I find it really difficult to prepare for my eye care qualifying exams. I’m easily distracted and do almost anything to avoid studying. Do you have any advice?

It sounds as if you have a problem with procrastination. This word means ‘leave it until tomorrow’.

Of course, with studies, if you keep leaving it until tomorrow eventually the exam date or coursework hand-in date arrives and things don’t go well and you might fail the course.

Procrastination can affect qualified people as well and in all areas of practice work. Perhaps a revision of the practice marketing strategy is required and is left until tomorrow. Or the practice needs a clean, tidy, and redecoration and is left until tomorrow. Perhaps a conversation about staff behaviour is required and it is left until tomorrow.

I too have problems with procrastination, most people do. I have done a lot of reading on the topic and have even coached students on how to break out of it.

Here’s a useful tip that I use myself. The 2-minute drill.

I find that getting started is the hardest part of doing some types of work

My resistance is all at the front end of the task. I think of a way to get started because I know once I’m started I can make some progress and making even a small amount of progress helps me realise that the task is doable. This helps me keep going with the task.

Through positive self-talk, I convince myself that I can do the task for 2-minutes. If after 2 minutes I’m not happy to continue I’ll allow myself to do something else.

So, for example, if I need to write a Question of the `Day and find myself procrastinating I will give myself 2 minutes to make a few notes about a challenge I faced in practice or a challenge I faced in practice, or a practice challenge someone else told me about. From this challenge, I write a question. That process usually takes around 2 minutes and once completed I feel good and most of the time go on and write an answer to that question. Writing about practice challenges is easy because I’m simply writing about something that has happened to me or to a colleague. Once I’ve got that written down the question flows from my notes and the answer flows from my question. I sometimes stop after 2 minutes and come back to it later but usually, I carry on after 2 minutes and complete the task.

In this process, I’m acknowledging my urge to procrastinate and this lessens its intensity.

Making the task smaller helps a lot. Instead of ‘I need to write a question of the day’ which can be daunting my task is ‘I need to write for 2 minutes’.

Once I’ve given myself that little talk, I set a timer on my phone and dive in, confident that if my resistance is still terrible after two minutes I can switch to something else. I rarely need to switch and get the task done.

The 2-minute drill can be used for all aspects of professional and personal life. Give it a try.


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