We all know one—somebody who puts things off to the last possible moment—The Procrastinator. Some people put off little things, like organizing a closet or tidying up the garage. Then there are those who put off the big stuff—filing taxes in August instead of April, not paying bills on time, or postponing yearly medical check-ups—and that’s when serious consequences can ensue. As a writer and editor for Vision Monday, I am all too familiar with co-workers (including myself) pushing the deadline envelope. As writers, we sometimes will resort to almost anything in order to buy ourselves more time. So what makes this procrastination tendency tick?

The Root Causes of Procrastination

Believe it or not, there really is a science to the art of procrastinating. According to this feature from Vox titled, Why Your Brain Loves Procrastination, “approximately 5 percent of the population has such a problem with chronic procrastination that it seriously affects their lives.”

Here’s what Vox staff writer Susannah Locke has to say about chronic procrastination. “Conventional wisdom has long suggested that procrastination is all about poor time management and willpower. But more recently, psychologists have been discovering that it may have more to do with how our brains and emotions work.

“Procrastination, they’ve realized, appears to be a coping mechanism. When people procrastinate, they’re avoiding emotionally unpleasant tasks and instead doing something that provides a temporary mood boost. The procrastination itself then causes shame and guilt — which in turn leads people to procrastinate even further, creating a vicious cycle.

“But getting a better understanding of why our brains are so prone to procrastination might let us find new strategies to avoid it. For example, psychologist Tim Pychyl has co-authored a paper showing that students who forgave themselves for procrastinating on a previous exam were actually less likely to procrastinate on their next test. He and others have also found that people prone to procrastination are, overall, less compassionate toward themselves—an insight that points to ways to help.”

Pychyl’s advice to chronic procrastinators is to just get started on the task at hand, even when we don’t feel like it. “We know from psychological research that progress on our goals feeds our well-being. So the most important thing you can do is bootstrap a little progress. Get a little progress, and that’s going to fuel your well-being and your motivation.”

Procrastinating Patients

Understanding people’s motivation to put things off and finding solutions to “putting things on the back burner syndrome” can help eyecare professionals understand their patients inability to make a yearly appointment for an eye exam. Again, putting off that eye exam can have serious consequences.

In a YouTube video from Scripps National News, AOA president Barbara Horn, OD, is interviewed about the importance of receiving an annual eye exam, not just to check vision, but also to look for signs of more serious diseases. Dr. Horn said, “The eye is the only place in the entire human body where you can directly view blood vessels.” Dr. Horn also said that “up to 270 different systemic diseases” can be detected by examining the eye, including hypertension, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

It’s been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul but in these tech-driven times, the eyes can also function as a diagnostic tool for our health. Something as simple as an eye exam can detect serious disease, such as the onset of diabetes or even a life-threatening condition.

A trip to the eye doctor turned serious for Jobson’s VP Dennis Murphy in June of 2017, when the Optos image showed some hemorrhages on his peripheral retina. His eye exam led to a trip to an ophthalmologist and eventually to a noted vascular surgeon who repaired two carotid arteries that were severely blocked.

“I just consider myself very, very lucky,” Murphy said. “I was the classic walking candidate for a stroke, with no symptoms. And if I had gone for a regular vision screening—like they do with many children in schools—none of this would have been noticed. But because I was getting a thorough eye examination with a retinal image and they had such great diagnostic equipment at LensCrafters, they were able to discover this.” Click here to read about Murphy’s experience, When a ‘Regular’ Eye Exam Is Anything But Routine.

The Eye Exam Landscape

Across-the-board growth—including everything from eye exams to OTC readers—helped drive 2.4 percent growth in the overall vision care market in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2019 according to a recent Consumer Barometer report issued by The Vision Council. In looking at the eyecare business on a product-level basis, exams, the third-largest category, grew faster than both prescription lenses and frames in the period, posting 3.3 percent growth to $6.39 billion.

On an “exam” basis, independent ECPs saw their market share rise to 70.2 percent (from 70 percent in the year-ago period), while chains’ market share in eye exams dropped to 29.8 percent from 30 percent in the year-ago period.

In digging down into the eye exams data, The Vision Council estimated that 51.2 million adults over the age of 18 had an eye exam (for refraction) in the six-month period ended Sept. 30. This compared with 52.5 million exams in the six-month period ended June 30 and 51.9 million exams in the six-month period ended March 31.

While the eye exams data is remaining steady, there is always room for improvement. To that end Think About Your Eyes, a national public awareness campaign presented by The Vision Council and the American Optometric Association that aims to promote the importance of getting an annual comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist, has launched its new and enhanced website. Featuring new content and a modern, easy-to-navigate design, the reinvigorated platform provides information on eye health, eye conditions, vision correction options and treatment, and enables consumers to find an eye doctor and schedule an exam.

Developed to offer a seamless user experience, Think About Your Eyes’ new website features an inviting design and an intuitive display designed for optimal compatibility with mobile devices. The new platform includes a range of new and interactive content, including a dynamic section called Eyes Across the Country. Content on this page includes interactive quizzes about eye health and information regarding special events.

In addition to new content, the website will include new features to further improve the user experience, including a new doctor locator that will be introduced later in 2020.

When it comes to eye exams things are moving in the right direction but ECPs can do their part as well. So the next time your patient comes in for an eye exam, talk to them about the importance of having an eye exam (for themselves and everyone in the family, including the children) and warn them about the dangers of procrastinating about making that appointment.

National Procrastination Week?

Procrastinate: To put off or delay until a later day or time; waste time; putter around; dawdle; goldbrick; boondoggle; dilly-dally; horse around; lollygag; goof off, etc.—NationalDayCalendar.com writing about National Procrastination Week.

Did you know there’s actually a National Procrastination Week? According to NationalDayCalendar.com, “the first two weeks in March, or when it’s convenient, is National Procrastination Week. Sometimes it gets pushed back on the calendar. The goal for the week is to celebrate the act of procrastinating by leaving necessary tasks to be done at a later time. There are other purposes for the holiday.

“One claim is that the week of putting-off provides a mental and emotional break causing a decrease in stress and anxiety. However, the holiday does not advocate sloth, laziness or inaction. Instead, it emphasizes accomplishing tasks, and leisurely activities that could not be completed while one had other responsibilities. These may include reading, cooking, cleaning, and exercising.”

Five Ways To Avoid Procrastination
1. Find the answer to ‘What’s In It For Me.”

2. Chunk your time—set a timer.

3. Watch out for time gobblers—internet, email, TV, phone, socializing, unimportant notices and forwards.

4. Delegate when the task is not part of your priority.

5. Make it fun by rewarding yourself.

Finally, here is a memorable and somewhat uplifting cinematic example of putting off today what you can do tomorrow. From “Gone With the Wind,” Scarlett O’Hara’s rationalization of “not thinking about that now.”