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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.

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See it in action...

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

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

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Where Else to See & Hear Me

Last year was very much about creating space by saying no, by hunkering down and doing the work. Now that I have a plan for the year in place, I'm more open to connecting (are you on Instagram?) and saying yes more.

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In the past two months I've been on two podcasts and been interviewed by Skype and by email. If you're interested in hearing my take on some different topics, including many personal tidbits, here are the links:

Guest on the Paperclipping Roundtable
In PRT236 we answered listener questions, covering quite the range of topics. Fellow guests included Peppermint Granberg Jones and Kelly Sill.

Guest on the Digi Scrap Geek podcast
Our conversation in DSG15 focused on choosing projects and seeing them through. I enjoyed joining this group for the first time.

Interview with Melissa Shanhun
My conversation with Melissa tackles the common problem of unfinished projects. We don't hold back here, revealing personal wins and fails.

Interview with Jamie Leija
Curious about me? I answer Jamie's questions for her new creative business owner series. I had so much fun telling this part of my story.

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The Simple Secret to Finishing More of the Projects You Start

Let's start with some math here. When you look at all the memory keeping projects you started over the last year, how many are finished? Now, what's that as a percentage?

(If it's 100%, then you may continue on with your day. You might take a look at the Simple Scrapper membership to help maintain the streak.)

For most of us, however, that percentage is less than 100%.

Last week we discussed some of the reasons why scrapbook projects don't get finished. This post will continue that conversation, sharing a simple approach you can use to finish more of the projects you start.

How to Finish More of What You Start

It would be too easy and too simplistic to suggest that you start fewer projects. In fact, I have found that my motivation took a nose-dive when I deliberately and drastically cut back on the projects I was starting.

I believe we need that special energy that comes from something new. We just also need to balance that desire with real action and actual finishing.

So what's the secret?

The secret to finishing more of the projects you start is starting more projects that you can finish. Ooh, that's a mouthful! In other words, start projects that are finishable.

The secrets of starting projects that are finishable.

Starting more projects you can finish is not about choosing only projects that don't take a lot of time or effort to complete. Finishable projects feel joyful and easy to you from beginning to end, no matter how detailed.

You may have noticed that I don't teach a lot of project classes, where I have you follow a specific plan. That's because I deeply believe that your plan is the best one.

When you customize a project to your unique skills and preferences, it immediately becomes more finishable. Here are some questions to ask yourself when planning a new project or evaluating next steps on an unfinished one:

  • Does this fit me or am I trend-following?
  • How much time do I really have?
  • Do I genuinely want to make this?
  • Could I be just as satisfied with less?

It doesn't take a lot of time to pause and consider answer these questions. In fact, this exercise might save you considerable time (and stress) in the long run.

Do any of these questions pop out as something you need to ask yourself more? Leave a comment sharing your reaction.

What will you finish?

The Finishing Project workshop begins March 5. Registration is open.

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Simple Tip Saturday with Jennifer Johnson

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 Jennifer Johnson with her simple tip.

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What is one way you simplify scrapbooking?

To simplify my scrapbooking, I've developed two methods of collecting stories - making notes in the metadata of my photos and keeping a master list of story ideas in Evernote.

Sometimes I look through my photos and a story will pop into my head. When that happens, I’ll jot a quick note in the metadata in Aperture. I do this by clicking the Info tab and typing into the Caption field. Then I tag it with the word “story”. This allows me to easily find all the photos that I have a specific story for.

My other way of collecting stories is by using a master list of page ideas in Evernote. I have a new folder for each year, and I just go month by month, adding to my lists as ideas come to me. These are usually time-specific ideas, but they don’t have to be. If the story is very important to me, I’ll highlight it in red. Once I've completed a page it gets highlighted in green. It’s nice to see my lists go from red and black to green!

What problem does it solve for you?

When I first started scrapping, I was so overwhelmed by all the ideas swirling in my head for layouts. I couldn’t focus, and I wasn’t always making pages that were important to me. Then someone on a forum mentioned making a master scrapping list, and the lightbulb went on over my head. I could clear my mind and focus on what was important with a simple list! The metadata idea came much later, but it’s just an extension of my other lists.

Why do you think it works so well?

I’m a list person. It helps clear my brain to get my ideas out into the world. The thing for me is, my lists are tools, not something that makes me feel guilty. I don’t feel a compulsion to make all the pages on my list. I have LO ideas from 2010 that I’ll probably never make. I’m totally fine with that.

How can others get started with it?

You can do what I do and make electronic lists. Or a piece of paper works just as well! I will be incorporating my lists into Jennifer’s editable PDF planner this year. The medium doesn’t matter, it’s how you choose to use your lists. Set a timer and start looking through your photos. Write down your story ideas. Then go back through them and pick out the ones that are the most important to you and highlight them or put a star next to them. Next time you have a few minutes to make a page, you’ll have lots of ideas all ready for you.

And one final note- I know lists aren't for everyone. Some people find them stifling or guilt-inducing. If this is you, please feel free to ignore this entire post. Go on with your day and enjoy your list-free existence. We still love you.

Simple Tip Saturdays are for sharing easy ideas to grab and run.
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