It’s probably one of the best tools a job seeker like me could have….but also one that is more than likely not used as frequently. It’s also a shame, because it’s helped me stay organized, on track, and quite honestly, helped me accomplish more.
I’m talking, of course, about the plucky to-do list.
Right now, several of you may be thinking, “What? I have too many items on my to-do list to actually create a list! Besides, how does a to-do list help my job search, other than allow me to check out Lifehacker for its recommendations on to-do lists?”
Granted, the holidays make tracking tasks somewhat more difficult (with many more tasks being added on), but with more people thinking about New Year’s Resolutions, having a way to track one’s activity can be paramount. In addition, I’m not here to propose any system (although I will talk about what works best for me – your mileage may vary), but to-do lists help in several ways:
- Keeping track of what I can accomplish during a day
- Outlining a basic series of goals and tasks that need to be done
- By integrating appointments and meetings, I can best schedule my time to maximize my ability to meet job search needs and accomplish daily tasks
In making a to-do list, I take an approach that is similar to David Allen’s Getting Things Done– in short, my to-do list breaks things down into smaller tasks, and making sure that my tasks are actions rather than global projects. (For example, rather than “Resume work”, I might break that down into “Revise resume”, “E-Mail Revision to Recruiter A” and “E-mail Revision to Recruiter B”). By putting my tasks down on paper, it clears my head, giving me a little bit of “mind space” to begin tackling some of the less challenging tasks. (I also make sure to put tasks with definite deadlines on my list, and include any appointments/meetings as well). Through this, I can create a schedule that provides some structure for my day. (So if I have a networking appointment at, say, 11:00 am on Tuesday, and I need to get some consulting work done, I would see if there is a facility nearby with wi-fi so that I can work immediately before or after the appointment.
My response – whatever works best for you. In looking for a job, being able to have something which is easy to use – and track – helps in maintaining the habit of tracking my accomplishments. My personal preference is for good, old-fashioned paper to-do lists; initially, I started using some leftover to-do pads from my work in tobacco control in Missouri. (They were giveaways, but when I arrived, were woefully out-of-date). However, once those ran out, I began using my computer, typing out a plain ASCII file using a great open-source writer called AT Pad, and then crossing off completed items with a dark-colored highlighter (to make uncompleted items stand-out). Once I have quite a bit accomplished, it’s easy to take my uncompleted items and move them (AT Pad is tabbed) into a new to-do list).
Finally, a note about completion of tasks – the goal isn’t to make my self-worth dependent on the number of tasks completed: things happen that throw off our day. But for me, knowing that I can track what I accomplish during the day gives me a slight feeling of confidence. It’s that feeling of confidence that leads me to feeling better able to inform my job search.
Have any great to-do tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments.