project life, three things I’m doing differently this year

February 1, 2013 |  by  |  liz project life, project life

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1. One thing that’s never really been intuitive for me is thinking about the year in terms of 52 weeks so I printed out a 2013 Week Chart and taped it to my day planner (which I keep out on my desk). Now I can reference it easily without having to jump on the computer to check what week a certain date falls on. Because you know what happens when I have to click around the internet to get the info I need? I get distracted (“new email!” “Oh, that is so cute, I need to PIN IT!”) and it takes me that much longer to get things done. The weeks on this handy chart run from Monday to Sunday. I’m liking this format because it makes more sense for us to keep the weekend together instead of splitting up Saturday and Sundays like I did last year.

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2. I’m sticking memorabilia in pockets right away instead of filing them away in a project life folder like I did last year. As you can see in the photo below, that didn’t work out so well. Out of sight really is out of mind.  Half the time I’d forget to check the folder. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like digging through things to figure out which memento belonged to what week. And then it got so full, I avoided it all together.

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3. Lastly, I make a mock up in photoshop to make sure I like the way the photos look together before sending them to print. I resisted doing this last year because it seemed like busy work, an unnecessary extra step. I really wanted a simple workflow process: print, stick them in the pockets and be happy to have another week documented. But as it turns out I couldn’t just print and be done with it because color cohesiveness is important to me.

Last year’s process went something like this. Print the photos, then spend a lot of time arranging them and rearranging them trying to make the “as is” photos work then eventually end up reprocessing some of the photos (or swapping them out with different photos), reprinting them before I was happy with the layout. I accumulated a lot of unused photos last year. And spent a lot of time shuffling photos around.

As it turns out, doing a quick mockup in photoshop to check for color cohesiveness has helped to streamline the process so that now it is just a matter of printing and putting the photos in pockets.

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I still do a bit of re-arranging once I have printed photos in hand but I haven’t had to go back to re-edit and reprint photos. WIN!

It took me a while to figure all this out -what I wanted our project life album to be, what I wanted to look like, and how much time I was willing to spend on it.

What about you? What’s your approach to project life?  What types of things are you doing to keep it manageable (and fun)?


53 Comments


  1. 1
    Molly says:

    you’re awesome.

  2. 2
    Michele H. says:

    Great process! I love everything about the PL concept but haven’t jumped on board yet. I had a couple of questions for you:

    do you fit an entire year in one album?
    how do you like the 12×12 size? (this is totally keeping me from doing this)

    Thanks!

    • 2.1
      Liz says:

      So far I’ve been able to keep it to one album a year. Though, in 2011 I didn’t start until May and in 2012, I was able to fit a month’s worth of photos in 4 pages and I skipped a couple of weeks in 2012. With all that in mind, I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep 2013 to just one album.

      12×12 is a bigger format than I’d prefer – I think my ideal would be an 8.5×11. I can’t see myself going any smaller because one of the things I love most about Project life is the ability to slip in things like student of the month certificates, art work, etc. and most of those pieces are letter sized. I can just stick those pieces in as is instead of scanning it and re-printing at a smaller size. If you don’t have that hang up about storing letter sized pieces, have you considered trying a 6×8 size?

      • Michele H. says:

        I definitely have thought about the 6×8. I am crushin’ big time on Kelly Purkey’s and Jamaica’s PL albums but like you, I think I would enjoy adding in those larger pieces of documents that I happen to collect. I just need to get over my 12×12 phobia (LOL)!

  3. 3
    Deirdre says:

    I’m just starting our 2013, doing a month instead of a week layout. I’m curious if you could share why you rearranged the final placement in the sample you showed. I like the final better but I’m not sure why (and I wanna learn why so my layouts don’t bother me/take so long). Do you think the bottom photos were heavier in a way, and if so, why? Because they’re close up?
    TIA!

    • 3.1
      Liz says:

      Good questions Deirdre! Yes, I think you’re right. The way I had it originally didn’t have a good flow – no focal point for the eye to rest while you’re scanning the page. Switching the photos of my daughters from the top right to the bottom makes for a better flow. The white space in the background makes for a natural resting point so it creates a good breaking point when you’re looking at the page, if that makes sense. Also, moving the 3×4 food photo to the edge of the page was a better spot. It sort of stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle because it has the most colors, but none of those colors were tying in with the photos surrounding it. Moving it to the edge, and pairing it closer to the photos of my daughters which also had greens created a better flow. When I’m deciding on photo placement, I try to place things in a way to help guide your eye so that you can take the whole picture in at once AND allows you to hone in on each individual story. When it’s too busy and there’s no resting point, you have to work harder to take everything in, kwim? :) In the end though, don’t overthink it (easier said than done someties) and trust your gut instincts. If you’re happy with it, then trust that it looks good.

