So you lost your job. Or you graduated from college and can’t find a full-time position. Whatever your circumstances, unemployment can be tough. It can be tempting to stay out all night and spend all day under the covers. You keep your mouse on the refresh button on your email, constantly checking for news from potential employers.

But believe it or not, there are better ways to spend your unemployed days. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your day:

Schedule when you're unemployed

Make a schedule, and stick to it. While your bed seems to have some gravitational pull of its own, you have to get out of it. Set your alarm clock for the same time every weekday. Get up, shower, and put on real clothes (as in, not PJs or sweats). Even if you spend the day sitting at your desk on the computer, you’ll feel better having showered and dressed. Keep a regular bedtime too ‘” try not to go to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Assume a night schedule similar to what you’d keep if you were working.

Plan out your day. If you don’t own a planner, you might want to invest in one. Allocate time in your day for activities like applying to jobs, exercise, socialization, and networking.

Applying for jobs: Applying for jobs should occupy a large part of your day. Research niche job boards, specific companies, major job boards, and social media sites to see where unique job postings might crop up. To keep the job search from getting monotonous, assign specific job boards or sites to specific days. For example, Tuesdays and Thursdays might be spent looking over companies’ social media sites, while Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays involve searching on niche and major job boards.

Rank the companies that appeal to you in terms of how well your skill set fits with the openings available. Make note of companies you’d like to work for that don’t have current job openings, and subscribe to RSS feeds that might help you track when openings become available. Keep track of all the jobs you apply for, and be sure to follow up when appropriate. Send follow up emails a week or so after submitting an application and always send a thank you note after interviewing. Organize your applications in terms of their status: researching, applied, interviewed, etc.

Exercise: Physical exercise is important to keep you feeling fit and happy. Even if it’s just a walk around the block to clear your head, make time in your day to get out of the house. Staying cramped up inside all day will only dampen your spirits. Don’t trap yourself in and obsess over your unemployment. Go for a bike ride, a run, a walk, whatever ‘” just get out of the house and into the sunshine.

Socialize: Keep in touch with family and friends. This is another way to break up the monotony of your daily routine ‘” plus they might have useful contacts in your industry. Pick their brains over coffee and catch up on other aspects of life. Be sure to leave time in your schedule to let your hair down so life doesn’t feel like a constant cycle of applying and waiting.

Network: Networking is one of the most important aspects of finding a job. Schedule time in your day to email contacts you might have in the industry. Set up lunch and coffee meetings to ask about your field, the best places to look for jobs, any recommendations they may have or openings in the industry that may not be common knowledge, etc. Be sure to follow-up with your contacts after these meetings to keep the connection going.

Volunteering with nonprofits looking for your skill set is another great way to meet people, plus it boosts your resume and gives you great experience. Keep a comprehensive list of contacts who might be able to help in your job search. Update your status on LinkedIn to reflect your current job search and network through your LinkedIn connections.

Make a weekly goal list. Aside from your daily plan, make a weekly goal list to chart the progress you want to make over any given week. Check things off as you get them done; at the end of the day, those check marks will make you feel accomplished!

Check your goal list at the end of each week to make sure you’re staying on track. If you’re not getting everything done, reassess the way you’re spending your time. Make sure you aren’t spending too much time on Facebook or watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek on TV. Compare your daily schedule and your weekly goal list side-by-side to confirm you’re using your time effectively.

Maintain a positive attitude. While it can be hard to be unemployed, a positive attitude goes a long way. Keep your spirits up and believe in yourself; eventually, hard work and perseverance will prevail. You will find the right job.

Armed with these tips, be prepared to spend your day in a whole new way. Make the most out of your unemployment, and you won’t be unemployed much longer!

Are you spending your day effectively? Tell us in the comments section.

Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

Photos Courtesy Dolor Haze and Say This to You