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Around Here | February 2015

On the last day of each month I'm sharing a personal recap that will also be included in my 2015 album.

Photo Feb 11, 7 51 14 AM

See more of my February on Instagram.

Around here we actually started putting nails in the walls.

Around here she's 3.5 and 42" tall. She was 41" a month ago.

Around here my coffee gets blacker with the amount of work I have.

Around here he took me out to dinner and a movie on the 13th.

Around here I'm starting to read autobiographies of funny women.

Around here she wants a drum set (?!) for her birthday.

Around here they built a snow tunnel in the front yard.

Around here I'm totally ready for winter to be over.

Around here we're enjoying gift cards we received in December.

Around here I'm working crazy hard on several big projects.

Around here this month has been a blur.

How did February treat you? I'd love it if you shared one highlight, challenge, or realization in the comments.


How to Plan a Scrapbook Project + Free Project Planning Tools

It's a near-universal truth that sometimes projects don't get finished. No one sets out not to finish; it just happens due to a combination of circumstances and choices. So far we've explored letting go of guilt, why projects aren't completed, and what makes a project more finishable.

In this post I want to share an approach for planning your next project so that you feel more confident and in control of getting it done. My recommended steps don't take a lot of time, but they do require a pause to think and write about your intended project before it becomes another unfinished object in your pile.

Before we get started, however, I want to caveat this exercise. I don't believe that any project can be perfect and I also don't believe that planning can stand in for good old-fashioned effort. Planning is a tool to save you time and heartache, making creativity easier and more fun. Following the plan, however, is the clincher.

You've got to do the work.

Scrapbook Project Planning Step-by-Step

The first part of project planning is (metaphorically) painting a picture. Documenting the project's vision can prevent you from veering off track and forgetting what this activity is supposed to be about.

1. Meaning - Describe the purpose of this project in a nutshell. Include why it is important to you and the core story you want to tell.

2. Scope - Elaborate on the time range of photos and what aspects of the story will be included or excluded in this project.

3. Format - Use as many details as you can to describe how you want this project to come together and what the end result looks like.

4. Supplies - Itemize the photos and products you will use for this project, making sure to include both what you have and what you need to buy.

5. Steps - List out the major steps in the project so that you can mark off your progress (and celebrate each victory) along the way.

The second part of project planning is optional, but helpful. I will often use plain or graph paper to storyboard the project, from start to finish. I will draw rectangles to represent each printed page, page protector, or pocket page. Then I will map out the main subject matter for each page.

In the downloads below, I've included a free project planning worksheet as well as images representing the most common sizes of page projectors and pocket pages. You can use these images to create your own project storyboard by hand or in presentation software like PowerPoint or Pages.

For further support for project planning and follow-through, I'd love to have you join me for The Finishing Project this March.

The Finishing Project begins March 5.


Simple Tip Saturday with Jamie Leija

As part of our Simple Tip Saturday series, we're inviting fresh voices into the mix. Today we’re hearing from Simple Scrapper team member Jamie Leija with her simple tip.



What is one way you simplify scrapbooking?

If I'm on the hunt for crafty inspiration, I only look in three places:
  1. Pinterest-specifically my Layout, Crafts & Craft Inspiration boards
  2. BlogLovin-my blog reader
  3. Simple Scrapper-either looking back through old Spark mags or browsing the sketch and Story Starter archive.
 I choose to funnel lots of inspiration through narrower channels--such as Pinterest and my blog reader. I think it's great that so many online galleries give you an option to save your favorite layouts, but it's not the most efficient way to streamline your inspiration. I make sure to add anything I love directly to my Pinterest board (and many galleries provide a button for you to do just that). I feel the same about blog readers. I like having all of my creative/inspiration/scrapbook blogs in one central place. I'm not having to remember them all or look up bookmarks. And just as with the online galleries, if there's a blog post I like and want to make note of, I add it to one of my Pinterest boards.