  4. 4
    jamaica says:

    I’ve been ending up with lots of duplicates to in the same re-edit/re-print cycle. Your PS mock-up plan is fantastic, I never thought of doing that. It’s the digital equivalent of measure twice, cut once. Yes?

    Here’s my short list of changes this year:
    1) adding notes/dates to my photos pre-printing rather than handwriting them. I’m realizing I wasted a lot of time/ink/paper printing and reprinting photos if I didn’t like the pen color, how the writing fit or made a typo.

    2) ignoring “weeks” and focusing on months. Instead of trying to label each week I’m adding monthly dividers and simply adding dates to photos. It felt like an unnecessary complication and made me feel behind all the time. Now, if I miss a few days or have a hard time “filling in” a week, you won’t even notice.

    3) minimal pocket customizations. Last year I made all sorts of differently sized pockets and got crazy with my sewing machine. This year I’m sticking with ready-made protectors and only doing quick and dirty customizations. If I add a pocket over another one I’m stitching it on quickly by hand or using a stapler close to the edge where you won’t notice.

    Basically I’m simplifying the process as much as possible, cutting out what I know to be the time-wasting or potentially problematic steps and letting go of my perfectionist tendencies. Turns out, I’m spending less time and loving it more.

    • 4.1
      Liz says:

      Jamaica, you know your PL is one of my all time faves. Killer style and you make it look so effortless! I’m surprised to learn that you redid things too, but I’m glad that to learn that I’m not the only one that revised and redid things constantly. I love the tweaks you’ve made to your system and will be especially interested in seeing how focusing on months changes the flow for you. I naturally think in terms of “months” rather than “weeks” so that is part of my HUGE struggle with PL. I tried so hard to make the “month” approach work but failed so I will be looking to your album for inspiration.

      Yay for simplifying! Looking forward to seeing your PL album this year!

  5. 5
    Dawn Ritchie says:

    For me, some weeks are “get everything in as fast as possible because I have no time” and others are “add any small detail because I have some time and want this to really be pretty”.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that I really have too many page protectors. I really love the 12×12 layout and Design A is my base, but when I first started I had to buy ALL of the plastics I could find (not limited to Becky Higgins brand) and now they just collect dust as I’ve found a comfy groove.

    This year I want to include more “stuff” so I have a space on my kitchen counter (away from toddler hands) that I put something from the day and bring it downstairs and toss it in my page protector for the week (exactly like your pic) and it’s worked out!

    And, more than anything, I have to just be okay with it if it’s not “perfect” for me. I’ve gone back through last years albums a few times (I ended up using 4) and I can see where I might’ve been able to add something or whatever, but it’s still all there and still way more than I’d have gotten done with strictly “normal” scrapbooking.

    OH and I’ve purged a TON. Trying not to hoard or just collect all the pretty papers is my goal this year… it’s just insane.

    Thank you for sharing your process though. I always love insights into other people’s worlds and thought processes regarding this project.

    • 5.1
      Liz says:

      I love your kitchen counter system Dawn and hooray for filling 4 albums (WOW!) last year! I too love reading about other people’s workflow, they are inspiring reads and I always learn something new.

  6. 6
    Christine N says:

    I am not doing Project Life in Weeks this year, so I’m not worried about which week is which dates. Last year I just had sticky notes on the left upper pocket where I’d written the date range.

    I know what you mean about the photo arranging and how they look together. I actually created a print template in Lightroom. In LR it’s just drag and drop once you’ve created the template. The photos fill each slot perfectly and no need to realign them. If you don’t like a photo in a particular slot, just drag a different one into it. I mocked the print template to look like Design A page protectors. It works awesome! :)

  7. 7
    Shannon says:

    Thanks for these tips Liz :)

    This is my first year doing Project Life and I decided to go all digi to make things faster for me *hopefully*

    I started my album in InDesign but have started to wonder if it would be a bit faster for me in Photoshop since it’s where I work on layouts 90% of the time. Your #3 has me thinking it might help :)

    • 7.1
      Liz says:

      If you plan on doing more projects (photobooks perhaps) in InDesign, it might be worth it to stick it out. :) Have fun with your Project Life album this year Shannon!!

