Did you know that batching and working through processes allow you to develop muscle memory around tasks or other things? It is why it is often suggested that you do like things at the same time. I’ve been putting together my Color of the Day posts for June. Yep, I do them all at once! I have a set process which makes it easier and more efficient to do it in one sitting than it is in smaller batches.
Creating Process and Muscle Memory
This is how the Color of the Day posts for a month get put together:
- Holly sets up the color frames and words in the format I created a year ago (we’re actually done with 360 of them, I have five to do in July, then it will just be a loop!) and puts the individual files into a shared file.
- I then open each frame file in Photoshop, find a photo, insert it (deleting the placeholder). Finding the photos is a trip through my camera uploads from my phone. I often take photos just because I think they will have good colors in them. I copy the original photo into the frame file, make any adjustments I want (I don’t usually fix my photos, I just crop or choose the portion I will use), then save it as a print file (Command+S) and as a web file (Command+Shift+Option+S).
- After I’ve put all the photos in for a month, I go back and look at the thumbnails and write the words you see in the daily posts. I have usually composed these in my head as I have worked in Photoshop so it doesn’t take long to type them out in Evernote.
- Then I send the words to Holly, who puts the photo frames and the words into my scheduler for each day of the month.
- Each day the scheduler tells me when the photo is ready to be posted to Instagram, but to other social media it posts without me doing anything more. For Instagram I add hashtags and post.
I got interrupted a couple of times while working on this and it made me think of muscle memory because I had to be sure I was paying attention as I came back to the task after my concentration had been interrupted.
Muscle Memory Is Your Friend
I’ve been knitting a piece with two colors in it (actually redoing it because I used the wrong stitch pattern in a part of it). I don’t love color knitting because I hate the way the yarn gets twisted up and I have to interrupt my knitting. But I love that I can knit my second color with the yarn in my right hand. I have a hard time even picturing how to throw my yarn any more, even though that is how I learned and knit for my first 30 years. Even though it isn’t natural for me any more, my muscles know what to do. If I have to write instructions specifically for throwing, I have to watch myself do it because it no longer exists except in muscle memory.
We can bring this to any task we need to do more than occasionally. Many small businesses set aside days for certain types of tasks to take advantage of this batching concept. You may do it when you cook or do other routine things. For my work I try to establish processes. I will admit that I don’t write them down as thoroughly as I could, but if you document in some way what you do, then follow that process the next time, you will eventually be able to do it without having to think through each step.
I like to open an Evernote Note and write down the steps so I can easily find it. Even a cursory recitation is a step toward muscle memory. When learning new things, write down the steps, create a mantra (when copying and pasting those photos, I say “Command+A, Command+C, Command+V” in my head every time). I don’t usually look at my fingers anymore—they know where those keys are!
Muscle Memory Doesn’t Work Without Focus
The only caveat I have for this is that regardless of how awesome your processes are or how good your muscle memory, you have to give them focus to do them properly. Once you are tired, bored, or distracted, your productivity will suffer. Yesterday Mitch emailed me that he would be home for lunch and what kind of sandwich he wanted. I had turned off my email so I wouldn’t be distracted while editing a pattern, so I didn’t see the message until he showed it to me. I got a lot done though! He had already figured I wouldn’t answer my phone. The continual distraction of your cell phone may be ruining your productivity.
So, Batch tasks so you develop ease and surety moving through them. Do whatever works for you to create the Muscle Memory (brain is muscle too!) to do it almost automatically, and write down the Process. Then remove Distractions. Do this more often than you think you need to and you will be amply rewarded with how effectively you get things done. Long periods of work time are less important than the ability to work through without distractions.
The yarn is It Could Be Worsted from Anzula Luxury Fibers.