutes as the smoker warms.Then, I push all of the hot embers over towards the edge of the firebox closest to the smoking chamber.
At that time, I dump in a 1/3 of a charcoal chimney of UNLIT lump, keeping it over towards the air intake side of the firebox - so there is actually some space between the pile of burning coal, and the pile of unlit coal.
Also at this time, I put TWO 1 - 2" x 8" sticks in the firebox, but resting them on the corners of my charcoal basket, above the actual fire - so as not to igite them yet.
From this point, it's the same thing over and over again all day!
1 - as the temp drops, put a pre-heated stick on the burning coals.
2 - Repeat again in 15 - 30 min., when needed - controlling the air flow to maintain steady temps.
3 - Move the now pre-heateted unlit lump coal in the firebox, over on top of the burning embers on the other side of the firebox, and put another 1/3 chimney of unlit lump inside - once again, opposite side of the burning coals...letting them pre-heat.
4 - two more sticks go in the firebox to preheat.
5 Drink a beer and then start over at step #1!
This helps me maintain a steady fire all day. My temps will stay between 225 - and 240, just the way I like it.
Hope that all makes sense...the key for me, is using slightly smaller sticks - even on my big offset, to avoid huge temp spikes. My typical stick size is 1.5" in diameter, by maybe 6-8" long. I'll go through 15 of those, plus ONE full bag of lump, for an 8 hour cook.
All in all, using this method, I have to basically tend the fire about once every 45 minutes, no more - all day.
There are times when I want a couple hours of "non-fire-tending" time.
For these situations, I simply switch from lump coal to charcoal briquettes, and use the minion method!
(charcoal burns ridiculously
longer than lump, but I like like lump more...it burns hotter using less pieces, and produces a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the ash that charcoal briquettes do. Too much ash can choke the air supply to the fire, and I don't like opening the firebox any more than I have to - and when I use briquettes, I'm always having to open the side door to clean out ash.
Hope that all made sense and helps you figure out what's best for you!