  8. 8
    mary rogers says:

    just committing to a plan/layout etc has been the hardest part for me. I want to start now (I am taking notes, photos, etc) but really want to use your Midnight kit…so debating that right now.

    also, do you now Liz if Midnight will also be available as a digital option?

    thanks,

    • 8.1
      Liz says:

      Mary,

      Figuring out a plan has been a challenge and for me it’s not something I can do until I just jump in and start. From there it’s trial and error. It’s taken me a year and a half to finally get a “groove” going. Most people though, tend to figure out a formula after completing a few weeks.

      Yes, the Midnight edition will be available as a digital download at AC Digitals. Don’t have an exact release date but I’m guessing it will be made available a bit sooner than the paper edition.

      • Liz says:

        And I don’t want to scare you. I did figure out a formula after completing two weeks of project life, but I wasn’t able to figure out an efficient system until just recently. :)

  9. 9
    Nat says:

    I’m not a project lifer, but I do see the value in being honest with yourself about what you can accomplish and what works for you. Even if it seems like an extra step to do something, if that’s the way it’ll make most sense for your process, why not?

  10. 10
    Liza says:

    Oh my word. That’s commitment.

  11. 11
    jenn says:

    great ideas to simplify. I’m curious how exactly you create the digital mockup, do you have a digital template that you are using? Last year I gave up around May, and mostly because I couldn’t figure out the best way to know what photos to print as 4×6 vs 2×3… this digital plan looks like it would really help.

    • 11.1
      Liz says:

      Hi Jenn,

      I originally started off doing the mockups using a digital template but I found that it was more work – I’d arrange it them on the 12×12 template and then I’d have to go back and redo the 3×4′s over again for printing. Too many busy steps. Now I figure out the 3×4 and 2×3 configurations using these photo templates (free download in my shop):

      http://www.the-lilypad.com/store/4×6-Photo-Templates.html

      Then pop them in really quickly on a 12×12 file to see how they look with the 4×6 photos. The process sounds more convoluted than using the digital template but it works better for me, if that makes any sense. :)

      • jenn says:

        Thank you Liz, it actually does make sense to me. I went over and downloaded the templates (As well as a couple other things). I look forward to seeing more of your project Life and just your blog in general!

  12. 12
    michelle says:

    I also find doing a pre-plan helps a lot. I have an InDesign template that I use. It works really well for me. I like your idea of sticking things in right away, because I noticed last year I would keep stuff but then never put it in. Or have to get one of the small envelopes to put things in.

  13. 13
    Emma says:

    Wow – awesome organisation, I wish I could get myself to the stage where I could be this organised – I”m A LONG way off!
    x

    • 13.1
      Liz says:

      It’s taken me a lot longer than most to finally get to this point, ha! But I’ve enjoyed the process of getting here. :)

  14. 14
    Manda says:

    YES! Lightroom is an amazing tool for Project Life! I have many different templates for all the page protectors. I still seem to shuffle around after they’re printed, but it’s certainly helpful. And I love your idea for putting in memorabilia in the slots ahead of time.

  15. 15
    Holly says:

    This is my second year doing project life and I am loving it. I love the whole putting it together process and that it makes me record more of what’s happening in my days. It makes the year more tangible.

  16. 16
    jennifer says:

    I really stuck with PL in 2011 and with getting crazy with Instagram and adding the Silhouette into the mix in 2012, I totally feel out of it and stopped. I recently printed out 200+ photos from 2012 and just started filling, a la Becky’s original intention for PL and have to say, I’m so happy to have it 98% done! No worrying about weeks, just separated by months with lots of photos and stories on cards. Worked hard to just get things in and documented (I still thought about arrangement but didn’t let it bog me down) – I think that focusing on months has been very helpful for me. I don’t always take tons of photos each week, so I fill the book with whatever I have, when I have it. I LOVE the look of all the “extras” but think that really contributed to my downfall last year. Sometimes I just don’t have time for it. Trying to simplify and stay focused this year :) Good luck to you – always love what you do!

    • 16.1
      Liz says:

      Thanks for sharing your process Jennifer. I think the “month” system is more aligned with the way that I think/organize/document but I couldn’t figure out how to adapt that to how I was approaching PL. I’m thrilled that you’ve found a way to make PL work for you. If the week system doesn’t work out for me this year, I will be looking closely at what you’re doing :)

  17. 17

    This is my first year that I’m attempting to do Project Life for the entire year. I’ve been going strong for the past few weeks but find that sometimes I don’t like how the pictures I’ve chosen for the week flow together once I’ve printed them (at Costco) and then have the pics back to insert into the pockets. Mocking up in PS is a fantastic idea! I did this before I uploaded to print this morning and am super happy with the results. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • 17.1
      Liz says:

      Oh yay, so glad you are happy with the results. Double checking in photoshop (or whatever program you’re using) has made a huge difference for me this year!

