Project Life, Week Three in 37 minutes

Cathy ZielskeProject Life, Tutorials72 Comments

Last week, I made the outrageous claim that I finished my weekly Project Life spread in 30 minutes.

Okay, maybe outrageous is overkill. But a few Facebook readers asked if that was in fact true.

I decided to see if I could back up the bold claims. Was it just hyperbole? Was it cocky overstatement? Was I telling bald faced scrap lies? Was I simply writing checks my scrapbooks couldn’t cash?

Please, feel free to stop me. 

So I sat down on Monday, hit the timer and said, “Go!”

From beginning (choosing my photos and readying the templates) to end (finalizing the week in review journaling), Week 3 took me 37 minutes. I actually think it would have come in closer to 32 because part of the time was spent splitting my video clip to keep my Day One journal entries less, ahem, public, at the behest of my eldest child who noted a few overly personal notes written by yours truly.

I recorded my screen during the process, speeded it up, and added a few thoughts about my process and the project in general. You can watch that, if you’re so inclined, below:

Digital Project Life Process in Time Lapse from Cathy Zielske on Vimeo.

Here are the pages from Week Three, the stars of said video.



Part of the way I save time each week is to open my finished pages from the previous week, do a Save As… and save them as new templates for the current week. Then I delete all the photos, leave the journaling bits here and there, and start from that level of scratch.


I’m still using Day One to jot notes throughout the week and I cannot stress how helpful—nay, vital—this is to my process. (Note: Child No. 1  has requested a blur on the journal above and it’s the least I can do after all the exploitation she has endured.) I hope you notice how simple and straightforward the reporting is. This is not flowery writing people. It’s just the facts of life.

But this is my favorite part of this week’s spread.


I feel most autocorrects are a bit contrived. I mean, you KNOW what you’re sending before you hit send. So all those wacky ones you see online? Come on. They are funny, but you could have checked before you hit send. Or, could you?

I did not see the above ‘tit’ before I hit Send. So maybe I stand corrected.

I was laughing so hard, I almost couldn’t breathe. Cole? He said nothing. I would not expect a 14 year old boy to respond any other way to his oh-so-NOT-cool Mom.

Project Life indeed.

And that is all I wrote (and filmed) for Week Three.



Project Life™ is a system created by Becky Higgins. To learn more about this approach to saving your memories, click here.

Cathy ZielskeProject Life, Week Three in 37 minutes

72 Comments on “Project Life, Week Three in 37 minutes”

  1. #1

    That was good! I can’t tell you the texts I’ve sent and then had to explain. Good times! Loved the time lapse.

  2. #2
    Jenny B.

    Love it! I was actually thinking about you as I drove my kids to school yesterday. Wondering if that Cathy Zielske REALLY gets her pages done in 30 minutes. Yup. She’s for real. 😉 I really enjoyed watching you work in Photoshop. It would be cool if you could do a video showing how you have your palettes set up and tell us some of your favorite tricks and keyboard shortcuts. What was that menu with the list of color boxes that popped out?

  3. #3

    Great video – I wish I could get my PL down to 37 minutes a week 😉 I’ve just started doing it digitally and it’s certainly quicker than paper but still taking me time. Perhaps I need to relax on the photo editing a bit. As a matter of interest, I see you do your text once your photo is in place (I’ve been doing it before adding the photos) do you flatten it onto the image or just leave it as is? Also, something I’ve seen on other sites is people making one photo big enough to cover a few spaces – would you clip them in to place and if so, how? In fact, how do you get it to show on all the spaces in the first place? Makes me realise I still have so much to learn about the digital process!

  4. #4

    That was really great. But you do realize that now that you have shown us this, we want more, right? I also would love to see more videos like this from you on different topics. Thanks!

  5. #5

    I second Susan. Now that you’ve showed this video I would actually love to see it in regular speed, maybe even slo mo! When you were dragging photos from your smart album into a new PHOTOS folder, was that folder in iPhoto or on your hard drive? Again id love to see this whole video in normal speed. I think I can learn quite a few tips and tricks just watching this! Thanks Cathy!

  6. #8

    I almost hurt myself laughing at the text-tit…omg. But on a serious note I love digital Project Life because it’s EASY. I’m not shocked by the short 30 some minutes it took you to compile your spread.

  7. #9

    I totally enjoyed the video. Thanks for sharing your process. Question: when you pulled in your photos from your “smart album” what program is that? IPhoto or something else?–oh I looked up and saw that someone else asked the same question. Well, I second that…

    Thanks again,

  8. #11
    Amy J.

