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Many of us have experienced the sense of freedom that comes with an imminent departure from a role or organization. Priorities shift and stress is alleviated …but somehow work continues to get done, and often more efficiently and productively.Wavebreakmedia/istock

It’s happened to so many of us – we are heads down, working hard at our jobs, losing sight of professional and personal goals and priorities because we are “too swamped” with “back to back” schedules. Then, all of a sudden, life happens – a new relationship, a child’s milestone, a severe illness or death, a lost job – either to ourselves or to a loved one and it puts things into perspective and we remind ourselves that life’s too short and that we haven’t been focused on the right things.

By contrast, many of us have experienced the sense of freedom that comes with an imminent departure from a role or organization. Priorities shift and stress is alleviated …but somehow work continues to get done, and often more efficiently and productively.

What would happen if we worked like we knew we were leaving? I don’t mean slacking off and not delivering on commitments; in fact, quite the contrary. I mean, what if we refocused on what matters and stopped sweating the small stuff? Could this mindset shift and a few simple tactics lead to higher engagement and productivity?

Set your own milestones and work with urgency

Most of us do not want to leave loose ends when we are moving on – so apply this same thinking in your daily modus operandi. Don’t wait for your leader or the “powers that be” to set deadlines for you. Set aggressive, yet realistic, timelines for yourself, set expectations with your leader(s) and stay focused on the milestones that will ultimately drive towards attaining your (and the organization’s) goals.

Get out there

Be curious about the things that interest you and tie to your purpose – take a step back from your job description and make time for “play.” You can do this by attending external industry events, volunteering for interesting projects, meeting like-minded people, reading up on or blogging about relevant topics and so forth. This will help you stay engaged, build your brand and will also benefit your organization as you bring in fresh perspectives.

Take time for the proverbial ‘lunch’

Break time is essential, not just for mental and physical wellness, but also for creativity and innovation. At many organizations today, workers don’t take lunch breaks – either because they want to get out earlier to tend to their home obligations or because they simply don’t have enough time in the day to get their work done. It is critical that workers have some unstructured time in their days to clear their minds and connect with others.

Don’t let perfect get in the way of ‘good enough’

How many times have we reformatted and revised materials that are ultimately never used? This is not only frustrating and demoralizing for workers, but is a waste of company resources. Perfection gets in the way of relevance – being quick to market with “good enough” is critical in today’s competitive business environment vs. slow and perfect.

Nurture positive relationships, and let go of negative ones

Don’t be too busy to keep up with the mentors, mentees, sponsors and colleagues that support you, both within and outside of your current organization – if/when you do leave, these will be the people that will vouch for you. When you know that you’re leaving is an obvious time to reach out to your network but it may be too late to reignite relationships that have gone stale.

Let go of the things you can’t control

Try to eliminate unnecessary noise that tamper productivity and increase anxiety and instead focus on the milestones you need to achieve. For example, politics exist in every organization – being aware of them is wise; trying to control them is exhausting.

Make deliberate choices about where you spend time

That doesn’t mean that personal always comes before work, but use the five-year rule (or the “If I left tomorrow” rule): In five years (or if I left tomorrow), would I regret having prioritized that work obligation over that personal one?

Finally, think about the mark you want to leave on the company … and don’t wait to make it. And be proactive about what you want to take with you – I don’t mean proprietary information, I mean the experiences and relationships (mentors, mentees, sponsors) you will carry with you for the rest of your career journey.

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