The Real Reason That Project Isn’t Finished

by | Projects & Processes | 23 comments

Over the weekend I was feeling grumpy so I put my must-do tasks aside to scrapbook for just a bit. I needed it.

The plan was to create a colorful stamped background to nudge out my crabbiness and then return to my list. Instead, I kept going.

I had discovered that sweet spot of timing and desire that makes it hard to do anything but finish.

This doesn’t happen every day for me and I bet it doesn’t for you either. But wouldn’t it be swell if it did?

To understand how to finish more often, we must tease apart why.

But first, I want to remind you to be gentle and kind with yourself. Create a safe space for honest reflection and acceptance without self-judgement. It doesn’t matter how you got here; what matters is where you go next.

4 Reasons Why Your Project is Unfinished

When you understand what factors contributed to not finishing, you can work at avoiding those obstacles in the future. A knowledge of why will arm you with the exact tools you need to forge a new and better path.

1. You have shiny object syndrome.

As women with creative interests, not to mention many responsibilities, it can be so hard to stay focused. Whether by new ideas, new projects, or simply a new episode of a favorite podcast, distraction is the fastest way to get off track. While you have so many good intentions, it can be hard to resist the lure of the next new thing.

What to do next: “Gamify” your experience, challenging yourself to focus for periods of time or to finish something before you’re allowed to do something else. Then, document your victories so you have a visual record of finishing.

2. You made the project too complicated.

The excitement of new supplies or new ideas can also lead to making a project more complicated that it needs to be. I can feel frustrating when there’s too much effort needed for each step or you’re trying too many new things at once. Your great idea can start to feel like a big mistake.

What to do next: There’s almost always a simpler solution that’s just as satisfying and meaningful, even as a course correction on an existing project. And when you select projects in the future, remember to take a moment to ask if your intended approach could be simplified.

3. You are battling perfectionism.

There’s little worse in scrapbooking than feeling paralyzed by indecision. You want to make all the right choices and take all the right steps, but this quest for perfection can seriously stall your progress. Then, projects can continually get pushed aside in waiting for that perfect time when you feel creative and skillful.

What to do next: To combat negative internal monologues, focus on creating within your wheelhouse. Use techniques and approaches you’ve used before and feel confident applying again. Build your confidence with successes before you try something new.

4. You lost the project’s joy connection.

Sometimes a project just doesn’t feel fun anymore, perhaps because one of the previous three reasons set you back. When you lose motivation for a project, what that really means is other circumstances have blocked your connection to the joy. Whatever meaning and deeper satisfaction underpins your process, this connection is what fuels creation.

What to do next: Spend a few minutes journaling about why you started this project or even simply a few minutes sharing that reason with someone else. Working through your thoughts and feelings by putting them into words is a fast track to clarity of purpose.

In the comments below, consider this a safe space and share a likely reason behind one of your unfinished projects.

Did you find this post helpful?

We believe simple is not how your page looks, but how your scrapbooking hobby works. We have a free workshop called SPARKED and it is the best way to learn more about Simple Scrapper and start creating consistently.


  1. Catherine Gervais

    I struggle with the first two especially! My husband’s hobby is video games and when I mentioned that I felt kinda frustrated trying to keep multiple albums going at once he pointed out that it works for him to only play one game at a time, until it’s finished. So lately I’m trying to incorporate shiny new projects into what I’m already doing. I like the idea of documenting what I’ve accomplished – just uploading to Flickr and then scanning my albums makes me feel great about what I’ve gotten done.

    Also, I find for projects that are “out there,” like 30 Days of Grateful, I get excited about the format, but maybe something like one layout that has a list of 30 things on it is a more realistic approach for me!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      You have some excellent insights here Catherine. Learning how to apply inspiration to your own activities (rather than the other way around) is a great skill you have mastered!

  2. Sarah

    Lots of great ideas here, Jennifer! Thank you so much for all these tips. You are awesome!!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      My pleasure Sarah!

  3. Tiffany M.

    I have found that it is difficult to complete journaling at a crop or social situation. I have found I leave many pages with no journaling and they stay unfinished because I am ready to move on. I have found that if I journal prior to the event, I am more likely to complete the pages as I go, instead of having to do the journaling, one of the least favorite tasks but to me the most important, all at one go after returning.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      That’s a wonderful tip Tiffany. Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. Pat

    Like Tiffney, I can’t journal at crops. I read that journaling uses another part of the brain from the creative side we use in making page layouts. This encouraged me to write down the journaling first so I would leave room on the layout for my journaling. I don’t handwrite my journaling so I need to know how much space to leave for my typewritten thoughts. This seems to work for me & I don’t have a problem finishing the journaling at my next crop session.
    The other thing that held me back was not knowing how the whole layout would go. I now decide on a section of pages –like the cake & candles of the birthday, then the gifts, the guests, so that I have a general idea of the theme/color etc. I usually do double page spreads, but it would work w/single pages also.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Pat, it’s awesome that you have identified ways to get past things that trip you up. Doing more of that, including looking for opportunities to go with the flow more, will continue to help you.

