How Evernote Can Make You More Creative

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative

Besides being a productivity tool for getting things done, Evernote is gloriously talented at boosting creativity. So how can something digital, with very basic formatting, and barely any creative input enhance creativity? I’m excited to show you.

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

This is what my Evernote looks like right now. It’s always evolving since I’m always evolving. I really like notebook stacks because I like hierarchy and I use that instead of tags to find the note I’m looking for.

Create a Swipe File

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Austin Kleon spoke about swipe files in one of his books, and it’s been so useful when I’m lacking drive to make anything. The idea is that you put anything that catches your eye into a note to store for later. This isn’t Pinterest – this is stuff that makes you want to go make. It’s a to do list instead of a “one day” list. You can add text, photos, images off the web, or screenshots from your phone. What you’re seeing at the top of my swipe file is an image from @stitchandletter. I could crop the image, but I like knowing where it came from if I make something and share it, then I can spread the love and let Jen know about it.

Create Themed Swipe Files

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

The main way that I take control of my Evernote and prevent it from going crazy is to delete. Once I’m done with something I will delete it. This Watercolour Swipe File is something I’ll delete once I’ve tried out the images I’ve added to it. I’m currently on a watercolour/floral exploration and these images from Rebecca are incredibly beautiful.

Plan Projects

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

I mean, duh. Evernote was made for planning, and creative projects are no exception. There’s no reason not to outline a big project that you can’t simply dive into. This note is about the board game I’m making for my husband (two of his favourite things are Monopoly and Dota).

Quote Note

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Sometimes when I’m art journaling, I just want to paint and not worry about words. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say. But sometimes there’s a beautiful spot that would look so perfect covered with words. That’s what my Quotes note is for. I type them out, I screenshot them, I just get them in there, so that I can one day get them out.


How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Save anything that you refer back to on a regular basis. This image is one I often searched for on Google, but since it wasn’t the first result, I saved it exactly where I know it is on my PC.

Current Focus

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

I have a Current notebook with things I’m currently working on, needing to process, or waiting for. This note has links to projects I’m currently focusing on. Evernote has a tutorial on how to create links, and it’s super easy.

Store Ideas in a Note

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Almost every one of my notebooks has an Idea note. Sometimes these are a few lines long, and sometimes they just continue. This note is from my blog survey, where I’ve noted every post request.

Take Stock of Your Creations

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

When I was putting together my blog galleries, I took a mini inventory of some of my projects. This is a really nice reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve made. You know those days where you kind of wonder where all that painting and paper cutting went? That’s what these lists are for.

Digital Collection of Your Art

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

On the other side of the list is the visual representation. This is even better for seeing how far you’ve come. Snap a photo of each page that you’ve made and add it to a note. It’s time consuming to start, but once you get in the habit it’s really quick.

Creative Goals

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Sorry for blurring that out but we’ve got to have some secrets between us, right? Since my business and my creativity are so intertwined, I add any creative endeavours as business goals.

Track a Creative Habit

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

No need to get fancy – just add a bunch of checkboxes and tick. You could also add small images for each day as your own proof.


How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

I know that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love writing with a keyboard. Words flow through my fingers quicker than through a pen. This is where my story started. In a note.

Evernote and Morning Pages

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

I don’t tend to save my morning pages, but any time that I feel like I’d like to explore the topics further, I type it from my notebook into Evernote. If I’m lazy, I’ll just take a photo of it and put that in a note, but I can barely read that handwriting.

Evernote and Brainstorming

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

I love saving my brainstorming notes. I almost always have three iterations of brainstorming, and then I’ll delete them until I get to my final thoughts. I really liked the survey responses from the Level Up one I did, so I’ve kept it.

Save Creative Classes

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Oh, I love how you can drag and drop PDFs directly into Evernote. I’m not the type to save all my PDFs as notes, but I have a note that links to the Google Drive folder. I also have a note with any logins and passwords for forums, or classes. But I’m not going to show you that one.

