4 Ways to Optimize Life/Work Balance in the Midst of an Executive Job Search

Work Life Balance

With executive job search lengths trending at 18-24 months, how do you manage to have a life while you navigate a long-term transition? Here are 4 ways to maximize your life/work balance in the midst of your executive search.

[1] Align your search time and your expectations with your schedule. Aim for 2-4+ hours of search time weekly if you’re working full-time and 32 hours maximum if you’re between jobs.

  • Make your goals realistic. Is it possible for you to consistently search this same amount of time or more week after week for months at a time.
  • Make your goals achievable. Can they really be accomplished week after week if your search extends 6 months or more?
  • Schedule your search activities in whatever planner system you use.
  • Try to find pockets of free time you can leverage without abandoning other responsibilities.
  • There may be activities you can temporarily suspend for months without significant loss. Compare the value these activities have for you versus your job search.

[2] Put boundaries around your search time. Life is what happens when we make plans, so you can expect competing priorities to arise. Be prepared for them.

  • Carve out specific, scheduled periods in which you plan to search and maintain these as much as possible.
  • Communicate these scheduled periods to your family and friends. Resist rescheduling unless absolutely necessary. If you don’t make your search a priority it won’t happen.
  • Preserve and protect time for your family, friends, errands, chores, and select activities. While you probably will have to make some sacrifices during your search, try to avoid relinquishing those people and activities that are most important. This may require week-to-week negotiations and prioritization on your part.
  • Limit your search to a maximum number of hours if you are in a full-time job search (I suggest 8-9).
  • In a full-time search dedicate evenings and weekends for family, friends, errands, chores, and select activities such as professional development.

[3] Invest in yourself. A job search takes time, focus, energy, and money – to conduct one effectively means you have to invest in yourself to achieve the success you want and deserve.

  • Schedule “me” time weekly. In you’re in a full-time job search Fridays make a great time to participate in professional development, catch up on reading, or engage in hobbies and activities that energize and revitalize you.
  • Keep the big picture in mind. Remind yourself why you’re doing this via an inspiration or goal board. Stay connected to your values, sense of purpose, and long-term vision in whatever way works for you.
  • Reward yourself for your job search efforts. Create and take advantage of rewards when you achieve your weekly goals, complete a critical task, or receive bad news in your search.
  • Negotiate a big reward with yourself or your family when you land your next great job – perhaps a family vacation or other personal or familial celebration to mark your success.
  • Set aside a budget for your search. You may need to purchase coaching, resume or LinkedIn profile writing services, job board fees, resume paper, or mailing supplies/postage or you may need to travel as part of your search. If your finances allow, I suggest investing 1% to 3% of your gross income annually every year to enhance your skills, professional development, and career management. In a year with a job search on the table, it’s fair to dedicate this annual allotment for the support and materials you’ll need to access.

[4] Maximize your energy. If you’re searching part-time, sustain energy throughout your day to ensure you have enough “leftover” during your evening and weekend search times. If you’re searching full-time, sustain energy throughout your day to ensure you can continue doing so week over week.

  • Take breaks every 2-3 hours when working on your search. Alternate short 10- to 15-minute breaks with longer 20-, 30-, or 60-minute breaks.
  • Alternate work with right-brain activities. Your breaks are the perfect time for you to switch mental gears. Get off your computer and do something that activates your right brain such as music, movement, exercise, meditation, or hobbies.
  • Manage your emotions. Feed yourself inspiration via quotes, daily emails, and readings that uplift you. Notice any negative feelings such as discouragement, fear, despair, or anger and address, express, and respond to them directly.
  • Feed your creativity. Nothing inspires or imparts energy quite like creativity. If you have a creative hobby or outlet, by all means engage in it at least weekly. If you don’t, look for simple ways to connect with your creativity weekly, perhaps via lateral thinking exercises, mindmaps, journaling, art, or Artist Dates. Julia Cameron suggests these weekly dates with your inner artist to cultivate your creativity. Although she recommends 2 hours weekly, if that’s not tenable for you, try 30 minutes weekly.
  • Practice a deep breathing exercise periodically throughout your day. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests this quick exercise 3 times daily for stress management: breathe in for a count of 4; hold your breath for a count of 7; and exhale slowly for a count of 8. Repeat this process 9 times in one sitting.

As I hope is clear, a few simple strategies will help you to sustain your energy and focus throughout months of job search activity. Choose 3 or more of these that suit your personality and situation and implement them consistently. The last thing you want is to run out of energy or focus right before a critical interview for the job you really want!