  5. Francine

    YES! I suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome! In spades! Even more when they’re being carried by SQUIRRELS! And my mind seems to have been invaded by fast breeding squirrels. (Faster than dust bunnies, even.)
    Gamify won’t work too well with me, especially when I feel overloaded – because once I get to the game – nothing else (except maybe fixing dinner and getting the dishes taken care of) gets done.
    And I’m feeling overloaded right now (but, surprisingly, I’ve been able to make one Lay-Out-A-Day at Scraphappy so far this month – because I pre-prepared for the month by setting up the base page i.e. opened a blank photoshop document and put my chosen template on it, for every day. Plus I made sure I had all my photos chosen. And I have a [BIG] list of digital kits to choose from. I will finish my 2013 cruise pages this month.)
    But I don’t do much of anything else and I’m getting frustrated with all the papers lying around and getting project(s) materials [stuff for my book, stuff for the LOAD challenges, stuff related to our upcoming cruise, bills, surveys that will get us a discount on shirts for DH, trash] mixed up. So – all papers in the office will be put in one box and I will spend 45 minutes at a time sorting, then storing, the paper mess followed by a 15 minute break. Hopefully by the end of the day I’ll have the office where I can work.
    Did I tire you just reading this? Imagine how I feel living it.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      If I recall Francine, you’re already an early riser.. but is there anything you can shift about your mornings and evenings to calm the swirl? I know all too well what that feels like and I’ve had to take deliberate action to alleviate the exhaustion from brains that work like ours.

  6. SueTR

    I kind of chuckled at the title when it popped up in my email while I was sitting at the car dealer getting my car fixed… for 5+ hours!! BUT I was determined and able to finish a 65+ page book of the best photos from our Paris trip AND triage, edit and make a book for my sister for her wedding…2 1/2 yrs ago (decided not to wait until she could get around to going thru the photos with me) then I worked on DD. HUGE load off my mind!!!! I will say NOT being at home surrounded by everything else screaming to get done made it possible.

    I think that if I can do it on the computer, I need to make time to go to the library and work without distractions!!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Thanks so much for sharing this Sue. I’ve been in that situation so many times and it’s 100% true – changing your situation and removing distractions are wonderful aids to productivity.

  7. Debra Ruffing

    I feel they are not good enough when I get started on the projects. Sometimes I can start over but sometimes I just throw it out. I have torn pages in half with not replaceable photos…

    I am so far behind…I am 61 and would like to scrap old photos of my children now grown and also some new things. My husband has been pronounced dead four times in 5 years. He has leukemia from Vietnam.

    It is all too much some days…no kitchen because the contractor ran away with my money and did not do the job.

    So, to try seems too hard. But, I lay awake panicked that if I die no one will have these pages and what I know.

    • Jennifer Wilson

      I’m sorry to hear of your challenges Debra. What if you stepped back and looked for the most simple solution that would satisfy your needs? What approach could get these stories down with minimal fuss? I try not to be prescriptive generally, but I will suggest that one layout per story (at least for all of them) might be a choice that’s not simple enough for this job.

      You can do this and you’re in the right place to get it done.

  8. Barb in AK

    You pegged me correctly on #3, Jennifer! Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Everything s-l-o-w-s down to a snails pace because THIS page (any page I create) must be perfect. If it doesn’t come up to my expectations, I lie awake at night tossing and turning about it. And it doesn’t go into the album until I am completely happy with it. I have NEVER been able to say, “Done is good enough.” I need therapy!!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Recognizing that a mental narrative is getting in the way is the first step Barb. You can shift out of perfectionism.

  9. Gab

    Such a great post

  10. Gab

    I”m so sorry for all you’re going through

  11. Francine

    Just an added note – I’m now through 14 days of LOAD. I DID take all the loose papers on my desk in the office and put them in a basket which I actually sorted through and PUT AWAY. It feels SO GOOD to be able to actually SEE the wood the desk is made of. And, all those notes on the LOAD project are actually filed away after each day’s layout is completed and posted on Flickr. Go Me!

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Yay Francine!

  12. Francine Seal

    Hey Jennifer. Okay – today is day 22 of LOAD. The Celebrity album is done with the exception of ordering the layout prints will have to be done after late March (we’ll be traveling again.) I’m working on the Massachusetts album (planning and making a layout every day) for the rest of LOAD. Then, when I’m home, I’ll continue with Massachusetts. I’ll be making sure I have everything planned first as it looks like I’ll have 3 extra pages to play with – one will be the title page and the other will be things like leaf-peeping or scans of things like receipts (2 for parking one for $12 and one for $35(!?!) (for much less time than we stayed for the first one – both in Boston!)

    Now I just discovered that I’ve signed up/paid for TWICE The Finishing Project. Any chance of a refund?

    • Jennifer Wilson

      Looks like you’re moving right along Francine! We’ll take care of your refund for the duplicate payment, no problem.

  13. Gina Olive

    Hello Jennifer. I am a quilter, not a scrapbooker, but your points are very useful! I recently got on the organizing bandwagon (thank you Marie Kondo) and finally cataloged all of the UnFinished Objects in my sewing studio – 33 of them! I am in the process of becoming a Professional Organizer to specialize in Creative Spaces, and have developed a system to manage the ongoing projects, and also combat the creation of UFO’s! I can’t wait to see how it works long term. Anyway, I found your article quite helpful. Enjoy your journey!



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