Save Learning Notes

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Going through non-fiction books with a pen and my cellphone camera has been a life changer. It made it completely deliberate, and I’ve elevated what I’ve learned instead of just passively taken in words. I love saving these for easy reference and, score, they’re totally searchable with Evernote.

Save Nice Notes

How Evernote Can Make You More Creative - 17 practical ideas for using Evernote to improve your art

Oh man, this is so lovely. If ever I’m feeling down, I go to my “♥” note and read nice things people have said to/about me. I really encourage you to do the same. If someone leaves a thoughtful comment on your blog, sends you a caring email, or shares how much they love the art you’ve shared on Instagram, screenshot it and add it to a note.


Phew! That is a lot of ideas. Do you use Evernote in a creative way? Do you use Evernote at all? What’s stopping you?

How I Went from Lazy and Passive to Deliberate and Goal Driven

How I Went from Lazy and Passive to Deliberate and Goal Driven

I used to be what I will graciously call passive.

I had (and have) a really good life. I was born into a self-made wealthy family. Every bit of my life (and the lives of my ancestors) was put together so that I could live an easy life. My parents did this weird thing where they actually loved each other. They loved me too. My sister was amazing. My friends were amazing. None of us did drugs. School came easy to me. Everything came easy to me. Life was easy, and because of this, I just let life do its thing. I allowed the mother of my high school boyfriend to fill in a university application for me and I went there simply because I got in. I didn’t put any thought into what degree I was going to do, it was chosen based on what I didn’t want to do. I found my group of incredible friends within my first week of being in a new city at university because we were the only English speakers in the residence. I even met my future husband while playing around on my computer.

Life was good, and it was certainly good enough.

And then a few things started creeping from the cracks that I had ignored. I grew into the biggest depression of my life. I didn’t fall into it; I wasn’t smacked in the face by it; I allowed myself, little by little, to grow into something simply because I didn’t make an effort not to. I didn’t go to the psychologist, I didn’t force myself out of bed right when the feelings started, I didn’t learn coping strategies. I simply allowed it to consume me. I welcomed it like an old blanket and hid in its cosy fort. In my second year of university, I had a breakdown. I can distinctly remember the exact moment that I curled on the floor in a university residence shower and cried. I can still smell the shampoo.

My depression lasted for a year. In this time, I destroyed myself. I went onto medication, and I went off it without the required weaning. I went to absolutely zero university classes. I ignored my friends. I fought with my family. I became friends with the wrong people. The wrong person. I slept past my feelings. I ate my feelings. I dyed my hair for the first time so that I wouldn’t look like myself. I stopped contact with my best friend (future husband). I drank in the middle of the day because I had heard that’s how people coped – it didn’t work and that stopped. I cried. A lot. And even that was a passive cry. I spent a lot of time in the bath. I became a shell. I allowed myself to break.

I was broken.

And then the bricks that my family, friends, and future husband had been building for me while I was too weak to do so myself started forming a foundation. Then a house. And I could stop living in my depression blanket fort and move in there. I allowed myself to be looked after. And after 365 days of the worst year of my life, with the work of people who surprisingly still loved me, it left me.

Looking back, that was The Sign.

The years that followed saw me magically get my degree. Long distance date my eventual husband. Move in with the guy. Move twelve times. Go through a bunch of smaller depressions. Find a corporate job thanks to a family friend’s contact. Get married.

And then my husband, T, had a job offer that involved a year in my favourite country in the world. This job offer wasn’t handed to him or given to him by default. They thought of him because he had won the student competition with the company. I had been around when he was working towards this competition. It was held in his last year of studies. It was in addition to his crazy engineering workload. He and his team spent nights in the labs on this project. When I say nights, I mean, until 5am when he’d nap for an hour and then go to class. I mean that this happened more than once. I was waiting for him in his dorm room during one of my visits. I never saw him. I played Sims in his freezing dorm room and made a little T Sim to hang out with. He and his group actively worked on this project for so long and so hard, and there was no doubt that they’d win. They won a stack of money for the university and a trip to see the company in Germany. I joked that based on all the time I had put into not seeing him, I also deserved a trip to Germany.

I got my trip to Germany. And with it, everything changed.

