Thursday, February 5, 2009


In my last post, I talked about how, although you might be unemployed, you still probably have a lot of stuff to get done. A successful job hunt (usually) takes a lot of time by itself, and in the meantime, you have everything else in your life that normally needs doing. Although it seems like you have all the time in the world at first, it soon becomes all to easy to put things off and wonder where the day (or week, or month) has gone.

The best way to avoid this? Structure. When you plan out your day, even loosely, and maintain good habits, you'll be much more productive, and probably be unemployed for less time than if you just do whatever, whenever.

You shouldn't try to plan your day to the minute, or even to the hour, unless you find it works well for you. However, a basic plan or agenda will go a long way. The specifics of the plan will vary based on your needs and circumstances -- maybe you want to keep your evenings clear so that you can spend time with your family, perhaps you have classes or meetings during the week that you need to schedule around, or it could be that you're a night owl who works best when the rest of us are asleep. Whatever your needs, though, there are some aspects of planning that can apply to everyone:

Don't try to do everything in one day. Pace yourself, and set realistic goals for what you can get done in a day or week. Otherwise, you'll burn out. You may need a job, but spending twelve hours a day searching is not the most effective way of going about it.

Exercise. Physical activity will not only help you stay healthy, it will also energize you and keep you mentally focused as well. I'm not a fan of gyms, personally, but if you belong to one you should take advantage of it, and there's many other ways you can be physically active as well. Even just a walk around the neighborhood to get some fresh air is a great way to keep inertia from setting in.

Get enough sleep. Seriously, if you're unemployed, there's no excuse not to. That said...

Be available during standard work hours. If people call or email you about an interview or other opportunity, it will most likely be during the workday. Sleeping until one might be tempting, but if someone calls you at nine, that's at least four hours before you get their voice mail and can respond to them. And sometimes, getting a gig is a matter of speed. This doesn't mean you have to be at your computer for nine straight hours during the day (in fact, it's probably best if you're not), but you should stay in touch as best as you can.

Take part of a day (or even a whole day) off once in a while. Maybe it's to get a project around the house done; maybe it's just to get a break from the long slog of finding a new employer. But occasionally, you should put the search aside for a little bit to recharge, reflect, and relax.

Evaluate your time use periodically. Every so often, stop to think about what you're doing with your time and make adjustments if needed. Don't fall into a rut.

There's probably more you can do as well. I'll post suggestions down the road if I think of any good ones, and feel free to post anything you have found that works well for you in the comments.

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