We live in an age where the volume of requests for our time far exceeds our ability to handle them all. Emails, text message, phone calls, and social media notifications interrupt us all day long if we let them.
How can we stay focused on something as important as a job search? We must acknowledge the gap in our time management systems. Most systems tell us how to organize and process the items on our list, but none explain what should be on your list in the first place.
I wanted to understand this gap and how to overcome it. So, I sought more information on how the most productive people evaluate requests for their time. I interviewed C-level executives all around the world, though mostly in the US, and asked them a series of questions, uncovering useful concepts.
Time is an Investment
The most productive people consider their time as an investment. Like any investment, there is a limited amount to give, so we need to be thoughtful about where and how much to allocate. Also, we expect to have a return on our investment. It could be financial gain, better relationships, improved health, or other results.
Protect Your Time
The most productive people want to safeguard their time. I boiled their thinking down into five steps that help executives protect their time asset.
- Align requests with your roadmap (i.e., your 5-year plan or how the request gets you closer to reaching a goal you’ve set)
- Consider your relationship with the requestor
- Ensure the quality of the request
- Prioritize the request against other competing requests, and reprioritize if necessary
- Delegate when possible
The Most Important Productivity Tool
The most productive people consider their calendar their number one productivity tool. All of their important activities are scheduled there – calls, meetings, appointments, deadlines, and projects. This ensures they don’t miss anything and see deadlines coming from a mile away.
Here’s how you can tap into the mindset of the most productive people during your job search.
Get clear about your roadmap.
It’s difficult to know when to say yes to something when you don’t know exactly where you’re going or how to get there. If you were planning a car trip from New York to San Francisco, you would likely plan the route, places to stop, people to visit, and how to make the most of a long trip. So, following this example, what’s your desired industry, company, and job? What actions will you take to get there? Maybe you will send 3 cover letters and resumes per week, look for common connections on LinkedIn, and attend a networking event to meet potential new colleagues.
Create a hierarchy of potential employers
Or in other words, the top companies or industries that you want to work in. There will be many jobs to apply and interview for, and the positions at companies that are on top of your list are the ones that you should prioritize your time and energy on.
Ensure you are getting a quality request for your time
A quality interview request is respectful of your schedule, e.g. “would Tuesday morning be a good time for you for an interview?” Quality requests are well thought out, clear and concise, and include solutions.
Every request that comes to you is a need to reprioritize in some way
You likely have a full plate, so you may need to decide what can wait so that you can focus on a new, higher priority request. You may see an opening with a company that is on the top of your list, and you would put that one over other job applications. You may see an opportunity that doesn’t quite match your ideal job, so you can make that a lower priority.
See what you can delegate
Delegation is a win for everyone – it will help free up your time while assuming that tasks happen in a timely manner. Perhaps a virtual assistant can scan job boards for you, or draft a cover letter specific to the job, or update your resume to match the job requirements in a more tailored way. There are many ways to find a virtual assistant, including online job boards or a virtual assistant service. The rates will vary based on what you need them to do.
Having a productive mindset means you consider your time an investment and protect it using the steps outlines above. Practicing a productive mindset will increase your job search success. Good luck.