(Part Two)

The Night Owl’s Guide to Being a Morning Person

The Night Owl’s Guide to Being a Morning Person

Mornings. Those few hours of my day that called themselves morning were the bane of my existence, but ever since I made the change to be deliberate, and put a lot of energy into improving myself, I could not get away hearing about how fantastic they were. For a long time, I left it as being “different strokes for different folks” and kept on getting so much stuff done in the late night / really early morning. I joked that I was doing the “real” mornings of 1-4am, instead of those “second rate” mornings of 4-7am.

As much as I resisted the mornings, I could not stop the nagging in my head. I spent years working for corporate companies and waking up early, so why on earth would I willingly change my glorious pantsless lifestyle for one resembling those with a pencil skirt? The resistance was big, guys. But I decided to shut the nagging up and make myself my own experiment, and try this shizz out. If only to be able to tell my dad that he was wrong about mornings and that decades of waking up at 4am and my own lifetime of him opening the curtains to tell me how great it is outside was stupid.

And then the magic happened.

Life literally became easier. Things got done that weren’t part of the late night work fests. It wasn’t only the morning that was great, the other part of my 24 hours were great too. Even when I slept less I had more energy. My depression was apparently scared of mornings and stayed away. I ate better.

I’m a very strong proponent of The Morning, and so here is my practical guide to becoming one too.

1. Find Something Worth Waking Up To

If you’re waking up early just to wake up early, it’s not going to work out.

My Something is honey in my coffee. It is the most ridiculous thing to be excited to wake up too, and I could definitely drink honeyed coffee at every other hour of my day, but for some reason that coffee is enough to make my morning feet hit the floor. Charles Duhigg might call it a trigger. If I made my Something exercise right in the beginning of waking early, I would not still be waking early. While exercise is my dad’s reason for waking early, it certainly is not mine. Don’t try and make it difficult for yourself.

Morning Person Bonus: Get a Dog

My Griffin has changed mornings for me. When I wake up, I say “okay! okay!” to him, and it’s become a cue word for him so he gets incredibly excited about this word. He dances around the bed and licks me to try get me out of it. No matter how asleep he was, the cue word gets him dancing. I get up. I tell him “today’s going to be great” and he dances some more.

If you don’t have a dog, telling yourself that “today’s going to be great” works almost as well.

2. Thou Shalt Not Snooze

The thou is there to show you how strongly I feel about this one. Religiously strongly.

Caylee Grey :: The Night Owl's Guide to Being a Morning Person

I’ll pause while you read that sentence again and let it sink in. If you don’t like waking up, then why are you doing it to yourself again nine minutes later? Do not set your alarm earlier that it needs to be in order to snooze. Set your alarm for the time you need to wake up. Are you willing to exchange 9 minutes for 24 hours? Waking up at 4am after three snoozes is not waking early, and you will not gain the full extent of its benefits from that. So how do you stop snoozing? You simply stop. No weaning off. Just. stop. snoozing.

Morning Person Bonus: Change Your Alarm Tone

You have to change your outlook on waking up early, and if you wake up to an alarm tone, then it needs to be something nice too. You can choose your favourite classical song, or something enthusiastic like Eye of the Tiger.

3. Go Cold Turkey

I do not believe in waking up early over time. In my opinion, you’ve got to force yourself to wake up early the first day. It’s going to suck, and you’re going to be tired, but then guess what? You’re going to go to bed earlier because of actual tiredness, and then the next morning will be easier to wake up. The beginning is not easy, but eventually it is, and it actually becomes difficult to sleep in.

Morning Person Bonus: Your First Thought Has Power

As soon as your eyes open, sit up in bed. Smile. Think of something happy. Right from day one. Remind yourself that you’re leveling up in life directly through the discipline you’re exhibiting. Be proud of yourself because you should be.

4. Do NOT Look at Your Phone. Do Not Check Email.

Looking at your phone or scrolling through social media is like snoozing. It’s putting your brain into passive mode, and it’s ruining what you’ve done for yourself by waking up early. Save that for the part of your day that your energy falters. Do not give your phone your best minutes. Those are for you. Give your phone the minutes you don’t care about.

