A recent article on LinkedIn about productivity in the workplace recently caught my eye. While it is true that productivity is a challenge for those of us who are working, I think it is even more difficult when we are not working. It’s easier to be productive when you have a supervisor who keeps a sharp eye on your performance, and when you have clearly delineated activities. In contrast, looking for work independently — week after week, month after month — can feel thankless and unrewarding; staying motivated and productive can become really challenging, as time passes.
Here, adapted from that post, are some tips to help job searchers stay productive:
1. Create a to-do list, and keep it simple. Prioritize and focus on a couple of crucial items, and give yourself a generous amount of time than absolutely necessary to get them done. For example, it is more effective to focus on finding the few quality jobs to which you would like to apply and writing a quality cover letter, than to apply to “any” job with a generic cover letter. As Ilya Pozin, the author of the article says, “Take a less-is-more approach to your to-do list by only focusing on accomplishing things that matter“.
2. Take breaks. There’s no point in having a marathon eight-hour session of non stop job search, if you become so tired that you start making silly mistakes in your correspondence with employers. Those mistakes will happen before you realise that you’re tired, and once an email is sent out, there’s no taking it back. So, take regular breaks: go out and get some fresh air, call a friend, have a snack or take a short nap. “Achieve more productivity (…) by making a point to regularly clear your head. You’ll come back recharged and ready to achieve greater efficiency“, adds Pozin.
3. Follow the 80/20 rule. If you apply the Pareto principle to productivity, you’ll understand that most (80 percent) of what you achieve in a day could be the result of only 20 percent of what you did in that time. For this reason, it is important to prioritize and focus only on those items that really produce real results. Often, we chose to engage in the less important small details as a way of avoiding and procrastinating (do you really need to change the font on your resume again?) — be aware of your priorities and focus on them first.
4. Remember to start each day, taking care of yourself. If you take time each morning to relax, eat breakfast and get ready, you will set yourself up for a focused and more productive day. Then, go back to your “to-do” list, and plan your day, before launching into your first activity.
5. prioritize the harder tasks for earlier in the day. Instead of avoiding or procrastinating on the more challenging tasks on your list, take them on first. For example — you may as well make your cold calls early — employers tend to be more available first thing in the morning, anyway. Leave the more mindless “busy work” for later, when you don’t have to be as sharp.
6. Get away from the computer and make a point of picking up the phone. Email can be useful if you need to provide detail or documentation, but if you want to make a personal impression, use the phone — or, even better — arrange to meet someone in person. As I repeatedly mention in previous blog posts, meeting people IRL (In Real Life) is the most effective job search activity of all.
7. Create a system. Figure out your biggest distractions (such as that friend who’s always calling during the day to chat) and set limits on them. In past blogs, I have emphasized the importance of structuring your day for job search like you would a work day — establish a routine, create an email address dedicated for finding work, set aside a job search space at home, using online tools such as JibberJobber, and generally make sure that you are set up to stay focused and on track.
8. Don’t confuse productivity with busyness. Just because you are keeping busy, it does not mean that you are being productive. Make sure to set meaningful goals and focus on getting them done, rather than giving in to distractions and meaningless unnecessary detail.
A client once remarked to me that her home has never been as clean and tidy as it has been since she began looking for work — be careful not to fall into the trap of distraction, as a means of avoidance. Make sure to take care of yourself and do what it takes to plan, prioritize and focus.