*this is rather a lengthy blog post, so grab a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable. It was fun to open up about my project life process but very tough to reflect on some things and admit imperfections. I poured my heart and soul into this post and I hope that someone, somewhere finds it helpful IMG_4830.JPG
Oh, Project Life, such a simple memory keeping system (thank you, Becky Higgins!), yet many of us are falling behind on it, because for some reason or another, we insist on making it complicated, detailed and fancy. And this thing called life and actually living your life also gets in a way of documenting it. Ironic, isn’t?
Just over two weeks ago, I set out a challenge for myself to Catch up on 20 weeks Project Life in two weeks. My instagram friends exploded with support and enthusiasm, some even also joining me in that crazy challenge! Hashtag was created, blog post was written, free lovely printables were created by me and by Caylee. All systems go.
So, how did I do in those two weeks? Let’s have a look.
The Plan.
I used this lovely planner by the ever so lovely Caylee. (You can download it for free because she’s nice like that.) It definitely helped to put my intentions of catching up on paper, draw out a plan and (somewhat) stick to it. I found that it kept me focused and accountable.IMG_4814.JPGIMG_4815.JPG
This was my original catch up plan, all outlined with funky stickers and crossed out mistakes. If I knew I’d be sharing it all over the Internet when I was writing it, I’d make it nicer, but alas, you get the real life version. You can read more about it here. The lovely pink project list printable is free to download, courtesy of sweet Ann-Marie. (and yes, anything that is a free printable deserves a lovely word in front of it, at least in this blog post 😉 )IMG_4816.JPG
I learned that I can’t use any of the nice, readily available Project Life photo planning templates. Not because I want to spend time drawing a somewhat looking square and chart it myself, but because I don’t know what page protectors I will be using until I look at all the photos I have for that week. Did I take more portrait or landscape photos this week? Do I need a spread full of 3×4 pockets or squares or 4×6 or a mix? Do I need a small or a large card for journaling or will a quote card do?
See, I don’t know any of these things until I look at the photos. Photos are the starting point of my story telling and they dictate the page protectors, the colours of the Project Life cards and the embellishments. Photos are pretty much The Boss in my albums.
I was working on this challenge one week at the time. I looked at all the photos taken that week, sketched out a plan what to print, colour edited them using the photo apps on my iPhone (more details on that in a separate blog post), and grouped the smaller photos into 4×6 format for easy printing. I print all my photos at home using Canon Selphy printer. I love it and it’s definitely a game changer not having to go somewhere and wait for my photos.
Once the photos were printed, I put a piece of paper around them, indicating week # and dates they belong to. Seems like an unnecessary over-organization but with that many stacks of photos printed, last thing I wanted to do is spend time going back and forth to my sketches to figure out which photo goes into which week.IMG_4820-0.JPG
I made a little chart in my planner so I could see exactly the amount of catch up needed to be done (remind me to never EVER fall behind like this again, okay? okay, thanks). I checked off tasks as they happened so I would see some progress of getting closer to my goal. After all, the progress and the effort were the key for me not to feel too overwhelmed with this predicament I put myself in.
This is how my pages look post mega-photo-print session. I trimmed them accordingly, and with a reference to my planned out sketches I put them into their page pockets. After all the photos were placed, I chose the Project Life cards for backgrounds and journaling inserts. Like I mentioned, it’s always photos first, paper/backgrounds/inserts second. I have to see how each photo would look with a particular background colour, as well as the spread in its entirety. Everything has to be in harmony, and matching photos with the Project Life cards is a big part of it, for me.
I began putting little bits and pieces of our life in a clear plastic container as they were being collected. I knew that not everything will go in my album, but I wanted to collect things anyway, and purge later when I was actually working on that specific week.
Here’s a look at some of the memorabilia I’ve collected over the summer that may or may not make it into my Project Life pages. Pamphlets from musicals, plays and suspension bridge attractions, Starbucks card with a cool design, movie tickets, coffee sleeves, packaging from stamps I bought, farmer’s market ad, a feather, dry flower petals, business cards.. you get the idea.
Memorabilia and trinkets are awesome. They add character to the pages, amplifying the effect of time travel when you look at the album. Realistically, I can’t put it all in, so I have to select what stays and what goes. (or at least what goes in the clear plastic envelopes that I can add to my pages as inserts)
After all the photos are printed, memorabilia is collected and assigned per week, Project Life cards are chosen as backgrounds and filler cards, here comes the fun part: scrapbooking it all.
IMG_4825.JPGI have learned that I very much dislike the photo picking, editing, printing and cutting process.
I somewhat like the choosing Project Life cards to go with the photos (“yay, I’m finally using my stash and that one pretty quote card goes perfectly with that photo!”) but somewhat dislike that process too (“I want to look at ALL my Project Life kits to make sure I choose the BEST, most suitable cards for this week. Oh, too many choices, now I’m tired, let’s take a nap instead.”).
Actually gluing down the photos and embellishing them is what I love the most. Note how I used the word love not like 🙂
Journaling is something I would like to do more of. I tend to tell my stories with photos and prewritten quotes. Writing was never been my strong suit so I shy away from it or just don’t know what to write except the usual “we went here. it was fun.” business. Clearly I’m in need of some serious help from Ali Edwards, the Queen of Story Telling. (have you seen her new website launch yet? I can watch that intro on the loop for two days and not get tired of it.)
So, let’s get back to the question: what worked and what didn’t work for me in this Project Life Catch Up challenge.
What worked:
Having a planner to jot down my goals and ideas
Having a deadline for accomplishing my goal, as well as breaking it down into smaller tasks of what needed to be done each day.
The pressure and support of my Instagram community. (pressure on my part, support on theirs). I said I would do it and I knew there were people counting on me to do it. So I did it.
Printing my photos at home, at the convenience of printing as little or as many photos I wanted all in the comfort of my own home.
Not over-analyzing the embellishments. Last year I would spend hours, HOURS, deciding what little embellishments and stickers to put around my photos. Pages would end up looking too busy (nice and full of detail, but a little too busy) and I would spend waaaay too much time on the week’s spread. This year I took the simplicity approach and let my photos tell the story, instead of the stickers around them.
Pulling out my Project Life core (and mini) kits and keeping them all open and accessible while I chose the filler cards for the pages. Usually I go back and forth between the kits, opening it, looking for a card, closing it and putting it away. Works when you have one week to work on, but not when you’re working in batches of weeks. Keeping (almost) all the paper products out where I can see it made it easy to fill entire month of November with Project Life cards in one night.