What problem does it solve for you?

This helps cut down time spent on my second favorite hobby (internet browsing) and instead, spend time doing my favorite hobby--scrapbooking.

Why do you think it works so well?

Since I'm only looking in these three very specific places, I'm not getting lost down an internet rabbit hole. It feels very focused and about 95% of the time, gives me exactly what I need.

How can others get started with it?

I would encourage you to get all of your inspiration into as few places as possible.
  • Sign up for Pinterest, if you haven't already.
  • Search for Scrapbooking or Project Life Inspiration Boards (or whatever else floats your boat) and start pinning your favorites.
  • Utilize a blog reader. BlogLovin and Feedly are two I know of, although I'm sure there are others out there.
  • Refer back to the large archive of Simple Scrapper content. Jennifer has done a great job of compiling everything in a few spots in the membership area. If you're in the mood to look at visual inspiration, start with Spark. Have some photos but don't know what to do with them, browse the Sketches & Templates. Or, if you just are looking for ideas to make pages about, click through the Story Starters. There are 4 years worth of ideas there, that's nearly 600 prompts to get you going.
Simple Tip Saturdays are for sharing easy ideas to grab and run.

February Free Sketch & Template

Each month our members receive new sketches and companion layered templates, plus a digital magazine featuring these tools in action. This year I'm giving away a sketch and template set from our membership library every month on the blog.

This month's freebie is a 6-photo, 12x12 layout with a simple grid of 4x3 photos. There are more than 225 sketches and templates instantly accessible when you become a Simple Scrapper member.


See it in action...

Here's an interpretation from Jean Manis that combines two photo spots and uses printed journaling:


Here's an interpretation from Sue Althouse where the photos are added in two collage strips:


Here's an interpretation from Pam Lozano that replaces photo spots with additional embellishing:


If you use this design concept to inspire your own layout, please come back and leave a comment sharing your page. I can't wait to see how you make this your own!


The Best Productivity Habit I’ve Added to My Day

From fundamental habits to specific tweaks, over the years I've shared much productivity advice in this space. I don't see productivity as how to squeeze more hours into the day, but rather, how to make the most of the time you have so that life feels simpler.

Often this conversation turns to energy management because we all get tired - or we're actually tired all.the.time. And when we're tired, it's all-too-tempting to zone out with your technology drug of choice instead of doing something worthwhile. I am no stranger to this!

The thing is, this conversation tends to focus on the beginnings - how we start the day, a project, or a task even when we feel resistance. This is only half the solution. In recent months, I've discovered a small step I can take to regain energy and focus when I've already been working.


Late last year I started to pay attention to when my activities were only filling up my time and not my heart. Yes, my lowest energy periods (evenings for me) tended to be the worst. However, I also found that I went through cycles during the day. After I had been working just fine and with focus for a while, I would start to drift.

It turned out that the middles and ends of my activities were just as important to productivity as the beginnings. This discovery was not shocking, but powerful information to help me identify this state and shift my behavior. Now, instead of wondering where an hour went, I can take action with purpose. What this looks like is actually pretty simple.

When I feel myself wandering, I check my to-do list to see what I'm supposed to be doing and then I get up. I remove myself from the situation and get a drink of water, walk around the house, or look out the window. Sometimes I'll even do jumping jacks or other simple physical movements.

I engage my body in order to re-engage my mind. This isn't about getting your heart rate up, though that certainly doesn't hurt. Activating your body - even briefly - is proven to increase energy and focus by sending more oxygen to your brain.

It's taken practice to make this a habit and I am conscious about being gentle with myself. However, it was instantly clear that adding this productivity skill to my day was needed and only takes minutes.

Without any radical changes, I am more alert, more energized, and more focused throughout the day. More importantly, I feel more joy and ease in my life knowing that I am spending more of my time well.

Have you made a small shift that impacted your energy and focus? Share it in the comments.