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The Job Search System That Never Fails

Written by Kevin Donlin contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2"

It's been said that the best new ideas are the best old ideas.

Put another way, there's no need to reinvent the wheel in your job search if others before you have found ways to succeed.

What if I told you there was a success "system," invented by Benjamin Franklin in the 1730s, that helped create millionaires in the 1930s, when unemployment stood at 25%?

Do you think it might help you find a job faster today, with unemployment at less than 9%?

If you're interested, I'll describe this system, which can make sure you stay on track and do more of the right things each day, getting you hired faster for the job you want.

You'll need two items: a small notebook and a pencil. An Excel spreadsheet is a very helpful third component, but don't let the lack of one stop you from getting started.

What are you going to do?

Track, analyze, and improve how you spend your time every working day.

Because your time is your life. Do the right things with your time, and you'll get the right results in your life. In your case, the result you seek is a new job.

Here are the 5 simple steps to this ingenious system ...

  1. Carry a small pocket notebook around from the time you wake up until you stop your job-search efforts in the evening.

  2. Record how you spend your time in increments of 5 minutes. Examples:

    6:00-6:25 Wake, exercise

    6:25-6:45 Breakfast

    6:45-7:00 Shower

    7:00-7:30 Watch TV news

    7:30-8:10 Answer emails

    8:10-9:30 Search online for job listings

  3. Each evening, add up the minutes you spent on each activity and organize them into three categories: Productive, Personal, and Wasted.

    Productive time is anything that produces job leads. Examples: calling friends to network, meeting other job seekers to help each other, interviewing employees of your target employer to learn about the corporate culture, etc.

    Personal time is anything spent on yourself and not your job search. Examples: eating, running errands, exercise breaks, etc.

    Wasted time is anything that served no useful purpose. Examples: checking sports scores, idle chatter, checking email every 15 minutes, etc.

    Add up your time in these three areas on a sheet of paper or use an Excel spreadsheet.

  4. At the end of the week, analyze your efforts. Here's where you'll get insights that can change your life.

    Example: When I first tracked my time, I found I had spent 360 minutes in one week reading and answering email. That works out to 24 hours -- one full day of life -- every month pecking away at email. Unacceptable.

    So I resolved to check email only twice a day. And I easily cut that time down to 240 minutes, saving two hours a week and 8 hours per month. Better.

    But I never would have known where I was wasting time had I not tracked each day in detail.

    Tip: After speaking to thousands of job seekers over the years, here's where you're probably wasting time each day:

    • Checking email several times an hour. Twice a day is enough -- morning and late afternoon. Anyone who really wants to reach you will call.

    • Doing personal errands or chores. Running to the store for milk or mowing the lawn won't get you hired. Only meeting with hiring authorities will get you hired.

    • Failure to network. Networking is like exercise: You have to do it every day to produce results. Block off at least two hours a day for calling people and being useful to them while reminding them of your job search.
  5. Finally, commit to taking more productive actions each day, fewer personal ones, and none at all that are wasteful. Will you succeed perfectly? No. Will you improve simply by observing your efforts? Yes.

    This system has its roots in "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," in which Franklin described tracking his time daily in a notebook, with the goal of adopting 13 virtues as new habits.

    You'll also find a variant of it in chapters 3 and 19 of "The Success System That Never Fails," by W. Clement Stone, who started amassing a fortune selling life insurance during the Great Depression.

Now. If scribbling in a notebook every few minutes and reviewing your day every evening seems onerous, don't worry. It gets easier as you go, thanks to this fact of physics: It takes more energy to overcome inertia and get moving from a standstill (your old habits) than to maintain that movement (your new habit of tracking time).

Try this system for 21 days. You will be pleasantly shocked at how much more efficient you become in all that you do, starting with your job search.

- Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free glimpse, visit Guerrilla Job Search System DVD.