If you’re worried about an emergency and someone not being able to contact you, let your loved ones know about this time, and set your phone to only make a noise when it rings from one person. The beauty of early mornings is that no one else is awake, so the phone distractions will usually only come from you.

Morning Person Bonus: Delete Push Notifications

Set your phone up so that you don’t get notified when you have a new email or Instagram like. Change your settings to pull notifications which mean you have to actually go into the application and check in order to receive anything. Having an extra step between helps you to not check.

Bonus bonus: don’t have email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, BlogLovin, etc etc, on your phone at all.

5. Harness the Energy

There has to be a reason for waking up early, right? The energy that happens in a well-woken-up morning is not comparable to other times. I still find value in my night owl second wind energy late at night, but it’s very different to my morning’s.

There are a lot of amazing things that you can do with this time. If you can’t think of what, ask yourself:

  • what is important to me?
  • what do I have to do?

Caylee Grey :: The Night Owl's Guide to Being a Morning Person

I spend my mornings with morning pages, setting my MITs and accomplishing them, or creating. I’ve already discussed the benefits of morning pages. MITs (Most Important Tasks) are the backbone to my days. I simply decide on three things that I will get done that day. Three is an easy number, and the tasks are clearly the most important right now out of the never-ending list. Creating before doing anything else is unlike any other kind of creating. This kind of creating comes from your deep insides and is not directly affected by anyone else. By creating before you consume anything else, you make more, make more original things, have creations that are closer to who you are, and you stop comparing.

Morning Person Bonus: Go Do It

Caylee Grey :: The Night Owl's Guide to Being a Morning Person

Early mornings are the ultimate step to living a deliberate, intentional life. They are the foundation of powerful things. Just like most great things, it’s hard work to change your routine, but oh man, it’s worth it.


Get Shit Done Free Printable Planner

Get Shit Done Free Printable Planner

The holidays completely threw me off track with my MITs. And then so did the whole emigrating thing. I knew I had to get a handle on it because I just wasn’t getting anything done. A really great motivator for me is a gorgeous space to write them down. And so I printed out a few very simple pages so that I could really just focus on my three main tasks for the day. No pressure.

I printed out the booklet cover on kraft paper.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

I printed out the pages on Moleskine paper.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

I cut everything down.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

I folded the cover in half.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

I left the sheets in loose because I don’t believe in keeping things that are done.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

And there we go. All sorted. I didn’t want to fuss with staples or hand binding, or any of those things and so I didn’t.

Freebie | Get Sh/it Done Printable • Caylee Grey

I also made them into PDFs for you for easy printing, as well as a swear-free one. If you’re into that sort of thing.

free Get Sh/it Done focused planner

70 Ways to Produce More Than You Consume

70 Ways to Produce More Than You Consume

The focus of my life currently is this:

Produce more. Consume less.

It’s a bold statement. With so much great stuff on the internet, and with it being so easy to be sucked into Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, and galleries, I’m needing to step back all the more. We consume so many things every day that actively trying to produce more than that is a big feat. There are two ways of doing it: either producing more than a hundred things per day, or drastically reducing how much you consume and making more than that number. I don’t want what I make to be influenced by someone else’s. I don’t want to be comparing how much I make. I don’t want to be making less because I’m too busy staring in awe at someone else’s stuff. I want my Ideas book to be a to do list and I want to GSD.

There are a million reasons why I want to consume less and the number one reason is to produce more. I want to make a lot of stuff. I want to make up for lost time. I want to record all my memories before I lose them. I want to make a whole bunch of rubbish stuff so that I can get to making the good stuff.

And so I made an action plan. Here are the ways that I’m shifting my default to producing instead of consuming:

  1. Make things. Simple enough, right? Just do it.
  2. Throw away fears of making embarrassing things. Make them anyway. My theory, that I keep repeating, is that we have a certain number of things that we make that will be rubbish. Best to get them over and done with as soon as possible so that you can move onto the great things.
  3. Work towards becoming a master. We all know of the statement that it takes 10 000 hours of practice to become a master. I only recently learned that this is an actual number coming from an actual study (The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance by a guy named Anders done in Berlin – how perfect for me). Work deliberately towards those 10 000 hours and in the end, you’ll either become an expert, or you’ll have a whole bunch of pretty stuff. It’s a win-win-win, really.
  4. Set specific times for creating. You can’t just expect to find some time to create. You’ve gotta make the time.
  5. Get away from technology. When you create, don’t look to Pinterest for inspiration. Look inside (cue motivational music). Turn your phone on Do Not Disturb, Plane Mode, or turn off network connection.
  6. Change your environment. Try moving to a different room in the house, create outside, or take your journal to a coffee shop.
  7. Clean up your desk.
  8. Reorganise your work space.
  9. Leave your cellphone in another room. Sometimes I’m unable to turn my phone off because I’m expecting a phone call for a delivery or a business call. If I leave my phone downstairs I’m still able to run to it when it rings, but I’m not able to keep checking it.
  10. Use distraction-free writing. If you’re with WordPress, there’s that fabulous Distraction Free Writing option (I’m using it now), otherwise there’s Omniwriter, WriteRoom, Dark Room, or… you know… a notebook. Concentrate on your words. Write deliberately. Even if it’s only a blog post.
  11. Start with the products. What does a certain line of products inspire you to create?
  12. Start with the photos. What kind of project do you want to create with your set of photos?
  13. Schedule an amount of time to make something. In the same way that having a kid can sometimes make you more productive in his or her one hour nap, set yourself a limit. Put a timer on (Pomodoro is great). The fact that there’s a little countdown is enough to make you work more efficiently and fuss about less.
  14. Finish unfinished projects.
  15. Keep an unfinished projects box. Keep that box in plain sight. Work on these before starting new projects.
  16. If you no longer love a project, release the guilt and throw it away. This is a big one. Simply starting something is not enough of a reason to finish, so give yourself permission to let it go.
  17. Make something that doesn’t require preparation. Art journals are so great for this.
  18. Make an action plan. Sometimes a project is just so big and overwhelming that you don’t know where to start. An example of this is my family photobooks that I’m working on. Writing absolutely every detail I can think of before starting, and coming up with a detailed action plan helps me to get it done. Some days you really just can’t create no matter how badly you want to. Use these days to make an action plan for creating.
  19. Turn creating into a habit. Strengthen those creative muscles.
  20. Wake up earlier. This has been my personal number one way to produce more. Right now it’s 5am.
  21. Stop making excuses. There is nothing standing between 100 beautiful new creations other than you.
  22. You don’t not have time. What are you doing between 3am and 4am? (Unless you’re Kelsey and perpetually awake). One hour of sleep less per week is not going to change your life. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, and the only difference between you and someone you admire is how you choose to spend your time. You make time by giving up something else.
  23. You don’t not have supplies. If you have a pen and paper you have supplies. If I can have supplies in a third world African country, you can have supplies.
  24. You don’t not have talent. How do you think the Greats became great? They made stuff. A lot of stuff with a lot of their time.
  25. You don’t not have motivation. You don’t not have ideas. Guess what? same as talent. No one has these, they create them.
  26. Work with one tab open. If you absolutely need to get onto the internet or computer, work with one tab open. Single task. You’ll get the task done in a shorter amount of time with greater quality.
  27. Give yourself time to just think.
  28. Give yourself time to be bored.
  29. Work within boundaries. It’s amazing how much better our brain works when given restraints. Use prompts, put out a set of limited supplies to work with, put that timer on…
  30. Find a community. Get Messy has been a fantastic reason for me personally to create every single week. If it was just for me, I would have given up ages ago. A community makes you accountable, gives you inspiration, and cheers you on. It’s beautiful. If there isn’t a community for what you’re looking for, simply make one and invite a bunch of people.
  31. Find an accountability partner. A more focused approach. Andrea and Olya are fantastic examples of how well accountability partners can work. Make a friend in the community, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind if you were accountable to them. And actually be accountable. Honour your commitment to this other person.
  32. Join a challenge. Again with the community thing. #365craftingtime is busy happening so there’s no excuse.
  33. Start your own challenge. It can be a personal one, or you can invite others to join. You can take another challenge and give your own parameters to work with. Sabine is really great at creating challenges for herself.
  34. Use your ideas notebook as a to do list. Instead of just recording ideas, actually start doing them. Same for Pinterest boards. Stop wishing and start doing.
  35. Use someone else’s project as inspiration. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it directly turns consumption into production.
  36. Try something completely new.
  37. Go for a walk. 
  38. Unsubscribe from as many mailing lists as you can. Do you really need to get that newsletter that makes you hit delete automatically each time it hits your inbox? There’s a wonderful service that shows you exactly who has your email address, and allows you to unsubscribe.
  39. Unfollow as many blogs as you can. Keep a Pinterest board for the ones that you’d like to check up every few months and go through them when you have allocated the time to yourself. Don’t allow them to trickle into your daily blog feed. Don’t worry about being out of the loop. If something is The Next Big Thing, you’re going to know about it whether you’re following or not.
  40. Unfollow people on Instagram. Unless 99% of someone’s feed is of value to you, don’t follow them. No hard feelings. I keep a list of people whose feeds I love in my search to check on every so often. Unfollowing doesn’t mean never seeing them again. When you follow less people on IG and BlogLovin, you also feel the need to check these avenues less often.
  41. Turn off automatic notifications on your phone. When you have the time, check it. Don’t allow apps to demand your attention. I’ve even turned off my email notifications and only check when I have time to give each new email my full attention. The only thing that you need to be instantly notified about is a phone call.
  42. Delete as many apps off your phone as possible. If the only reason you “need” Facebook on your phone is to check what’s happening in everyone else’s life? That’s not a reason. If you have a Facebook page for your business then you can devote the time to get onto your computer and respond to anything there.
  43. Move the tempting apps. Shift them to a different screen, and into folders. Out of sight, out of mind. Make a bit of extra effort to get to those, and you’ll automatically use them less.
  44. Take away internet bookmarks. Put everything into to do lists (for things you want to read) or Pinterest boards (for things you occasional check). If you’re not using them every day, you don’t need them. If you can remember the site address, you don’t need them. Especially do not have Facebook or similar as a bookmark!
  45. Make it difficult for yourself to consume.
  46. Actually finish an online course that you’ve bought.
  47. Share your work. Start a blog, post pictures on Instagram or Flickr, upload to the Studio Calico or Gossamer Blue gallery. Consistently post even if you don’t have a following. Do it for yourself so that you can see how far you’ve come; to see how much stuff you’ve actually already made. Give your projects the added love that is required of uploading them to the internet. Allow people to consume your stuff.
  48. Do something creative repeatedly. Create daily or weekly. Start small. Eventually you will have a whole collection of work. It can be as small as taking a good photo. It can be finishing an entire year of Project Life. Just do something. If you skip a day, that’s okay, but never skip two days in a row.
  49. Use a new tool or creative method. Creativity in a way that you’re not used to completely amplifies creativity in another realm.
  50. Learn a new skill. I don’t mean buy a new class. I mean actively work towards adding a skill to your repertoire.
  51. Sketch. Even if it’s just a doodle. Even if it’s rubbish.
  52. Go on a photo walk. Look at the world around you with new eyes. Make the ordinary extraordinary. Cameras are a great way to do this, and you don’t even need a fancy one. You don’t even need a camera. Try sketching. No one will ever see the world the same way you do.
  53. Give yourself a requirement when reading a blog. If you require yourself to leave a thoughtful comment on every blog post you read, you’re going to become very selective about what you consume. You’re going to ignore a lot more posts, and that’s a good thing.
  54. Set aside time for consuming. This sounds like the opposite of how to not consume, but if you give yourself an allocated hour in a day then it’s easier to stop yourself at other times, and you won’t feel as guilty.
  55. Have a social media fast. If you are unable to tear yourself away from social media, give yourself an all-out ban for a week or a set amount of time. Announce it, or don’t. This is about you.
  56. Know yourself and how you are feeling on a specific day. If you are incredibly motivated and enthusiastic, take on one of your big ideas. If you are on your third cup of coffee two hours into your day, just do something small. The idea is to do something.
  57. Take a creative break. Do not create in this time, just store your ideas.
  58. Keep a running to do list so that your mind is not cluttered. A zen mind gets so much more done. I use Todoist, Evernote and a Moleskine but you can use anything. If you think about something, get it out as soon as possible so that you don’t have to think about it and can come back to it later.
  59. Record your creative time and hone it. Just like you would if you were embarking on a new exercising program, keep track in a notebook, or with Lift
  60. Reduce distractions. There are a bunch of great apps that help this, such as Focus@will, StayFocusd, Freedom, SelfControl.
  61. Use non-distracting sounds. Play classical or wordless music, or use Coffitivity as background music. When it’s playing, you know you’re creating. Don’t use it for other things like work or emails
  62. Make use of the Pomodoro technique. This is not only great for getting workish things done. In the same way that the non-distracting sounds work, when that timer is counting down, you know you’re creating.
  63. Use distracting music. Find a great playlist and play songs that encourage and excite you – here’s one I like
  64. Have a “creating encouragement song”. You can pick one of these (my favourite is Jump only because my dad loves Van Halen).
  65. Make a list of things that you have already created. Choose just the things that you are proud of, or choose everything. Create a Flickr account and photograph it all.
  66. Practise meditation.
  67. Maintain inbox zero and have an uncluttered computer. Less distractions.
  68. Make a plan and plan it to the letter before creating.
  69. Be spontaneous and just make.
  70. Remind yourself of this: Everyone, if they’re consistent, will eventually achieve something massive.

I am not an expert on these things, and every day I’m still learning. I just wanted to share what I’ve learned this far with you. I’d love to hear if you have learned anything, and if there’s anything you’d like to add.

16 Lessons from my First Year of Project Life

16 Lessons from my First Year of Project Life

Now that I have been Project Lifing for almost a year, I am an expert. Well, obviously not, but I do have some lessons from fifty spreads. Bare with me, there are quite a few for a noob like me.

1. I do not like mixed page protectors

I bought the big mixed page protector pack (A to F) because to get 60 of just one type of page protector in South Africa was prohibitively expensive. I wish I had have paid the extra bit. I spent ages putting the correct combination of pages in my computer files (AB, BC, CD, DE, EF, FA, etc), putting the week headers in, and preparing. After printing my first twelve or so weeks at once, I realised that I had used incorrect sizing in Photoshop. It could have been because I was missing my husband who was in another country, but I actually cried. The tears dried, I redid the Photoshop files, and the folders, all that jazz, and somehow messed up the order this time. I redid everything, and messed it up again another three times. When weeks had inserts, or extra pages, I had to either change all the Photoshop files, or rename the damn file folders again, and then I still couldn’t be sure if they were correct. I am not ever doing a mixed bunch of protectors again. I am the Queen of Organisation and I couldn’t keep tabs on this. I hated it. The only reason I haven’t yet swapped to one kind yet is because of consistency.

Apart from the organisation catastrophe, I did enjoy the fact that it got me out of my comfort zone a lot. Without trying them all, I wouldn’t have found a favourite.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

2. I love Design A (and Design E a bit too)

I also discovered that there were more reasons most of the Creative Team 2013 had chosen Design A only. It’s pretty, it’s easier to get it to look good, it’s more symmetrical. I applaud anyone who can make the other page protectors look good, and there certainly are people who can, but I’ve realised that I cannot. I also loved Design E for the lazy days, for the album covers, and the ends.


3. I love 12×12″

I adore Jamaica‘s PL, and I’m so excited to see how Tracy tackles it, but I just can’t work with the 6×8″. I tried it for our honeymoon album and it didn’t work very well. I’ll never say never though… we’ll see how 2014 goes.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

4. I don’t need to use every photo from the week

I figured this out pretty early on: I am happier with my spreads when they are less cluttered. I don’t need to put every photo I took to remind me of what happened that week. Since this is my first time scrapbooking, anything more than zero photos in my album is more than what I was doing before. One photo per week is enough for me. Before Project Life, I used to click on the folders on my computer to bring back memories. If I have something particularly interesting happen, it’s a great excuse to make a mini book. Then I can put in every single photo in the universe and still be happy with the layout and white space.

