Assistant Professor of Medicine practicing in US

Get ready for the Match: 5 steps to stop procrastinating and get stuff done.

 

Assistant Professor of Medicine practicing in US

Back in 2009, this time of the year was one of the most stressful time of my life.

I was preparing for the upcoming NRMP match.

I had to get documents from my medical school, research and list the programs to apply to, work on my personal statement along with school and a part-time job.  I was losing motivation and thinking of applying a year later.  There was just too much to do and not enough time.  But I had come too far to let it go at this stage.

Maybe like me,  you too are feeling overwhelmed with work, family, studying for exams, and working on your application. Maybe you are thinking you might not have all documents ready by September and will have to submit a halfhearted application or be late on your application.

Keep reading on because I was in the same place as you are. I will show you a few simple techniques I used to get my application ready and achieve the kind of success in the match that I didn’t think was possible.

I started using these five steps to boost my productivity. It took some time to get into the habit. But within a few days, I was making tremendous progress. I got my application ready well in time for the match. I was also able to complete my USMLE Step 3 soon after the match. I never thought I would be able to do so much in so little time.  

1. Baby Steps

Focus on series of small wins rather that worrying about the final goal to keep your motivation going.

Make a list of all the things you need to do to complete your application.  Divide the workload into big and baby steps. You don’t have to do too much in a day, just a little. It will add up fast. For example:

ULTIMATE GOAL BIG STEPS BABY STEPS
GET RESIDENCY IN THIS YEAR'S MATCH LOR email 1 attending/day send a reminder to 1 attending/day send thank you email to 1 attending/day
Personal Statement write intro paragraph write 2 personal stories ask 1 friend to proof read
Program List research website of 15 programs/day email 1 coordinator/day

Each baby step you take motivates you to take the next step. Before you know it, you will be a lot closer to the big step and eventually your final goal.

2. Productive hours

We are not at your best performance all the time.There are some periods in the day when our brain taps into limitless potential. For most people including me, this is 1-2 hours after waking up. Make a list of things that you find the hardest and do it during one of these productive hours.  I reserved working on my personal statement for 15 minutes after I wake up. Figure out when you are at your best and hit the toughest baby steps during those times.

3. Prioritize

This is the one advice we have heard a million times but are never able to stick to .

The advice comes in many different forms, but it is essentially the same.

“Don’t get distracted” or  “stop watching TV” etc. I have heard many versions of this. I could never follow it.  Until I found the missing piece of the puzzle. It becomes much easier to follow and stick to once you know the whole story.

You don’t stop watching tv or socializing forever. You just stop it for the most productive hours of your day. In my case, I stopped checking my email for the two hours after I wake up and worked on my application. I was getting a lot more work done and not feeling guilty for doing things I like.

4. Power of momentum

This is one of the most powerful tools to accomplish major goals. But you have to follow the steps above to be able to use this tool.

You have identified your baby steps. You know when you are the most productive. Now you start working towards those baby steps. You keep the hardest steps for the productive hours of your day. You are avoiding distractions during the productive hours of your day.

To get the power of momentum at this stage, you continue to work on your baby steps every day. If you are having a bad day or something else that prevents you from working on your application, don’t skip the day. Just spare 15 minutes to work on your application. So when your pick it up next day or the day after, you are mentally ready to get back to work.

5. Visualize your success

This is the hardest of all and the most beneficial.

When I first heard about this, I was skeptical. I never believed in airy-fairy things like this. But I was ready to try anything to succeed in the match. So I gave it a shot. The results were amazing. Now I am a firm believer. I have used this to match at my top program, succeed during residency, get my first job and even win a tennis tournament when the odds were against me. Seasoned athletes like Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods use detailed visualization before their sporting events.

I know it will help you achieve success beyond what you thought possible.

Before you go to sleep when you are lying in your bed, visualize yourself getting your dream residency spot. Don’t just think about getting it. See yourself accomplishing the baby steps and submitting your application. Visualize yourself when you open your email and read the match result. You are feeling happy, excited or anxious. Feel everything. Live the moment.

It will be difficult at first. Our brains are wired to focus on the lack of things. Reframing your thoughts to having what you want is immensely powerful. If you feel the emotions when you are visualizing your success, you are doing it right. The stronger the emotion you feel, the better it works.

CONCLUSION

I know what you are going through right now. I have been there. Even now, I feel overwhelmed with work and worry about failure. At times, I want to achieve a lot in a day and don’t have enough time.

When I am in that situation, I use these 5 steps to boost my productivity and get some work done.

1.Figure out the baby steps to get to the big win.

2.Work on the hardest/most boring/most time-consuming steps during your most productive hours.

3.Avoid distractions during the productive hours.

4.Keep the momentum going. Even if that means working for 15 minutes a day on your baby steps.

5.Visualize your success and how you would get there. Feel the emotions you would feel when you get there.

 

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