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Five Tips to Stay Focused on Your Job Search

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Monster's Six Fundamentals to Building a Lifelong Career ebook teaches the daily habits that all workers need to take command of their careers. In this excerpt, author Doug Hardy discusses one of those habits -- staying productive when you're looking for a job.

Each time you interrupt a focused work task, it takes many minutes to get back to the level of concentration and effectiveness you had before the interruption. You might consider yourself an excellent multitasker, but recent studies show that people misjudge how well they perform when dividing their attention among many tasks (and the people who believe they are most effective at multitasking are least productive, when tasks are measured impartially).

A job search demands a lot of different tasks, so how in the hyperlinked world are you going to keep focused? Again, the answer is good time management. For most of us, that means blocking out a space and time when you won't be interrupted. It also helps to follow some basic habits that keep you from distracting yourself. Here are five:

1. Get Off the Grid for at Least an Hour a Day

That means closing your Web browser (or temporarily disabling it on the computer), not answering the phone (again, unplug it or power down your cell), and turn off distractions like TV or radio. While all the instant communication tools today are incredibly helpful in a job search, they can interrupt the thoughtful work you need to do. Give yourself some time to focus.

2. Check Email No More Than Three Times a Day

While all the instant communication tools today are incredibly helpful in a job search, they can interrupt the thoughtful work you need to do. Give yourself some time to focus. Email has a subtle built-in urgency because it arrives minute by minute. Most job and career emails require thoughtful consideration, and I have never known an employer who said, "I'll only look at replies that arrive in the next three hours."

3. Start a Small Activity-Switching Ritual

Stretch, take five slow breaths, snap a rubber band on your wrist, say aloud what activity you are finishing and what activity you are starting. This is purely an awareness-raising exercise, and it makes switching a conscious choice, not an unconscious reaction.

4. Track Your Activities

Keep a notepad handy and note the time and activity every time you switch. Share the list with your partner -- another consciousness-raising exercise.

5. Divide the Day into Uninterrupted Time and Free-for-All Time

If you think of a must-do activity during uninterrupted time, write it down and return to the note during free-for-all time.

These disciplines take effort but the result is gaining those hours of focused time. As with many jobs, the few hours of truly focused effort is where most of the work gets done.

[Doug Hardy was editor-in-chief of An expert on human capital topics and author of eight books, he was recently named No. 10 on HR Examiner's Top 25 Online Influencers in Talent Management.]

Buy the Six Fundamentals to Building a Lifelong Career ebook now! It is available exclusively in the Kindle Store and can be read on Kindle and Kindle DX, as well as through the Kindle apps for iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry and Android-based devices.

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