Don’t Let Your Job Search Consume Your Days

If your 2013 goals are ambitious or numerous, your time management and ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously must be well muscled. And if you’re squeezing in a job hunt between a full-time job, volunteer work and family or friends, you may need help.

If you need a time management trainer, you could take lessons from Melinda Emerson, an author, writer and social media whiz who hosts the weekly #smallbizchat on Twitter. She writes about social media and small business for the New York Times and with her team creates corporate content to engage small business. She’s also a single mother who expects to start a regular television gig this year and is finishing her second book. Her focus is small business success, and she easily works 55 hours a week on all of this, including her social media updates to 195,000 Twitter followers.

So, she knows something about making multiple projects fly.

“It’s a moving target every week,” said Emerson, whose work day stretches from 6:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., with a break for time with her son, JoJo, and some days, a workout. Here are her top five strategies to juggle it all, while actively searching for a job:

1. Make the Morning Productive. If it works for you, get up early and get started. Spend the hour before you need to get ready for work on important priorities and follow-up. “I try to get five things done before 11:00 a.m.,” says Emerson, usually a mix of personal priorities and professional advancement and needs. To see that she hits the right five, she makes a list the day before that might include time with a personal trainer, key emails sent, or a conference call.

2. Find Great People to Help. You may need a professional resume writer or a career coach – or a cleaning lady. Or, as Emerson does, you may need a personal assistant/nanny and a researcher/writer, webmaster, blog manager and stylist. Most of them are on monthly retainer after finding her via Twitter or a Twitter referral. The busiest people get help with their life and work and find great people who can take over some tasks.

3. Segment Your Days. Decide the rhythm and purpose of your days. Make the priority for one day all of your planning and preparation, research and such, then another day may focus on meeting with clients and potential clients. Emerson spends all day Monday writing; she skips meetings and calls that day. And Fridays she reserves for in-person meetings in Philadelphia or nearby. If you’re job hunting, choose a day, a month or every other week. Then batch your meetings, connections and outreach, to conserve the amount of personal and vacation days you consume.

4. Get Ahead. Don’t do everything right on deadline. See which parts of your work can be done in advance – and then do that. Emerson has blog posts written a month ahead. She does the same for other writing projects. “A good idea is still a good idea, three weeks from now,” she says. Plus when you don’t have crazy deadlines always looming, many people will be happier, more creative – and more productive.

5. Track All Your Projects. Use a white board, as Emerson does, or a Google doc or some project management program. But keep everything in one place so you can see at a glance what projects you want to complete that month – and which ones you must move forward if they are to be finished by deadline.

Emerson believes it’s important for those who want to be entrepreneurs to start their business while they’re still working full-time. Her first book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, spells out how to do that. Yet she learned a lot on time management from another book: The 7 Minute Difference by Allyson Lewis. And if you’re focused and clear about your direction, you’ll have time to read it and other improvement books, too.