While pregnant I purchased the One Line a Day journal to begin upon my daughter’s birth. Tucked neatly into my hospital bag, I knew this was a memory keeping project I would be able to complete.
Today it has roughly 20 entries, most between January and May of 2012. She was born in August of the previous year.
For a long time I felt so guilty that I had failed at this simple project. “Was I really so busy that I couldn’t muster to write down one sentence in a 24 hour period?” I asked myself, just one iteration of the mental flogging that continued for an entire year.
Right after my daughter’s first birthday, I sat down to look at her scrapbook. It wasn’t by any means finished, but I had dozens of photos already tucked into pocket pages and scrapbooked on layouts plus more than a thousand on my computer.
Amidst all the guilt about what I wasn’t doing, I had forgotten to recognize that I was still moving forward. I was sneaking in creative time when I could and documenting our lives the best that I could.
It was then that I realized my guilt was only serving to hold me back from celebrating that every photo I take and every story I capture totally and 100% counts. I discovered that unfinished projects are a symbol of progress, not of imperfection.
I learned to give myself permission to be right where I am and even more importantly, to let my hobby reflect who I am: a work-in-progress.
I put the journal in a drawer, knowing that anything I had documented was awesome and that I could continue filling it in the future, when the time was right.
I actually had forgotten about it until I was unpacking my office. The journal is now on my nightstand, part of new practices I’m cultivating to simplify scrapbooking and everyday life.
How to Approach Your Unfinished Projects
We all have unfinished projects and there’s no one best way to deal with them. The best way for you, however, will be a combination of guilt-relieving approaches that feel joyful and help you move towards accomplishment. Here’s my recommended process:
1. Give yourself permission to be right where you are.
When you begin with an acceptance of the past, you can move forward with more ease and less resistance. Remember that you’re not behind, you are where you are – and it’s OK. (Thanks FLYLady!) You have permission to start right here.
2. Take a good, honest look at the situation.
Create an inventory of not only what is unfinished, but what you have finished in the recent past. By focusing on the victories you can celebrate as well as what’s still to do, you’ll trigger a sense of pride that can shift you from inspiration to action.
3. Decide what obligations can finally be released.
Sometimes the fastest way to eliminate unfinished project guilt is to simply let go. This can look a lot of different ways, but it all comes back to making a decision that this project should be scrapped for parts or abandoned all together. It’s OK if you and if you don’t.
4. Commit to tackling just one single project.
Multi-tasking in scrapbooking doesn’t work any better than it does elsewhere. You can only work on one thing at a time, literally. Create a simple list of one single item. Break it down in steps of you need to, but use a singular focus to carry you to the finish.
5. Look for opportunities to streamline and simplify.
When you’re in it with a project, not just thinking about it, you can begin to see the challenges. Often the roadblock that stopped your original progress becomes clear and you can forge a new path ahead. Stay mindful to signals that a course correction is needed.
6. Repeat steps 1-5.
The only path to finishing is through. As you do the “work”, you’ll remember why you started each project and the parts of memory keeping that fill you up the most.
Finishing one project will create momentum to work on something else or finish yet another. This is not a race; this is your beautiful, messy, and unfinished life.
In the comments below, I’d like to invite you to share a list of 3 finished and 3 unfinished projects.