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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

3 Ways to Bounce Back After an Unproductive Day of Job Searching

We’ve all been there during a job search—that moment at the end of a day when you realize you didn’t get nearly enough done. That can be tough to rebound from, and I’ve been there enough to know that this negative momentum can quickly snowball to the point where all you want to do is curl up on your couch and keep watching terrible reality TV shows.

However, before you get to that point, there are a few things you can do at the end of a really unproductive day to turn things around for the better. So even if today’s somewhat of a bust—tomorrow’s going to be better.

1. Make a Quick List of What You Didn’t Get Done

If you’re like me, seeing a physical list of the things you didn’t do makes you feel like you’ve never done anything productive. But here’s the thing: Unless you actually force yourself to look at that list, you’ll just assume that it’s really long. And when you automatically assume that, you’ll focus on the stress and the impossibility of it all—rather than getting results.

So how do you avoid this defeatist despair? Simple. Write down a quick list of the things you still need to do. You probably don’t want to do this. I know I didn’t during my last job search. But seeing what hadn’t gotten done is really the best motivator to making sure you don’t slack off the next day. But more importantly, when it’s right in front of you, odds are you’ll realize that it’s not completely impossible. In fact, if you wake up in the right mindset, it’s all very do-able.

2. Put Items on Your Calendar for Tomorrow

OK, so you have your list of things you need to get done tomorrow. Awesome. However, having that won’t always keep you accountable. What I discovered during my last job search was that creating specific calendar events was just the right combination of helpful and annoying when I really needed to get my act together and apply for open positions. That doesn’t mean writing “job stuff” from 9 to 6, but rather “Write cover letter” from 10 to 11, and then “Reach out to Lisa for coffee meeting” from 11 to 11:15.

The additional benefit of creating calendar events for yourself is that your deadlines are artificial. Which means that if you have something seriously urgent that comes up suddenly, you have a block of time on your calendar that you can move to another slot. Of course, it’s all for naught if you don’t hold yourself accountable when you move those deadlines. But if you’re at least willing to keep those annoying notifications enabled on your phone, don’t worry—you’ll get a lot of those things on your list done really, really quickly.

3. Relax, Relax, Relax

Alright, so here’s the thing—when the day is over, let it be over. And if the first two tips are new to you, they’ll take some time to get used to. Which means that you’ll probably spend too much time doing those things, too. So, once those tasks are taken care of at the end of a day, take some time to do something fun. Even though you might not have done as many things to advance your job search as you might have hoped, the truth is that you still did a lot of thinking about your next career move.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Of course I can relax. I am a master at lounging.” I thought so too, until I realized that I was regularly staring at my laptop late into the night, sending out resumes and cover letters to people who definitely weren’t going to read them until the next day anyway (unless they were crazy people who never slept). And that’s the key—even if you’re convinced things need to get done before you call it quits for the day, hiring managers have lives outside of work, too. So if you didn’t get something done during work hours, don’t worry—it can seriously wait until tomorrow.

I know you’re probably having a hard time with being unproductive, especially when you need to find your next job ASAP. However, it’s really not the end of the world. Take some measures to ensure that you’re keeping tabs on yourself and making sure things get done, but if you have an afternoon in which you just can’t find the motivation you need to send off brilliant applications for your dream career, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you will get the things on your to-do list done.

Photo of man working on his laptop courtesy of Shutterstock.