What didn’t work:
Using pre-designed photo planning templates.
Thinking I can print some photos, work on them, then print more, work on those. I couldn’t start working on the photos I already printed until I printed them ALL. It was like an itch that needed scratching. Couldn’t help it.
Thinking I can print 12 weeks worth of photos in one night, or day even. It takes me anywhere from an hour to two hours just to organize, evaluate what photos to print, edit, collage and then actually print one week of photos. Yes, you read that right, two hours for one week of photos, and that’s just to get the photos from digital to physical form in front of me. I think having a wi-fi Canon Selphy printer would speed things up in that department but right now I have the old CP800 and I have to go through my computer to print/collage/edit them.
Procrastinating. It just never does. “The problem is that you think you have time.” is a Pinterest inspiration quote that comes to mind, with which I 100% agree.
In the end, I might not have completed all 20 weeks in the last two weeks, but I sure have completed 6, and printed 11 more weeks to work with in the next little while. Pages got done, lessons were learned and progress was made.
So there you have it, my thoughts on the Project Life catch up.
Did you participate? If so, how did you do? Do you have any suggestions? Thoughts? Ideas? I’d love to hear them. Please tell me your ways 🙂

Project Life catch up: what worked & what didn’t.
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25 thoughts on “Project Life catch up: what worked & what didn’t.

