I had a writing professor who once told the class that we were all experts in something. Whether it’s complex or simple, everyone has something that they know how to do down to the smallest detail. It might be something so habitual that you don’t really think about the process anymore.
Reminding ourselves of things we're good at can be a way to build confidence or let our brains rest from dealing with new, challenging information. In just a few minutes, with whatever you have at your fingertips, you can dig into an activity or task you’re an expert in by writing instructions for how you do the thing.
Here’s my example:
Making my nighttime cup of tea
1. Put at least 16 oz of water in the kettle and turn it on to start heating.
2. Pick out a mug that matches the amount of tea I want and my mood.
3. Pick a tea. Factors to consider include: caffeine level, flavor profile (spicy, fruity, nutty, or sweet), steeping time.
4. If using a loose-leaf tea, prepare the infuser or reusable teabag.
5. If using sweetener, put the desired amount in the mug. Don’t put in the teabag or infuser yet.
6. When the kettle is done heating, pour a little hot water over the sweetener. Stir until the sweetener has dissolved.
7. Add the teabag and pour hot water. Set a timer according to steeping instructions.
8. After timer goes off, remove teabag. Add any desired milk or ice.
This is a lot of detail just for making a cup of tea. The steps isn’t set in stone, and I get to decide each time whether I want to be super mindful about the process or just get to the result. Depending on what expertise you choose, you might not be able to be purposeful and attentive every time. For example, you could choose the task of tying your shoes or making breakfast; sometimes, if not most of the time, you’ll have to do these things quickly.
Here are some tips for documenting your expertise:
Pick something you find satisfying or enjoyable. If you like the activity, you’re more likely to like writing about it.
Challenge yourself to see how detailed the steps can get. It’s a little absurd, but it can flex the brain in new ways.
Test the instructions on yourself or others. See if you’ve captured the essence of the task!
The practice of writing the instructions is the point here. Taking a few minutes to write down my process of making nighttime tea helped remind me that I like the ritual as well as the result. We’re often best at things that we love doing, so taking a few minutes to dig into your own expertise is also a great way to think carefully about something you enjoy and remind yourself that you’re already an expert in something.