Here’s a sobering fact: Every corporate job opening pulls in 250 applicants. But only four to six of those people will be called for an interview, and one will be offered the job.

That means you’re likely to invest months into your job search, spending your mornings typing out emails, and following up with contacts, and entire afternoons networking at the local Starbucks, sometimes to the detriment of your other responsibilities. That can leave even the most structured among us feeling harried and stressed out.

If you sometimes end the day like this, you’re not alone.

“Job searching belongs to a category of activities that can easily cause existential time angst,” says Laura Vanderkam, Author, “I Know How She Does It,” “168 Hours,” and “What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast.” “It could take any time you give it, you have no idea how long it will take, and it can easily keep you from enjoying the rest of life.”

The solution? Being organized and methodical through every stage of the job search.

Develop A Plan

If you feel tugged between your job search and your personal and family responsibilities, a time-management plan can alleviate feeling pulled in three directions.

My advice for clients is to shift away from the idea of prioritizing one and prioritize all three within reason,” says Deena Goodman, LCSW, CPCC, and a career coach focused on executive presence. “Develop a strategy you can commit to.  Some days will call for more, particularly if you’ve landed the interview and are prepping for a presentation of any kind.”

Each day, “build out a task list and timeline. Perhaps you have four hours of alone time each day. Divide that between job search tasks and ‘me time,’ allowing the remaining hours to be for the kids or family activities. Each day, ask yourself, ‘What is most important to complete today for job search, for kids, for me time?’

Create Mini-Goals

Before hitting the computer the moment your coffee kicks in, take a few minutes to consider what you want to get done. Even a to-do list of three daily assignments can be more productive than an open-ended day with no benchmarks.

“Because a job search can be so unpredictable, daily routine is crucial,” says Goodman. “Designate time for LinkedIn searching, writing a certain amount of e-mails, updating your resume if you need to, and searching job listings online. When your job search has advanced, build out time to connect in person and on the phone with folks you are sourcing for information, and also set a goal to establish a time to connect this way with at least one person in your field of interest per day.”  

Clock In, Clock Out

Ditching the to-do list and working in a window of time works better for some. Vanderkam suggests choosing a specific quantity of time per day to devote to your job search (two or four hours, for example).

“Once you’ve done your allotted time for the day, you can relax and focus on other things,” she says. “You know you’ll be back at it the next day, so you know you’ll make progress. But you won’t constantly be feeling like you should be working on your job search, even when you’re relaxing with friends, out at dinner, or reading a book.” 

Be Realistic

No doubt about it, the job search can be frustrating, especially when you are ticking off the boxes and feeling like your plan is netting results slower than you would like. The key here? “Allow flexibility to determine what works best for you and remember, don’t judge yourself if there are misses,” says Goodman.

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