Procrastination. Everybody does it to a certain extent. But procrastination is the worst enemy of a job seeker. And when looking for work, you need to do everything you can to learn how to manage it.
While some people confuse the practice with laziness, that’s not the case at all. Procrastination is simply the act of delaying something that needs to be done.
There are many reasons why people procrastinate. Just pick one. Some people procrastinate because they fear success. Others do it because they fear failure. Still others are perfectionists and don’t want to tackle a project, because they’re afraid they won’t be able to do it well enough. And sometimes procrastinators are just not organized or are people who can’t make decisions.
If procrastination is a problem for you there are a variety techniques to get it under control, so you can conduct your job search in a more effective manner. We’d like to share a few of them.
How to prevent procrastination
- Make a master to-do list of all the tasks you need to perform as part of your job search and include an estimate of when each task will be done. Every evening take a look at your list and make a smaller list, for instance your top three tasks, of what you plan to accomplish the next day. That way you can start the morning prepared.
- Handle the most difficult or unpleasant task first. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and make all the things that come afterwards easier to achieve.
- Break a big project into smaller tasks. If you have a list of 50 hiring managers to call, start with just five or 10. If you have a resume to write, jot down a list of the accomplishments you’d like to highlight.
- If a certain task overwhelms you, try the 10-minute rule. Set your alarm for 10 minutes, and start to work. You might find that it’s not as bad as you thought it would be and can continue on. The Pomodoro Technique can also be quite helpful in finishing assignments and meeting deadlines.
- Reward yourself. After you complete several tasks – or even one if it’s a large one – take a break and do something you enjoy. Take a walk. Call a friend. Have a cup of tea or coffee.
- Limit distractions. Don’t check your social media during your working time. Wait until the end of the day, since it’s so easy to get carried away and spend more time than intended catching up. Be careful with your email, too. Stick to reading job-related email messages, not personal ones.
- Establish an accountability partner. Tell a friend what you’re doing and ask them to check up on you. Don’t want to do that? Then try the app Procraster. (But you need to have an iPhone or iPad to use it.)
- Morning didn’t go too well? Restart your day after lunch. Even if you progressed during the first half of the day, take a few minutes in the early afternoon to reevaluate what you achieved so far and what you still need to get done.
- Do one task at a time, and totally concentrate on what you’re doing. Recent studies have proved that multi-tasking is counterproductive and actually makes you less effective at getting things done.
- Are you really stuck? Take a brief break for a walk and some fresh air. You may feel better and more energetic when you get back.
- Serious procrastination can be a symptom of depression, attention deficit disorder or other psychological problems. If you think that might be the case for you, seek professional help.
- Don’t be distressed by how much you can’t do. Appreciate how much you have already accomplished.
Create a better mindset
And in addition to these techniques, you can change your mindset and make your job search fun. (Don’t groan. It is possible.)
Although there’s no doubt that you can come up with many activities that would be more fun than looking for a job, try to make your job search as enjoyable as possible. Look at it like a game or a shopping trip. You’re shopping for a job. Think of all the people you’ll meet and what you’ll learn in the process. The goal is to find a job that is a good fit. Of course you have to find an employer to hire you, but you also want to be in a place where you will be happy. After all, you’re going to spend between 35 and 40 hours a week there. And that’s a lot of time to be miserable.
Perhaps most important of all, stay focused. Get other things out of your mind. Don’t be distracted. And stay positive. The more you think or talk about negative things, the more real they become. The important thing is to do something, no matter how small. Behavior change usually comes before attitude change, so if you alter what you are doing, the way you think about the situation will be different as a result. And you’ll be in a better frame of mind to handle looking for work.