6 Productivity Tips for Veteran Job Hunting Success

(U.S. Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

Finding the self-motivation military life once instilled can be pretty tough after leaving the service, especially if you finished your time without first landing your next gig.

But let’s be real: the repetitive stress of looking at job listings, tailoring your resume and then writing a new cover letter for each possible position can get to you after a while. And while the hard work will eventually pay off, it can feel downright burdensome in the moment.

So how do you keep yourself motivated and productive for the job hunt? Try these job hunting productivity tips to keep you on task.

1. Tackle the Most Difficult or Stressful Tasks Early in the Day

Studies show that your highest level of mental acuity likely comes two to three hours after waking. And while your productivity and focus will center around how much sleep you get at night (seven hours is best) getting the tough tasks over with before anything else will help you knock them out instead of avoiding them completely.

Having trouble getting started when you pop out of bed in the morning? That feeling is called “sleep inertia” and it means your body doesn’t just switch gears. So have that cuppa coffee, stretch or do whatever gets the cobwebs clear in the morning. But between two to ten hours after waking, studies find your body is better able to recover from stress in that window and your brain is at its sharpest.

2. Switch Venues for Specific Tasks

Plan your day around changing locations to perform certain tasks. Your body will then program itself to function at its peak in those locations. Changing locales just to perform specific activities also changes your brain’s association with that area and activity.

For example, if you only write cover letters at Burger King, your brain will prepare itself for writing cover letters when it realizes it’s at Burger King or on its way. Then, you will suddenly find yourself thinking only about cover letters while there.

3. Meditate or Nap

I realize the world is full of people who can’t sleep during the day and those who think meditation is worthless. But it’s not those activities that are important so much as what is happening during them. Napping and meditation both work to recharge your mental batteries.

For those willing to give meditation a chance, try a guided meditation that is designed to restore your focus and creativity. There are many of these kinds of guided meditations available on YouTube. For those who like naps, try a 26-minute version. Even NASA says doing so improves focus and concentration. The 26-minute nap is proven to be the perfect length to restore brain function from daily tasks.

4. Follow and Know That Calendar

There’s no point in keeping a calendar if you're going to ignore it. And using one might even help block out the time to break down individual tasks for individual job applications. You can use it to allot yourself a fixed amount of time to do work each day, and that adds up to a very productive week.

Those who don’t follow calendars very well might still find use for generally blocking out specific times of the day to handle certain tasks. If your goal is to submit for two positions every day, for example, try just generally adding doing so to your daily routine, complete with meals, meditation and anything else you want to accomplish. That also has the added benefit of making you consider which activities will be most important that day and preparing for them accordingly.

5. Keep Your Body Fit

An important part of success in your job hunt is feeling good about yourself. Think about it: you’re going to spend day after day applying for job after job and, if you’re lucky, job managers will even respond with a “no.” Most of the time, you will not warrant a reply at all.

That can get to you after a while for obvious reasons. But nothing will keep you from getting down in the dumps like your daily dose of fitness. On top of giving you the much-needed workout, you’ll just feel generally better about yourself. That good feeling will reflect in the way you talk about yourself on resumes, in cover letters and during job interviews.

6. Reward Yourself

No one should be living just to work or get more work done, even when your work is looking for a permanent job. If your goal is to submit two excellent applications to job listings each day, reward yourself when you hit your goal.

There’s no reason to feel guilty for watching some TV or playing games if you’re taking the appropriate steps toward getting that first job after leaving military service. Your brain needs its fun too. Creating that reward will let you return to your tasks with a new mind and fresh spirit.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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