    I bought the paper version of Project Life and it’s been too daunting. I’m handing it down to my 12 year old daughter who loves the whole paper/photo in hand process. THIS process…now THIS is my jam! I’ve been a graphic designer/digital editing photographer for years so this is natural to me…and quick and really stress free and automatic.

    What’s the easiest/cheapest way for me to do exactly what you’re doing in this video Cathy? Give me links??

  9. #12

    Ok, your level of awesomeness has just risen by a few more notches, according to me. Did you drink a lot of coffee before your 37 minutes? LOL. Truly, this is fabulous. Can you please remind me how to do the screen shot from my iphone, I have a funny autocorrect to record. Your autocorrect with Cole is hysterical, and his lack of response is soooo like a 14 year old boy. But I bet he showed it to his friends :).

  10. #15
    Margy Eastman

    I LOVE the templates, Cathy! Those fat margins and thin grey lines are just so easy to look at. I have one kinda dumb question – where are the little vertical lines you use between sentences? I’ve scoured my keyboard and I don’t see them.

    I like your Metrodome photo. You guys need an open stadium like Lambeau or Soldier Field so you can brag about freezing your hineys off like the rest of us:)

  11. #16
    Jacquie Desilets

    Totally awesome video, but of course, leaves us wanting more. And yes, how do you bring in your photos? I have been unable to determine how to bring in photos from iPhoto into PSE. I have been placing on my desk top and it works from there, but not fond of the process. (I am a Mac newbie and am experiencing a very large learning curve.)

    Thanks again Cathy for sharing all your expertise and humour!

  12. #17

    Cathy, how do you get those purple justification lines up?!

    Thanks for the video, really motivating!

  13. #18

    It was dragging OUT of my iPhoto Smart Folder into my Hard Drive Project Life Week 3 Photos folder. : )

    And Im thinking about doing something a little more real time!

  14. #19

    Oh, that was just my swatches palette. I forgot I had it on my second monitor! : ) So I had to bring it over quickly before I forgot!

  15. #20

    You already have Photoshop, yes? If you look at the bottom of the post, there are links to all the supplies (pretty minimal) that I use!
    : )

    This is my Jam too!

  16. #22

    Sure, hold down the Home button on your phone, and the on/off at the top at the same time until you hear a shutter release. It will be saved in your Photos.

  17. #24

    Rhona, I dont flatten anything in the template itself. : ) Sometimes, Ill work on a card file separately, save it in layers, but… Ill flatten it to copy it into my template, with the journaling in tow. The way you do the other trick is, Shift -Click to select the layers you want to have your photo appear in, then go to Layer Merge Layers. It will create one big photo mask. : )

  18. #26

    I realize I should have been clearer. Going to do another video for sure. But, I drag them OUT of iPhoto, and into my Project Life Week Three folder, in the PHOTOS folder. Then I can edit them or at least just have them all in one place. Now, when Im done, I can toss those photos into the trash if I like. I know some people edit in PS, and have their photos OPEN in iPhoto (so whatever you do gets saved into the iPhoto library). Ive just never really worked that way. It isnt better or worse. Its just how I roll.

  19. #30

    I have wondered for a long time how you got that vertical line. My PC does not have it on the keyboard. There must be a way to get alternative/additional characters, but I don’t know how. It’s the simple things I tell ya …

  20. #32
    Amy J.

    Thanks! I didn’t see the links…I got done with the video, got all excited and went to comments. I do have Photoshop. Now thinking Totally Rad might be something I add to my arsenal…I tend to over edit my photos (meaning I edit EVERY one of them, lol). I love the less is more approach and digital because well, I have STUFF on every shelf collecting dust and taking space. I like the cleanliness and uncluttered of digital, lol. Thanks Cath!!

  21. #35

    I like dragging OUT of iPhoto and into designated folder on hard drive because this way I can use bridge to edit and work on my photos which is more seamless when using photoshop than using iPhoto. The IDEAL scenario would be saving all those edited photos on top of the originals in iPhoto but not sure that can be done. When I tried dragging an edited photo from my PHOTOS folder back into my iPhoto smart album it wouldn’t save it there. Instead it went into last import. Anyone know how this can be done? I would rather save my edited photos over their originals than toss them in the trash when I’m done…

  22. #36

    I would be willing to watch the full 37 minutes!! I learn so much from just watching even. Thanks for taking the time to share with us. I don’t know why i have have to make things so complicated and then it doesn’t get done. You are so cool ( :

  23. #37
    Jenny B.

    Natalie, I know this probably won’t help you, but I don’t use iPhoto at all. I just created folders in the Finder and save back to that location. I can easily open files in Bridge from the Finder folders also. I had read before switching to Mac that most photographers did not like iPhoto, so I just avoided it altogether when I moved all my files over. Again, probably won’t help, but thought I’d share. 🙂

  24. #38
    Jenny B.

    Audrey, I just checked my two pc keyboards (one sony and one dell), and they both have the vertical line on the same key as the backslash, which is below the backspace key and above the enter key. You have to hold down shift while typing it to use it. On one of my computers, the vertical line has a break in the middle so it sort-of looks like a tall colon. Don’t know if it is made that way, or if the paint has just rubbed off my key, but maybe yours looks like that? The only other thing I can think of is if you don’t have a full size keyboard. It’s possible that key was left off in that case. Hope you find it! 🙂

  25. #40

    Thank you so much for the video and the inspiration to get using photoshop again! You continually remind me that it is not as time consuming or intimidating as I think it is.

    I was wondering if you still do individual pages for your kids’ scrapbooks now that they are getting older? My kids are 11 and younger and right now I only do pages for their scrapbooks or our family, although I strictly do it project-life style. Honestly as much as I would like to document our daily lives, it’s just too much. So do you think you would be doing things differently now with the invention of project life if your kids were younger? Just curious 🙂

  26. #41

    I have not been doing many pages at all for the kids albums. I figure the PL is covering lots of what is going on with their lives. Of course, I am only just now going digital as one of my birds will be leaving the nest later in the year (gulp.) At least I can make copies of the books if she wants one for her memories.

  27. #42

    Easy-peasy! Hold the power button (on the top of the phone) and the Home button (big round button on lower face part of the phone). Hold those simultaneously. when you let go, you’ll hear the “click.” It saves it to your camera roll.

  28. #43

    Thank you, Cathy! I’m a digital scrapper from way back and I’ve been trying to do PL paper/hybrid, but it’s just freezing me up. Now I’m inspired to just do the digital. It’s how I’ve always rolled.

    I’m sure you’ve posted it somewhere, but are you printing at home or going through a service (Persnickty Prints? Costco? Other?)


  29. #44
    Sue Alg

    Thanks Cathy. Now I don’t feel so guilty because I tend to get my pages done in 30-45 minutes. I do change up my digital templates from time to time, but I don’t worry so much about “fancying” up my pages because it’s the content that important I think.

    Maybe ’cause I’ve doing PL for 2 years, I decided make things simple so I can keep up. I mostly use digital templates, but occasionally add some embellishment I created with my Silhouette or something I have in my stash from my years of traditional scrapping.

    I also have a lot of the plastic pocket pages, so from time to time I just print my photos, cards, journalling, etc. and just plop them in the pockets.

  30. #45

    Ha! Found it! cool. It looks like a broken line on my keyboard but prints like this … ||| …! Thanks!
    It IS the simple things 🙂

  31. #46

    LOL love the video but yea that would be like me telling you how easy it is to process mortgage files.

    You make it look WAY TO EASY. I know it would be about four hours while I tried to resize a photo and “flatten it” Huh?

    Too funny to us tech dummies.

  32. #47
    Amy Gretchen

    I love watching you worked. I kept having to remind myself that it was time lapse — I was getting über jealous of your efficiency, though 37 mins project life sounds efficient to me. You do making going digital look good. Thanks!

  33. #48

    Thank you so much for this amazing video. I gave up on Project Life in May last year because I suffered from analysis paralysis. Your minimalist designs have inspired me to jump back in with both feet and go all digital with my Project Life. I am excited for the next installment. Now for my question – did you drop an overlay onto the picture of the trees in the top left grid block? I love the look of that photo and think it would also be cool if that style was replicated on patterned paper so that the background didn’t compete too much with the focal point of the week number. Hope this question isn’t too confusing. And thanks again for all the great inspiration that you share with us. Your use of white space makes my heart sing.

  34. #49

    Thank you for sharing your video, Cathy! I always think it is fun to watch other people’s process and hear their thoughts on it. I thought I was getting quick with my digital pages, getting them between about 40 minutes and an hour per week, but you still have me beat!

    I have a quick question… At one point, you are adjusting the text in the corner of a photo, and it looked like you had a grid come up to help align it. Can I ask how you did that? Sometimes I think it would be quite useful!

  35. #50

    Chastity, yay! Okay, on that photo, what I did was simply change the Opacity of the Photo Mask that the photo is clipped into. I changed it to 40%, which creates that ghosted effect. Click on the layer with the photo mask, and in the Layers Palette, go up to the Opacity control, and change until you achieve the desired look!

  36. #51

    Yes, its the PS grid. You can turn it on in the View menu. Or, I use the shortcut of Command or Control + ;. I use the grid all the time!

  37. #53
    Sarah PM

    Fantastic… quick question, how did you get your weekly circle to drag over the old one as the same size? When I drag my weekly circle onto my template, it comes in absolutely ginormous and I have to manually scale it down. I’d rather be able to drop it in already sized. Help?

  38. #54

    Hmmm. Thats strange. Although Ive heard of this happening in my Clean Simple class. This happened to a few people. Im not sure why this happens.

    One thing you could do is just open the Week circle png, select all, copy, close the doc. Then paste into the template. It should come in regular size. If I ever figure out why this other thing happens, Ill have to post it here on my blog.

    Let me know if the workaround works.

  39. #55
    Sarah PM

    Wunderbar! Worked like a charm.

    I wonder if there’s a hidden setting somewhere in PSE that defaults to “really inconvenient” for some things. Ah well, the workaround works fine. Muchas gracias!

    One more question (for today): If I wanted to color in the words “Week 1” on the filled circle with white (as you have), what’s the workflow?

    Cheers – S

  40. #57

    Thank you so much for this video! Really insightful. I have been simplifying already, but saw where I could simplify even more.

    I really hope you do other videos like this as well!

    What I am wondering about: what is your thought process in picking which photos go in, and which go where. It looked like you are not afraid to not include every picture you select in the first round? I guess my main question is: how do you select your pics so quickly, and how do you decide which one goes where?

  41. #58
    Britiney @ Consider the Lilies

    This video illuminated a lot of things for me, but I think he biggest one is how much I really don’t know or understand Photoshop. I’ve taken several classes and at the end of each one I *start* to think I might be figuring it out. But then it might be a month before I get back to it and CRS sets in. Since I only use it for scrapbooking, and only occasionally, I can never remember how to do what I want. Throughout the whole video I found myself saying “wait! what did she just do?!?” I’m thinking I might just not be at a place in my life where I have the time to use/learn PS in a way that is useful for me.

  42. #60

    Loved the video. I work well within time limits so setting myself 40 mins to complete a week sounds like a fun challenge and will keep me on task.

  43. #61

    This was fantastic!! Thank you so much for posting and talking us through your process. It helped me realize where I was spending too much time (open last weeks template -duh!).
    I echo the many other comments about other tips & tricks -would love to see more.
    The flattening vs merging layers is a question I’d appreciate seeing a video in action. I feel like I spend more time putting together the ‘cards’ outside of the page, flattening, and bringing them in. Looks like your process is more stream lined but I’m not certain how you’re doing it.
    Thanks again! This was just what I needed to get inspire to start PL again.

  44. #62

    When you were aligning your text/photos with the other elements on the page, there were purple lines that showed you if something matched? Is that a setting under guidelines? 🙂

  45. #63

    I understand you not showing your editing, and insertion of journaling for privacy sake but I am wondering how you transfer from one program to another to insert to your journaling blocks? Do you just copy & paste? I got Day One on my iPhone when it was on sale for some sort of reason. I use it somewhat regularly and am wondering how you transfer stuff into your Scrapbooking in case I want to give it a try.

    Generally your recommendations for apps, software, products etc… have been truely awesome (1st one I tried was PicTapGo, and I <3 it) I am now strongly considering some version of Rad Lab – too bad I hesitated when they had their Black Friday Sale, but my Photoshop is from like 1995, so it seems like it makes sense to get newer version of that too if I'm going to invest in software for digital photo management, editing and Scrapbooking. What version of Rad Lab makes most sense for general use with everyday sort of photos?

  46. #64

    Good question, Anne! I am planning to do another video this week, in real time, that will address that very subject. The bottom line is this: I dont over think. Truly. I dont have too many photos, so I just pick and test it out. Sometimes it doesnt work, but most of the time it does! : ) Watch for a video later this week.

  47. #65

    Mine is from a set called Artistic Actions Vol. 2 and I believe its by Kevin Kubota. The action is called Digital Fill Flash.

  48. #66

    You would do Edit Fill Layer… but choose White from the dropdown menu in that palette when it comes up. That is one way! : )

  49. #69

    Im going to do another video in real time, that covers the production of a single page. Maybe it will help. I truly believe there are only a handful of things you need to know in Photoshop to make it useful for scrapbooking. : )

  50. #70

    Kari, Im planning to do a video that that in real time that explains more things. : ) But I would say an upgraded Photoshop would be a good idea. Photoshop Elements is a great program and then Rad Lab works with PSE. There are only a few versions of Rad Lab. One for full Photoshop and one for Photoshop Elements. : )

  51. #71

    Cathy – one more question. Do you put a background paper on your layout below all of the photo masks or just leave the background as a blank canvas?

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