  18. 18
    Gemma says:

    Thanks for sharing a peek at your process! I love how cohesive your albums always look.

    I always do my project life pages at the end of the week in one session so that I can match everything up, but I noticed last year that I didn’t get much journaling into my album. This year I am still doing my pages on a Sunday but I am also completing some journaling cards throughout the week as things happen :)

  19. 19
    Melanie says:

    Oh, I so hear you on #3. I think this is my biggest ‘issue’ about PL so far. It doesn’t have the cohesive-ness I want, and I’m finding it hard to keep the photos looking like they belong together. Obviously, I haven’t found my groove yet, so I’m hoping it will eventually all flow better! I’m going to try your approach with the PS mock-up and see if that helps. I agree it’s an extra step, but if it means being able to put it together faster, it’s totally worth it.

    • 19.1
      Liz says:

      So excited to follow along and see your PL come together this year Melanie! Your work is so inspiring – simplicity at its finest.

  20. 20
    cinback says:

    I attempted PL last year and only made it to Week 6! Working full time outside of the home meant limited hours to work on a weekly LO and I just could not sustain it. This year, however, I am giving it another go, but on a monthly basis instead of weekly. This way, if there are slower weeks, I am not trying to fill them up with stuff that is not meaningful. Also, I can just add one story after the other without worrying about where it should go.

    I am also going to incorporate One Little Word into my PL album. So much of what I apply to my word also applies to my everyday life, so the two seem to fit naturally.

    Another little addition is the pages from my daytimer. At the end of the month I just rip them out of my book and slip them into an 8x8in page protector. That is where I have documented dentist appointments, shopping trips, weekends away, etc. It is all in point form, but compliments my life story nicely. I have about six of these daytimers from past years just sitting on my shelf, easily forgotten. Now, by adding them to PL, they will help tell the story of my month.

    I have just finished my first month and I am loving how it is all fitting together so smoothly…

    • 20.1
      Liz says:

      omg, I love the idea of incorporating pages from your dayplanner! Totally, totally genius – our notes really are a great snapshots of what went on during the month. LOVE.

  21. 21
    jennifer d. jesse says:

    thanks liz for the epoch converter! that helps out so much!

  22. 22
    Kim Howard says:

    I love your ideas! I especially love the week day starting on Monday-Saturday; I’m thinking that I may covert to doing it this way going forward as often we are at two day events on Saturday/Sunday and this makes so much more sense.

    I have a template I have printed out that I write what pictures go where and where my journaling cards will be. I sit down once a week and write these out so even if I don’t have the pics printed out I know which ones I’ll use. I’m trying to edit and have them in a folder ready to print though.

    Thanks for the wonderful tips, I can’t wait to see how your album comes along this year.

  23. 23

    Liz, I love the clean simplicity of your PL album. Which, of course, doesn’t surprise me at all since that is your style. Anyway, it’s just beautiful! Thanks for the tips. I especially like the handy chart for the weeks of the year.

  24. 24
    natasha says:

    Hi Liz love your style I was wondering do you use any other elements in your layouts or just your own designs would love to know what stuff you love to use
    thanks for the share I’m going to try the digital LO is if that helps streamline

  25. 25
    Linda says:

    Great tips! I definitely agree about the filing things away in a folder…out of sight out of mind for sure! I’ve found that if you have to put things in folders/envelopes it ONLY works if they are separated by week/month [whatever segments you divide your album in]. Also, although it’s hard for me to do, it’s important to get rid of memorabilia that doesn’t make it into your album. I have tons of old programs & tickets that never got scrapped & when I finally forced myself to throw them away it felt so good!

  26. 26
    Jen Ernst says:

    I am really enjoying your blog and the meaningful way in which you are able to combine hear felt sharing of your pages while including GREAT information about your process and taking the time to explain some of the more technical details. I really appreciate that part of your posts as I am BRAND NEW to project life this year and I am also in the process of mustering up the courage to dive into the pool that is PHOTOSHOP, but I have to admit the program terrifies me although I am certain in the end it will bring me great joy :) Here’s a link to my first post about all of my thoughts on my first month of Project Life if you should have the interest or the time to read it I would be honored.

    http://wp.me/p1ZIVa-6e

    Thanks for sharing!
    -thejensspin

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