I followed this plan (http://ana-white.com/2010/03/plans-mason-headboard-its-all-in-finish.ht…) and my headboard turned out beautifully!
I chose to stain my headboard prior to dry brushing with paint.
While a beginner can complete the headboard, distress it, and stain it in a few hours, the stain needs to dry at least 24-48 hours prior to distressing/painting. And then the paint needs to dry at least 24 hours prior to wiping on the poly finish. I'd give yourself one week from start to moving it into your room.
Behr semi gloss paint in Swiss Coffee
Minwax wipe-on polyurethane