The corners of your mouth slope upward.

Your eyes light up with a special sparkle.

You feel warmth and true contentment.

There are many things that bring me this sense of deep happiness, and one of them is undoubtedly finishing a project.

The thing is, it doesn’t come naturally for me to work on something just a little bit at a time over a long period until it’s finished. While I am trying to improve my habit-forming skills, what I’m better at is short-term focus.

That means my projects are often completed in shorter, more-intensive bursts. I’m OK with that because done is done regardless of how you got there!

At the beginning of 2015 I had bits and pieces of my 2014 Project Life pages completed, but it was far from complete. In this post I’m sharing the strategy I used to complete all of my pages in less than a month.

How I Finished a Year of Project Life in a Month

How I Approach Project Life

Before I share the step-by-step, I need to back up a bit. Finishing actually begins with starting and specifically, how you start a project. (Hint: It doesn’t start with shopping!)

I’ve never attempted a weekly Project Life album because I knew I’d never be able to keep up. I’m not the most prolific scrapbooker, and as someone who does enjoy storytelling with layouts I certainly wasn’t going to create two albums for a year! I had to craft my own simplified approach.

I combine monthly Project Life spreads in one annual album with layouts, memorabilia, and other pocket page inserts. So instead of 52 pocket page spreads, my albums have just 12 plus a handful of others for holidays or trips. All of this together is sustainable for my lifestyle and neatly fits in one single album.

So completing my 2014 Project Life meant creating 12 spreads from photos to finishing touches. And by simplifying the project before I began, it became that much more “finishable”.

finish-projectlife-year-1200

Now please don’t get discouraged; the process I’m sharing below can be followed even if you’re already in the thick of a bigger Project Life album. There’s still time to make course corrections and utilize productivity tricks to get it done!

How I Finished in Less Than 4 Weeks

The secret to this finishing success was batch processing. Instead of completing one spread at a time, I completed each individual step in the process for all the spreads at once.

I estimate that I devoted just 3 hours per week to the process, reducing the time I would have spent by at least half! Here’s how:

Step #1 – Organize Photos (1 hour)
Using Lightroom, I sorted my 2014 photos into month folders so that I could see the pool from which to select images. Whether you’re using software or simply folders, basic organization makes the process so much easier.

Step #2 – Select and Edit Photos (3 hours)
My goal was to select 8-10 images per 16-pocket spread. Selected photos were identified in Lightroom with a star rating. Vertical photos were cropped to 3×4 and horizontal photos to 4×6. iPhone photos were often edited using a black & white recipe in RadLab. Exposure and contrast were touched up on DSLR photos with Lightroom.

Step #3 – Print and Insert Photos (2 hours)
I printed all of my photos at home in several sittings and then inserted them in pockets. If you mail order or print at a local photo center, this is where batch work really comes in handy. You’ll only need to print your project photos once!

Step #4 – Add Blank Journaling Cards (1 hour)
With the photos in place I added Project Life cards to the remaining spots, creating a foundational design. I used both cards with journaling areas and filler cards with words or graphics. To visually balance the page, sometimes a few photos moved around.

Step #5 – Add Embellishments (2 hours)
My embellishing was kept fairly minimal, emphasizing small chipboard pieces and word stickers that related to the stories represented on the page. I look at my spreads as a collective story of this month rather than individual stories.

Step #6 – Add Journaling (3 hours)
I journaled on top of photos with a Slick Writer or on journaling cards with a extra fine point Precision Pen. My journaling approach is to combine facts, feelings, and memories. I don’t worry about capturing absolutely everything, but instead focus on documenting my reflections and the meaning behind it all.

If you’re like me and have trouble working on big projects a tiny bit at a time, a simplified approach coupled with intensive bursts might be the most satisfying choice you make this year.

What project could you finish with this batch approach?