Managing your day effectively is one of your biggest challenges as a job seeker!
Most people are relatively efficient with their day when they are in a job. They know what’s expected of them and they have a routine to get it all done. When they are unemployed, however, time management can easily go out the window. There is no one else setting daily expectations, other than ‘find a job’. There is no established routine, and there is ambiguity about what tasks are important.
It’s often easier to justify being ‘productive’ with the time you have at home by painting a bedroom, improving the landscaping in the backyard, or other projects around the house. While there may be satisfaction in completing a project, it does nothing to get you closer to finding the next job.
Studies have shown that the average job seeker only spends approximately 2 hours per day, or 10 hours per week on concentrated job search activities. Many may say… “but I spend 4 to 5 hours every day applying to jobs online”. In response, I would argue that is not a concentrated or effective job search activity and yields very little results.
I don’t believe that people spend so little time on their search because they are lazy… but rather because they haven’t planned in advance and don’t know what to do next! When one task is complete, and they haven’t thought about what’s next for the day, precious time goes by without much getting done. PEOPLE GET A MENTAL BLOCK ABOUT A NEXT ACTIVITY FOR THE DAY! Planning is such a crucial part of becoming more effective in your search and yet it’s done by so few.
So how do you go about an effective plan?
First, get a calendar. It doesn’t matter if you use a paper wall calendar, a notebook calendar, Outlook, or an online tool. However, pick something that you feel comfortable with, that you will refer to easily and often, and you can update easily.
Fill in the “Duhs’”. The “Duhs’” are the time commitments that you easily know you need to keep. Appointments you made for job interviews, informational interviews, and networking meetings. These things are clearly important and you know you don’t want to miss them. It’s important to put them on right away so that you don’t accidentally schedule something else over those timeframes.
Add prep time. If you have a job interview scheduled for Tuesday at 9:00 am, you certainly need time in advance to prepare thoroughly for that meeting. Time to research the company, review the job description, create appropriate questions to ask, practice answers to likely questions that will arise, etc. Block time on your calendar on Monday to prepare effectively. Don’t set aside a whole day, there are other things to be done as well. However, set aside enough time to feel confident about the upcoming meeting
The same may be necessary to prepare for an informational interview or networking meeting. Perhaps not as much time, however, give yourself the chance to be your best by preparing in advance. Block the time on your calendar.
In order to prepare your week effectively, you are likely to also need to block out time, perhaps over the weekend, to plan the upcoming week. If you wait until Monday morning, you will likely waste “prime time” contact hours (8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday – Friday), in order to plan what you will be doing the rest of the week!
Plan time for calls. Most job seekers don’t connect with many new people because they haven’t been deliberate about making many calls. If you make a call in the morning, and maybe get around to making another one later in the afternoon or the next day, each call feels burdensome and difficult to do. It’s even less attractive to make calls when each one seems so hard. Making a number of calls in a row, however, helps each one feel progressively easier because you gain confidence and momentum when one immediately follows another.
In order to do that, however, you have to reserve time in advance AND gather your contact information in advance as well so that there’s no lag between calls. If you make a call, and then need 10 to 15 minutes to find the phone number and basic information for your next call, you won’t get many calls done in 2 hours. You need to set aside time in advance of your blocked calling time to get things together.
Limit your screen time! Blocking time for searching and applying to jobs online is important. However, it’s greatest benefit is most likely to limit the time in front of the computer each day. Most people spend far too much time online when talking to and meeting live people is far more effective. Determine that you won’t spend more than 2 hours a day online. Find ways to be more efficient, then stick to your calendar and focus on more effective tasks.
Plan time for ‘To Do’s’. Time is necessary to customize your resume for a particular company, send Thank You notes, prepare business cards, follow up on leads, etc. Setting aside time to complete those tasks ensures they get done, and reduces the stress of finding the time.
So what does it all look like? Consider this sample…
It may take time until your week is this structured, however, starting today can make your tomorrow far more productive.
When you’ve blocked your time for your day and for your week… you prevent mental blocks about what to do next and your job search becomes dramatically more effective!