I’m unemployed; how do I make the best use of the 24 hours in the day?

Treat every day of being unemployed as a full-time job and an opportunity to create more structure to your day, hone your skills, achieve greater focus, and become a better version of yourself.

Here are a few habits that can help you maximize each day:

Jumpstart your morning.

To start each day feeling more positive, consider creating a morning routine that is customized to your personal needs as well as your job search schedule. I recommend listening to a podcast called Achieve Your Goals which is hosted by Hal Elrod, the author of a book called The Miracle Morning. It is a useful guide to structuring your mornings so that you can accomplish things early, feel happier and more productive, and work consistently towards your personal goals.

Start each morning with this question: What is the one thing I am committed to completing today?

This question sets the tone to your day. It encourages you to think strategically about your life, it keeps you focused on your job search, it forces you to prioritize, and it serves as a personal promise to yourself. Here’s what you can do:

  • Put it in writing. Write it in big bold letters on a sheet of paper and hang it on your bedroom or bathroom wall.
  • Read it out loud as you start your day, and come up with an answer on the spot.
  • As you follow your daily schedule, make sure that you devote time to work on the one thing you’ve identified as important to you for that day.

Do your hard work FIRST.

According to scientific research, the brain’s peak performance happens 2-4 hours after we wake up. Early work allows the brain to focus fully on the problem at hand, with fewer distractions, less inputs from our environment, and with fresh energy that we’ve gained from a restful night. Adjust your morning schedule so that you do your most detailed job search work (f.ex., customizing your resume to a specific role you’re applying for). Don’t waste your peak hours doing things that are irrelevant to your job search, such as checking your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feed, watching the news, or making phone calls to friends.

Get moving.

Depending on your personal preferences and your fitness level, dedicate some time to move your body and get an energy boost. It doesn’t have to mean going to the gym at 5 a.m. Pick any activity you enjoy doing, or choose something entirely new to give yourself an additional challenge early in the day. Your workout can be as short as 10 minutes (a morning yoga routine or a set of hindu pushups or sun salutation poses) or a bit longer session of 20-30 minutes (a quick power walk, a run, a pilates session or a session of squats, lunges, pushups, etc.).

Become a job search pro.

Dedicate an hour or two this week to strategizing what you’d like to do next regarding your career.

  • Write down a few ideas on the kind of job you’d like to have: is it having the same role you’ve had before? Is it a different role where you could also use your skills? Would you like to work in a smaller company or a bigger one? What would be a description of the role you’d like (responsibilities, skill set, goals, deliverables)? Put everything down on paper.
  • Work on revamping your resume. Highlight the skills you’ve developed in your previous roles, create a concise summary at the top of the first page, and use keywords throughout your resume that will get recruiters’ attention. Save your resume in an MS Word or Google doc format (so you can edit it as needed) as well as a pdf (the most polished format to submit).
  • Use 1–2 websites as your main job search platforms. LinkedIn and Indeed are excellent sites to get started. If you haven’t already, create a profile on each site and upload your resume so that it is ready when you apply for jobs.
  • Narrow your search by focusing on companies that are interesting to you.Instead of applying for dozens of jobs that only match the title you want to have, look up companies that promote the work ethic you admire, that are doing well financially, and that foster a corporate culture you’d feel comfortable in. Try to find out if there is anyone in your network who already works there, and ask them for an insider’s point of view. Look up what other employees are saying about the company on Glassdoor.
  • Measure your progress. Keep a spreadsheet of all the roles you’ve applied for, the dates when you applied for them, and any follow up information (phone interviews, next steps, outstanding items you need to send to the recruiter, etc.). That way, it’s much easier to find information you may need later and to check if you’ve already applied for a role that sounds familiar.

Do something every day that makes you feel good.

Just because you’re looking for work does not mean you should forget to be good to yourself. The benefits? A pleasurable activity boosts your endorphin levels and helps you to stay positive. Here are a few examples of what you can do:

  • If you’re an avid reader, make the time to read a novel for 30 minutes before going to sleep.
  • If you like to be physically active, schedule in a bike ride, a run, or a session at the gym when you’re done with your job search.
  • If you love music, learn how to play guitar or drums or the harmonica.
  • If you love to write, make it a priority to write one page every single day, either early in the morning or later at night when it’s quiet and you have the time to organize your thoughts while enjoying a cup of tea and listening to some relaxing music.

Flex your happiness muscle.

To make the most of this extra time you have for yourself, treat happiness like a habit and actively look for what you can do to become happier every day. Tal Ben-Shahar, a lecturer at Harvard University, wrote a book called Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Happiness. He focuses on positive psychology and how to apply the concept of happiness to daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in our personal relationships.

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