At some point in our lives, we’ve all been unemployed.
The days can be very stressful as you worry about paying rent and bills, but when you’re unemployed in your 20s, life is often as boring as it is anxiety-inducing.
That boredom can make it difficult to do that one thing you have to do that day — apply for jobs.
While pressure is a great motivator, anyone who has been unemployed long-term understands how difficult it can be to stay focused on the job hunt. There’s usually only a few hours of work to do a day, but all the ads can blend into one, and before you know it you’re scrolling through your phone or playing video games first thing in the morning.
To help you avoid getting sucked into this black hole of productivity, we’ve put together a list of ways you can stay focused on the job hunt and make the most of your time between employment.
Start the day early
Step 1: Don’t stay in bed!
The first lesson in improving your productivity is always the same — establish a routine.
As redundant as it might seem now, it really is essential for you to find a routine that works for you and gets you into the basic groove of a working day (even if you’re not technically doing one). What this schedule looks like will always depend on the person, but we can’t recommend starting the day bright and early enough.
Sleeping in when you’re unemployed breeds a lazy mindset that not only puts you to the back of the line of all applications, but also makes it difficult to get back into the habit of waking up early when you do land a job.
Set that alarm for a normal time, have a shower, eat some breakfast, do a little workout and make sure you’re at your bedroom desk or kitchen table at a reasonable time. You don’t want to be settling in to apply for jobs when your housemates or partner get home from work.
Create a to-do list
A to-do list is so often the difference between a routine that succeeds and a routine that fails.
It’s not enough to think about re-writing your CV, checking out that new job site a friend recommended or applying to at least three jobs that morning. You need to have that actionable list of tasks in front of you to work through.
Not everyone is a list person, but for many, a to-do list is almost therapeutic, as well as being an effective productivity tool — in fact, our brains love to-do lists. It gives you a guide to follow through your day as well as a positivity boost when tasks get ticked off, so that even minor jobs feel like huge successes.
Ensure your list isn’t complicated and make sure you actually follow it. Just ticking off the easy and appealing tasks won’t do you any good. The goal is to ensure you’re not pushing things back.
Check your email twice a day
But they might have replied…
It’s been an hour, I better check…
STOP! This kind of thinking will only lead to you feeling burned out. There is no joy to be found in constantly refreshing an empty inbox.
Rather than partaking in such demoralising activities, spend as much time as you can away from your email inbox. Ensure the job searching portion of your day is all done before lunch time: all your applications, CV edits and sent emails. Once you’ve had your lunch, they should all be in the distant past.
This is all part of creating a clear divide between job hunting, relaxing and practicing new skills. Mangling them all together will not only have a negative impact on your own perception of your search, but drag your attention away from positive distractions.
The offer will come, but checking your inbox won’t make it happen any faster.
Learn new skills
The problem with job searching is doing absolutely anything else feels unproductive.
There is, however, a difference between losing focus to scroll Instagram and losing focus to learn a new skill. Improving yourself and indulging in productive hobbies can help train your mind and make your CV look more impressive at the same time.
Thanks to the internet, employable and enjoyable new skills are more accessible than ever. Low-cost courses mean you can learn from professionals easily, while more intrepid students can become self-taught with a couple of YouTube guides and intuition.
Dedicating a portion of your day to learning new skills makes sure you’re not wasting away the day and improves your attention span — essential when you’re applying for your fourth job of the day.
Give yourself time to relax
How are you supposed to stay focused when your mind doesn’t have time to reset?
Part of staying focused is knowing when it’s time to switch off. If your body is telling you it’s time for a break (sleepy eyelids, sore limbs, all the words blending into one), then maybe it’s time for a break!
There’s no shame in relaxing when you’re unemployed. You can only push yourself so far and there’s only so much you can do.
A job application should always be your best foot forward, so letting yourself recharge and become that person is important.
Because we know job hunting gets harder every day, here are some key points to remember:
- Stay positive: Easier said than done, but ensuring you retain a positive mindset will not only help you stay focused but avoid more serious mental health concerns.
- Talk to loved ones: Job searching is lonely and frustrating. Take the time to talk to family members and socialise with friends.
- Be honest with yourself: Applying to jobs way out of your remit will only lead to more frustration. Be smart with your search and adventurous in the right way.
We live in a distracting world, where a screen full of serotonin is never too far away.
Trying to stay focused is harder than it looks, even if your employment status depends on it. Follow these tips, take regular breaks and don’t be too hard on yourself. This process requires one slow step at a time.