| Written by Ronnie |
As some of you might remember from this post, one of the biggest projects on my to-do list last year was to catch up on fifteen weeks (aka three and a half months) of layouts for our family's 2015 life album and eighteen weeks (aka four and a half months) of layouts for our family's 2014 life album. I employed my 'double-up to catch-up' strategy for the 2014 layouts (you can read more about that in this post), but for the fifteen missing weeks in our 2015 album, I approached it as one mega project in December last year. It was a truly mammoth one because those fifteen weeks included our wedding anniversary getaway as well as our annual winter holiday with the boys. Today, I thought I'd share a brief overview of my process and how I ended up managing my time to get it all done.
My very first step was to break it down - in other words, I took the mammoth project and broke it down into smaller segments. These essentially became individual projects of their own, but because each one was on a much smaller scale, the thought of actually completing them didn't overwhelm me. And so, in Simplenote, I added the following to my Personal Projects list for December:
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Choose photos)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Edit photos)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Create 6x4 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Create 3x4 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Create 8x10 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Print 6x4 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Print 3x4 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Print 8x10 layouts)
- Life album 2015, Weeks 15-29 (Trim & assemble)
As you can see, rather than dividing the project into groups of 2-3 weeks (which was my initial idea), I decided to break it down by the different processes involved in actually creating the physical page layouts. I figured that this would be more efficient, as I could take advantage of being in the one creative headspace for a given period of time.
Armed with this breakdown, the second step was to work out when I would fit all this in. I knew I wanted to get it done in December so that I wouldn't have such a huge project hanging over my head in the new year. I also knew that I would be busy with end-of-school activities, preparing Christmas gifts, and wrapping up blogging/work for the year in the first three weeks of December, and that in the last few days of the year, I would have my hands full prepping for the launch of the Unravel Your Photos course on New Year's day. Which pretty much left the week of Christmas itself. This seemed crazy at first, but then, it gradually dawned on me that it was probably the best time to do it because Christmas Eve wasn't until the Thursday and I had nothing else planned for the first half of the week. Rick would be working, I would be at home with the boys, and Rick's mum was going to come over for one of those days.
With this decision made, I started scheduling into my iCal blocks of time for each of the smaller, individual projects. Because I'd arranged with Rick's mum to come over on the Monday to look after the boys, I allocated the entire day to choosing photos, as I knew that this was the part that would take the largest amount of time. In choosing photos, I would actually be deciding which photos went together on a page layout, so essentially, it would be the most creative (and therefore the most intense) part of the entire process.
Over Tuesday and Wednesday, I allocated time for editing photos and creating the photos layouts in InDesign. Even though I knew I would have the boys at home with me, I was still able to block out four to five hours each day because I knew I would have a couple of hours each day during their quiet time, and then two to three hours in the evenings after they were in bed.
Not surprisingly, creating the photo layouts in InDesign took longer than the blocks of time that I'd scheduled - mainly just due to the sheer volume of photos and text I needed to format. And so, I found myself allocating additional time on Christmas eve (during quiet time and the evening once again) to completing the task. Again, this fitted in nicely with when the boys rested during the day and after they went to sleep. By the time Rick got home from leading the Christmas Eve service up at church, I still wasn't done but I decided to take a break from it completely for the rest of the week so that I could just focus on enjoying Christmas with the family. Thankfully, Monday the 28th was a public holiday which meant that Rick would be around. While the boys played happily with daddy all day (read: whilst daddy built Lego happily all day with the boys), I spent half the day finishing all the layouts in InDesign.
Because I'd decided from the outset to work on all the 6x4 layouts in one go, then all the 3x4 layouts in one go, and then all the 8x10 layouts (ie. the inserts), it was simple enough to start printing each batch of layouts as soon as I'd completed the layouts for that particular format. Over the course of a few days, my laptop remained permanently attached to my Canon Pixma as I printed photo layout after photo layout after photo layout after photo layout. The best thing was that I could carry on with the rest of my life while the Pixma did its thing. While I played with the boys, the Pixma printed. While I got lunch ready, the Pixma printed. While I napped, the Pixma printed. While we ate dinner, the Pixma printed. Eventually, on the evening of the 30th, I printed the last batch of photos just as I started prep work for my photo organisation course.
With all the printing done so close to the new year, I decided to give myself a huge pat on the back for the mammoth effort. I took yet another break from it all for a few days to wrap up the launch of my course and to enjoy celebrating the start of the new year the family. Then, on the first Monday of 2016, I did all the trimming I needed to do in pockets of spare time that I had throughout the day, and then in the evening after the boys were asleep, I sat down in from of the television, slipped everything into page protectors and, bam, it was done. The project was complete. It was over!
In hindsight, there were two things that helped me to get through this enormous project:
I forced myself to let go of perfectionism. Even if photos were't edited perfectly or even if I wasn't 100% happy with the layout of a page, I let it go and just pushed on. I figured that if I let myself be bogged down in tiny degrees of perfectionism, the bigger task at hand would never get completed.
I kept one eye on the big picture and one eye on the task at hand. There's no doubt about it. When it comes to huge projects like this, it's tempting to throw in the towel and just give up altogether. The key, I think, is to keep one eye on the big picture so that you don't lose sight of why you're doing what you're doing (in this case, to create something precious and tangible for my family to cherish for decades to come), and to keep the other eye solely on the specific task at hand so that you don't feel overwhelmed by the additional hundred tasks that you still need to get done before you can complete the overall project...
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I hope this small glimpse into my process might be helpful to those of you who might be figuring out how to make time for a similarly large project that's on your to-do list. If you have any specific questions about any part of the process, just let me know in the comments below!
For the rest of this year, I'm hoping to share my weekly life album process in detail, my personal design tips for laying out life album pages, ideas for photos that you can take as part of your weekly documentation of your family's life, and my tips for keeping the entire process relatively stress-free and simple. I'm also planning to share the rest of my 2015 layouts in batches like I've done in this post, as I think it might helpful to show what our family's life album looks like in its entirety, rather than just show you guys the 'nicest' layouts. Hopefully by doing that, I can show you that every week is worth documenting - even when life seems mundane - because every week is beautiful and precious in its own way...
You can read all the other posts on life albums here.
- Digital templates used: Signature Card Set (Rockwell Edition)
- Physical supplies used: Becky Higgins Design A page protector; Kirkland Signature professional glossy photo paper
- Printer used: Canon MG6360 Pixma