Unschedule Your Job Search

If you haven’t already heard of Neil Fiore’s “Unschedule”, perhaps it’s time you took a look at it – your job search and your life balance (not to mention your family) will thank you.

Fiore is the author of The Now Habit in which he counters traditional thinking on procrastination. Fiore recommends a radical new approach to scheduling work activities which I strongly recommend to current or prospective job seekers. Although Fiore’s system is designed for general work scheduling, I believe it’s perfect for job seekers who want to live their lives fully in the midst of a too often time consuming career transition.

What is an “unschedule”? Essentially it’s a way to schedule everyday priorities and fun before you schedule work to do’s or complex tasks like job searching. The idea is that you record work and project tasks after you’ve completed at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted work, thus allowing you to put your life first and thereby maintain a healthier life balance.

Visit Dr. Fiore’s website to see a sample Unschedule filled out and to download a blank schedule for your use. Then follow these instructions to design your customized Unschedule:

  • Record your non-work activities on your Unschedule first. These include routine activities like meetings, sleep, meals, classes, and commute time as well as your r&r time, leisure time, reading, meals out with friends, and healthy habits such as exercise. Also list your pre-scheduled work and non-work appointments.
  • Do not record work on projects unless and until you complete a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted work. Look at your unschedule, see where you have a non-scheduled slice of time, then work a minimum of 30 minutes on your job search. After doing so, record that time on your Unschedule, much as you would a timesheet. Make sure you only record truly productive time of at least 30 minutes in duration.
  • Reward yourself after you complete a period of work. This is absolutely critical to Fiore’s Unschedule system. If you do not take time out to do non-job search activities, you are guaranteeing yourself job search burnout. So, treat yourself to a movie, to a fun outing, to some form of creative expression, and return to your job search afterward.
  • Track the number of quality hours you job search weekly. This will help you focus on what you are accomplishing rather than on what remains to be done.
  • Set aside one full day weekly for small chores and recreation. Allow yourself to play with as much dedication as you work.
  • Before you do something fun or recreational, challenge yourself to complete 30 minutes of job search first. In this way your creative pursuits will inspire you to job search and reward you after you complete job search tasks – the ultimate win-win.

The simple genius of Fiore’s Unschedule is that it helps you to focus on getting started rather than finishing tasks – a radical shift in perspective, thinking, and action. So rather than feel stressed about getting things done in your job search, you can get excited about getting things started.

Fiore suggests that thinking small helps you to focus on getting started with the task at hand. He recommends breaking large, complex tasks into small chunks that can be initiated within a 30 minute period (notice I did not say “that can be finished within a 30 minute period”).

Fiore also notes that you may be tempted to give up on a project when you feel stuck or reach an impasse of some kind and that ending your work time during such a period of discouragement is unwise. Rather, Fiore urges you to stick with the task at hand just long enough to come to a partial solution or begin to wear a few cracks in that impasse. When you return to the task later you’ll know right where you left off and can get started again immediately.

The Unschedule is brilliant idea and one that can make a positive impact on your life balance if you’re willing to, well, unschedule it.