Here are some things that you can do to gain control of your job hunt, save time, and allow you to appropriately balance it with the other parts of your life:
1. Treat your job hunt as a job. Define and schedule your "on" and "off" hours. Work hard and be productive while you are "on," but also carve out guilt-free "off" time for proper work-life balance. As you gain that balance, you're likely to find that you're working more efficiently and productively.
2. Organize your time. Determine in advance how much time to allocate to each task, and focus exclusively on one thing at a time according to the schedule you lay out for yourself. If necessary, set a timer on your computer or phone to prompt you to go on to the next thing. While many people feel that they thrive on multitasking, studies have repeatedly shown that this doesn't work as well as we tend to believe that is does.
Whatever puts you closest to nailing down a job offer should get top priority, and dealing with people always trumps impersonal online activities. Top priority goes to preparing for and following up actual interviews. Next is following up with networking opportunities, then comes creating new networking opportunities, etc.
Make time in your schedule for in-person business networking, researching new companies and their openings, participating in job hunter networking groups in person and online, and expanding your personal brand on LinkedIn.
3. Organize your desk. It can be altogether overwhelming to come into your home-office and see piles and piles of disorganized papers. Allocate some time each day to throwing out or shredding whatever you can part with, and putting everything else into a file or folder.
Rule of thumb: Only touch each piece of paper once. Deal with it, and don't just keep shuffling paper or creating piles that you plan to deal with later.
At the end of your job-hunting business day, clear everything off your desk so that you can start fresh the next day.
4. Organize your computer. Create a filing system that works for you. You will benefit by having a folders for research, applications sent, each company with which you're actively speaking, each recruiter you're actively working with, networking groups, etc.
5. Don't bother reinventing the wheel. There are many repetitive tasks that you can automate so you don't have to "rethink" them time after time.
a. You can save the URL of search results on Google, Yahoo, and Bing as a hyperlinked cell in your spreadsheet. Make each one a separate line, and in the next column remind yourself of what the search was for. On a regular basis, repeat the search by clicking the link and your results will be updated. In a similar way you can track company websites, specific job postings, etc.
b. Use Google Alerts to follow people, companies, or topics of interest and get a note in your inbox automatically. For example, if you follow a person, every time his/her name comes up in the news or a web posting, you'll immediately receive word.
c. Within LinkedIn you can also follow people or companies of interest. When you do, you will get ongoing updates whenever their status or something else about them changes.
Central to the effectiveness of any time management strategy must be your desire and commitment to manage your time. When you begin the process, you may be amazed to see how much more productive your time can be, how your job search process can be enhanced, and how you will enable yourself to engage in a healthy work-life balance.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.