  • August 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    You are amazing. Did you hear that all the way from Florida? YOU ARE AMAZING.

    Six stunning weeks of scrapbooking done, with insight into how to make the next eleven more pain-free. I’d say this was a job well done.

    I agree with many of your insights, they square SO MUCH with what I realized over the course fo this brilliant challenge of yours. Especially the massive work of the photos, oh my god. Everything about this past two weeks for me has been coming to grips with needing to make huge changes to how I approach the photo part of PL. Literally everything else about making a spread pales in comparison to what I put myself through to choose, edit, print and arrange the photos (which are boss in my layouts, too). My blog post is sadly not going to be up until Friday (that whole “living life” thing), but you might be interested in the Nuclear Option I finally went with.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts in such a detailed post, and for being so honest! You truly are an inspiration, you know that? 😀

  • August 27, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Olya! I truly enjoyed reading it–it was so interesting… I approach Project Life so differently than most (very loose structure of photos sorted chronologically … For the most part lol) and I can’t really fall behind, but there are still things you wrote about that resonate with me, especially not worrying about how fancy my pages are! My pages have become much simpler and it’s allowed me to continue adding to my album more regularly 🙂

  • August 27, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    I find these posts facinating. Thanks for the good the bad and the ugly. Enjoyed it.

  • August 27, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Great post! I do PL monthly and I don’t plan out the pockets anymore. I just print photos and then stick them into pockets semi-chronologically. Taking planning out of the equation saves me a TON of time!

  • August 27, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Oyla, in this post you hit so many nails on the head… Well not literally of course! I was behind by roughly 6 weeks before your challenge & taking it up! I think what works for me is the size of my project life. I do 6×8 so one week can technically be only 6 to 8 pockets! I also use the collect app for printing my photos & it takes care of the journaling part as well. I found myself always behind when doing 12×12. And I totally agree, sometimes life just gets in the way! Ironic indeed. I learnt to not get this behind again! So thanks for that lesson alone!
    Karen x

  • August 28, 2014 at 7:34 am

    Thanks for sharing your candid thoughts about #letscatchuponprojectlife — about what works and doesn’t work for you!! Soul baring!! Much of what you wrote, basically your process applies to me too. My BIGGEST problem is ‘getting started’. Thus I loved the notion of a challenge that you and Cayley kick started! It helped light a fire and Yes the fire is still burning. Each day I dedicate time to ‘catching up’. Why? 1. to record memories and have others enjoy looking through my albums (which they do on a regular basis) 2. I have invested money in the CocoaDaisy Day in the Life monthly kit which I love and before them Studio Calico. Sooo I have LOTS of product to use. 3. I love CREATING and PL is one of outlets for this urge.

    A few months ago I changed the way I save and print photos for PL. Now, I save in folders by weeks and I only print the photos for the week I am working on. I find I can get right at IT!! I gave myself permission to not worry about the whole month all matching up i.e. colour themed, embellies, filler cards etc. And really at the end of the day a month looks really great and more importantly I have photographed and recorded some special memories. So that’s it for now my friend!! I love your style and your enthusiasm to keep all the pieces of your ART LIFE GOING!!

  • August 28, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Hi Olya,
    Well, I needed to see this process of yours because the summer has derailed my PL. And I’m searching for (procrastinating) inspiration. I’m a blink away from ordering a photo printer because my biggest gripe is the crazy color mis-calibration I get when I print at the nearby photo station. All that said: you totally owned this catch up!! I love how you sorted your photos, mocked up your own planner, and showed that checklist who’s boss. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • August 29, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I’ve been surprised to find that dealing with my photos, like you, takes a couple of hours! I only started PL at the beginning of the summer so I have been really surprised by that.
    Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

  • August 29, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    I can relate to so much to this post and your process, except I decided to stick to design A page protectors this year because having too many choices stressed me out last time. Loved reading this post – thank you for taking time to write out your thoughts for us. And I’m so glad we did this together!! xx.

