How well are you managing your valuable, irreplaceable time? Do you consistently manage time, or do you let time consistently manage you? If it’s the latter situation, you just might be time-management “challenged,” and that definitely has a negative impact on both your professional brand and your future career prospects. For example, if you are currently in a new job search, or plan to begin one soon, how well (or how poorly) you manage time can directly influence, a.) How long it may take you to land a new job; or b.) Whether or not you are even able to land a new job.
How to Tell if You’re Time-Management ‘Challenged’
Most of us don’t particularly like to do much self analysis or introspection, especially if it involves examining ourselves for possible shortcomings. Still, the only tried and true way of correcting any shortcomings we may have is, first, to identify them, and then, to take actions necessary and appropriate to correct them.
So, how can you tell if perhaps you are time-management “challenged”? It’s relatively easily, actually.
You may be time-management “challenged” IF . . .
- You have more than 1,000 unopened (and presumably unread?) messages in your email inbox.
- The aforementioned email messages are, on average, more than six months old.
- Your voicemail inbox is completely full and unable to accept any more messages.
- You haven’t checked your voicemail inbox in . . . well . . . you can’t really remember the last time you actually did check it.
- Your mantra (silent, I hope!) is, “Why do today what I can put off until tomorrow?”
- Your five “standard” responses when asked for an update on projects you’re involved in are the following:
- “I’m going to do that first thing tomorrow (or, over the weekend, next week, etc.)”
- “Time has simply gotten away from me.”
- “I just haven’t had the time to do it because of (fill in the blank).”
- “I’m still waiting to get (fill in the blank) before I can finish up.”
- “My dog ate my homework” . . . No, wait a minute! You can’t use that excuse here!
Well, I’m sure you get the idea.
5 Steps to Take Control of Your Job Search Time
In order to put yourself in control (or, to take back control) of your valuable time during a job search, consider taking, at an absolute minimum, the following 5 basic steps:
1. Learn to filter and focus. Today, we are literally inundated with “information,” much of it is nothing more than “noise.” It’s easy therefore to become unduly distracted and get off course during a job search. Learn to filter out all that which is largely meaningless and unproductive/counter-productive to a successful job search and start focusing, exclusively, on those activities and information that are most productive for your job search instead. Example: Don’t waste your valuable time sitting, hour upon hour, in front of your computer applying for jobs online. It doesn’t work anymore! Rather, incorporate your online job hunting activities into a comprehensive, multi-faceted, personal marketing program.
2. Establish specific written goals and set (and meet!) reasonable deadlines for attaining them. Most job hunters of course have some general idea of the “goals” they want to reach during a job search. But if those goals aren’t specific and are reduced to writing which are regularly monitored and accompanied by reasonable deadlines that are actually met, they run a very high risk of being “lost in the shuffle.” (A side note: As you may or may not know, the term “deadline” originated during the American Civil War. It was a line established on the perimeter of prisoner of war camps. Any prisoner who crossed that line risked being shot dead! Makes you wonder how many “deadlines” would be ignored today if this approach were still used, huh?)
3. Create—and then diligently maintain—“to do” lists. Don’t assume that you will instinctively know (or remember) what “drop-dead” activities you must complete on any given day during a job search. I’m telling you that you won’t. At the end of each day, check off those “to-do” items you’ve handled that day, transferring those that weren’t handled to the next day’s “to-do” list. (Bear in mind, of course, that if you’re transferring more items towards the next day than you’re clearing on any given day, it sort of defeats the purpose of a “to-do” list!) This simple task, performed regularly, will save you both time and unnecessary headaches, while keeping your job search on track and steadily moving forward.
4. Maintain detailed records. You will undoubtedly be astounded at how quickly you will accumulate mountains of information during a job search, e.g., names of companies contacted, positions applied for, names of hiring managers, “headhunters” or Human Resources professionals, telephone numbers, email addresses, etc., etc., etc. If you do not establish and maintain detailed, well-organized records of this information, you will soon find that you are literally “drowning” in details and it can prove nearly impossible to retrieve information when and if you need it. Using something as simple as a three-ring notebook (or the computer program equivalent), with appropriate “tabs,” e.g., “Companies Contacted,” “Positions Applied For,” etc., can save you countless hours of wasted time.
5. Replace the “sound track” in your mind. You know the “sound track” I’m talking about here. It’s the one that keeps telling you that you will do something “tomorrow” or “next week” or whenever. Promise. Just not now, not today. Replace that “sound track” with one that keeps telling you something like this: “I must do this NOW, if I am to accomplish my goal of finding a new job. If I don’t do it, it simply will not get done!”
Admittedly, there is much, much more involved in becoming a well-oiled time-management machine. But, if you are indeed among those who are time-management “challenged,” this blog offers a good place to start, and if you follow the advice featured in it, you can certainly add to and immeasurably improve your professional brand.
Skip Freeman is the author of the international bestselling job hunting book “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! (http://portal.sliderocket.com/BFDSG/Find-Your-Dream-Job) and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.