5. I like consistency

I loved my weekly cards. I honestly don’t think I’d be able to try and design a title card every week. I love that they kept my place in the album. I love that they added white space.

I also loved using paislee press products. Getting onto the paislee press design team was incredibly exciting for me in a time when I was doing nothing with my life except waiting for my visa, and had nothing to be excited about. I had never applied to another CT before, and I don’t think I would for any other designer. Liz makes my kind of products. I love that I found a designer that fits my style perfectly, and that I didn’t have to worry with looking around for digital papers. The best part is that it kept the weeks pretty consistent. I used a bit of One Little Bird too, and I love Peppermint’s style almost as much. Luckily the two go together well, and it worked in my favour.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

6. I love kits

Pretty much goes with the consistency. Kits take the difficulty out of co-ordinating for me. It also keeps everything together in one neat little folder and narrows down choice.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

7. I love hybrid

There is just no other way that would have worked for me. Hybrid was great because it took the best part of digital and the best part of traditional PL-ing. The digital part was great for being in different countries, growing my Photoshop skills, feeding my computer organisation habits, and just being so crazy easy to complete. I knew that I had to print out each week so that I could stay encouraged and current by the physical part of it instead of leave it until the end of the year before printing in a Blurb Book. Also, having something tangible is fantastic. No one particularly likes looking through photos on a computer.

I also love digital kits. As an anti-hoarder, having too much physical stuff creeps me out. Digital is also just so much cheaper.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

8. I love Photoshop

I have my homemade templates in PS. These work for me. It helps me get a glance of what the week is going to look like, and makes sure that I have the end in mind when putting my photos and things in.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

9. Preparation only goes so far

As much as I’ve tried, I cannot prepare a layout. I can put the week number in, and that’s pretty much it. Until the week has passed, and I have the photos I can’t even start. I’m amazed when I see albums with “4×6 here” or blank pieces of paper to be filled by photos. I can’t. I can, however, organise my folder structure and Photoshop files perfectly. I’ve had my 2014 folder organisation there since June.

10. Restarting is easier than fixing

If I’m uninspired, I won’t force it. If I don’t like how a layout is looking, it’s better for me to just delete the Photoshop file, and make a new one.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

11. A picture says a thousand words but sometimes words say more

I need to work on my journaling. I’m not big on including that, and this year I almost exclusively relied on photos, but sometimes things need to be said. I need to work on a few ways to start incorporating journaling slowly. Ideas include: he / she, currently, notes, things I’d tweet, lists.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

12. I love it when T takes photos and tells stories

Even though I’m documenting both of our lives, I noticed that throughout the weeks I didn’t include something that happened on his side at work. Not because it was unimportant, but because there wasn’t a photo in my photo folder for the week. I’m going to have to push more for photos from him, or give him a little 3×4″ journaling card. Next year I want the album to be from both of us.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

13. There is no shame is using photos from the internet

This isn’t a photography portfolio. I am not selling this album. It is for my personal use, and if a professional photographer took a better photo of Panic! at the Disco than I did (he did), I will print that out and put it in my album.

14. Posting on the blog keeps things printed

I have no issues with staying up to date digitally, but I do tend to print in batches of three weeks. By the time I’ve printed I’ve forgotten about the week, and I don’t feel like writing where I wanted to write anymore. In 2014 I’m going to be more active with sharing my pages on the blog, and have a stricter printing routine so that my physical pages can be as current as the digital ones.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

15. 2013 made it easy to stay inspired

Since this year was an absolute adventure and involved almost twenty countries, it was easy to record and to want to record. I’m interested in seeing what next year will be like, and how I deal with boring weeks.

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey

and mainly…

16. This year was a trial, next year is intentional

Project Life Lessons // cayleegrey