Put Down the To-Do List: Try Time Blocking to Feel Productive During Employment Transition
Remember when we got the call that we were to start working from home because of Covid-19? The unknown was unnerving but there were some perks to consider as well. Come on, don’t pretend it didn’t cross your mind or perhaps, that you took full advantage of working in your pajamas or baggy sweats with the holes in unmentionable locations. But then reality slowly settled in and the romanticism of not grooming (of course, dependent on scheduled zoom calls), not having to commute to work, and the ability to eat unlimited pantry snacks begins to wear off. We began to realize the importance of splashing water on our faces, getting dressed and creating a sense of consistency while at home. It feels good to manage our time because time has this uncanny ability to morph depending on what holds our attention.
Similarly, as you might have noticed, during the holidays we can experience time slowing down like the drizzle of molasses or it can fly past us at bullet speed. It doesn’t always feel like we get the option of a happy medium. This is also a common feeling when it comes to the daily grind of finding yourself unemployed and on the hunt for a job. A day can feel like minutes or weeks and often with nothing visible to show. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and not surprisingly, take a toll on our mental health. According to a study conducted by Connie Wanberg, Associate Dean at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, job search depression may be caused by loss of control, uncertainty, and rejection. There’s a large body of research that confirms the direct effect that unemployment can have on anxiety, depression, and overall feelings of stress.
Job seekers can find themselves swimming in various tasks such as networking, searching, researching, applications, keeping track of what applications have been sent and with whom, and on top of everything, keeping their spirits up and motivation afloat. That’s where time management steps in and more specifically time-blocking. In another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Frances M. McKee-Ryan from Oregon State University and colleagues, found that specific coping resources play an important role in facilitating well-being during unemployment, one of which included structured use of one’s time.
Time blocking offers a way to feel more efficient, effective, and productive by splitting your daily tasks and leisure activities into “blocks” of dedicated time. Elon Musk and Bill Gates do it…enough said? If you’re asking yourself, “Aren’t my to-do lists the same idea?” Simply put, no, they aren’t. To-do lists are great until you don’t get them done and then it feels, well, not so great. Am I right? The intention behind time blocking is that it allows you to focus on tasks, regardless of if you finish them or not, which can give a sense of accomplishment and boost of confidence at a time where you might need the encouragement to continue moving on through your job seeking day. You’re reserving energy for varying tasks. Professor and Author, Cal Newport, of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” explains that uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration creates valuable input. Essentially, focusing deeply and specifically on something cultivates good things such as increased productivity and a sense of true fulfillment.
With time blocking each task is allotted a block of time in the day where an individual can apply deep, dedicated focus on an identified task. This can be work, leisure activities, and even your rest periods. Once the time slot is up whether finished or not, it’s on to the next task. Often, we under or overestimate the time it takes for a task which leaves room for unintentional pause or busy distraction. Time blocking helps eliminate the pressures of choice and allows you to focus on the task at hand and move to the next task guilt free. To successfully time block it takes a bit of planning which involves:
Identifying what needs to get accomplished in a day. When job seeking, breaking up “job searching” into specific tasks such as networking, cold calls, informational interviews, applications, and other such tasks, can help you from feeling overwhelmed and directionless.
Knowing when you are most productive. What time of day do you enjoy doing specific things? Do you like a slow start or do you like to start the day moving your body to energize yourself?
Giving yourself rest and tasks to look forward to, and actually scheduling in your breaks. This is especially important to beat the blues that can creep up when unemployed.
Allowing for flexibility. The whole idea is for you to feel encouraged and accomplished at the end of the day, so place buffers in-between tasks.
Once you’ve completed this bit of initial planning, your workday simplifies. Days spent job searching can be relentless, limitless, and exhausting. At the end the day you can be left feeling like you are wandering in a lost universe. With time blocking you can look back and visibly see what you’ve focused on, accomplished and you’ll notice your increase in productivity. It follows the idea of Parkinson’s Law, “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
All this being said, everything may not go EXACTLY as planned but ultimately, you’re a lot less likely to need help extricating yourself from Instagram when you have a schedule to stick to…no matter what’s in that schedule. There are no rules against scheduling a hot bubble bath in the middle of a workday. Wink.
Give it a try and see if it works for you!
Written by Jessie Ayriss