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For the first in a six-part series about stepping up your job-search or job-upgrade process, business coach Kate Hanley explains the importance of keeping a calendar.

First, please tell me what you do.

I help people achieve their business or career goals.

Please explain how you think a calendar can help in the job search process.

Most people will have a plan or general idea about how their day should flow, but they don’t schedule and input important tasks in their calendars. I work with my clients to teach them that their calendar manages their time – not the other way around. Every hour of your workday needs to be designated to tasks that further your career or business and which are performed within a certain time period. If you schedule a set time for a certain task in your calendar, you are more likely to perform that task and not stray from what you need to do, which leads to tasks getting done.

What would be the first step in creating this calendar?

Take a look at a typical week and start to fill in what you believe you need to do to be successful in your career. For instance, if you’re looking for a job, schedule at least two to three evenings or lunch events per week to network. If you are trying to increase your sales, spend at least one hour per day working on sales.

And what’s next?

You’ll find that until you get the hang of your calendar managing you and adhering to a set schedule, you’ll need to modify your weekly calendar several times before you get into a good work flow. Once you set your calendar and try it out for a few weeks you will get used to your calendar managing you and see results from your actions.

Why is this so important?

If you have an open calendar (in which you have not set distinct times for certain tasks), you’ll find yourself on YouTube or Facebook instead of networking, making sales calls, etc. A calendar with set tasks acts as a guardrail to keep you on the success track.

What are some of the pitfalls/challenges you’ve seen your clients face in the implementation of this procedure?

Many of my clients will try to stray back to old habits and not follow the tasks they have put in their calendars (e.g., some decide to check emails when it’s a time blocked for sales calls). Once you have set your calendar for your tasks and blocked times for key activities that reflect your goals, your actions will lead to success. It is important to remember that you must stick to the master calendar – it now manages you.

How about their successes?

I had a client who would get overwhelmed with work and always head to Facebook to escape from work stress. She committed to following her calendar and made a commitment to only look at her Facebook from noon – 1 pm (everyday during her lunch break). She now has tremendous success in her business, is so busy and loves her work so much that she only checks Facebook in the evenings after work.

What additional advice would you give someone looking to implement their own calendar system?

I would recommend that people parcel their time in chunks throughout the day based on what is realistic and achievable for their situation. Set a time when you are going to begin your workday (e.g., perhaps you begin your day at 9:30 am after you take your child to school), allocate time for lunch, working out, etc. but the rest of the day and your calendar should be dedicated to productive tasks – and do not stray from the calendar. It will lead you to success.

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