  • August 30, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    What a great post. It was so interesting to read through it.
    You have a Selphy? Didn’t know that. awesome. I think I need one 😉
    And I love that box for memorabilia. I just store my things on my table, but I think a box is better idea.

  • August 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Wow, friend. What. a. post.
    You truly are amazing.

  • September 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    OLYA! So, honestly I was dreading reading this post because I was like ‘Olya probably got all 20 of her weeks done and it is going to make me feel like such a failure”. So glad you were so honest!! I felt the same way about all of that! It takes me soooooo long to prep the photos! JEEZ! But forcing myself to have simpler spreads helps so much. I agonize over embellies also. But I like that I now have all my photos ready to go and can sit down anytime I have some time to work on it. But I have felt so Project Life overwhelmed lately because there is so much of it to be done and I feel like its all Ive been working on for foreeevvvveerrrr! I just need to use my hands to make something else sometimes. But! I totally loved this challenge and the motivation it gave me and the organization it set up. And that hashtag is one of the most inspiring ones Ive seen in a long time. So thank you for setting this up. Thank you for your motivation. Thank you for creating momentum. Thank you for being honest and a normal human and sharing it! Love!

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  • September 2, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Loved reading this post!! First of all, chapeau to you for all the work you put in!!
    I’m quite behind on my PL (actually since January, have only done two or three weeks in between…) and I will definitely try to incorporate some of your advice into my planning and working on all those weeks!

  • September 10, 2014 at 5:51 am

    I didn’t even try to join. These last few weeks of Toronto have had nicer weather than most of the summer, and I’m taking full advantage. I have my photos printed from each week and eventually when it’s gross outside I’ll cozy up and re-live my summer. Though I have to admit the overflowing shoebox of prints and ephemera is an overwhelming mess!

  • October 7, 2014 at 5:35 am

    THANK you thank you for this post! I tried PL once and crashed and burned horribly, but I really want to try again. I love seeing everyone’s layouts and would love to have my every days documented.

  • December 10, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Great idea! I’ll be using many of your suggestions/options. The one thing I do differently is the page planning/sketch. I don’t always follow a weekly plan and often mix PL with traditional 12×12 pages so I made a planner page that has a graph for each page plus boxes for each day on the front, and simple lines on the back. This way I can draw on the graph according to the page style I want to use, because, like you, my pictures determine what I do with the page, and then have a record of quotes, memories and notes of memorabilia to add. I do like your box for storing those extras and will be looking for something to use that way.
    Thanks for the post, the ideas and the motivation!

    • December 28, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Could you post a picture of your graphic sketch, or how you work with it please. Definitely interested in seeing it in action so to speak! Thanks.

  • December 28, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I love this idea!!! I am behind too on pictures. This gives me a plan to get caught up. Thanks for sharing.

  • February 9, 2015 at 6:50 pm

    Olya! How am I JUST seeing this?! Because I was moving and having a baby when all this went down last year 😉 I had to pop in to say (a) I love your posts on this series (and apparently I’m not the only one!) and (b) I “draw” my PL pages in THE EXACT SAME WAY AS YOU. I’m tempted to put something on Instagram to show you as evidence. Seriously classic. I knew we were kindred spirits. xoxo

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  • August 31, 2015 at 6:48 am

    wow, it’s awesome, thanks 🙂 I try make my first album DIY 🙂

  • September 6, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Well I am about 5-6 YEARS behind, so I can truly feel your pain! I am making things more complicated for myself by continuing the large 12 x 12 photo scrapbook albums, in addition to my PL (what I call a Smash-Art Book). What is helping me, is that I’m not worried so much about chronology at the moment – I mean, if I get the month right, then woo hoo! (Good enough!)

    • October 14, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      you got this! *insert fist pump here*

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