6 Ways to Stay Engaged at Work When You're Ready To Move On

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Last year, I wrote about how to kick ass and take names in your job search. In sharing this with a client who is renewing her job search, she asked about #3 on the list:

Don’t leave before you leave. If you have a job, stick with it and go to work each day like you’ll be at this job for the rest of your life. There’s a tendency – I know because I’ve been there – to decide you’re going to get a new job and then completely check out at your current job. Besides the fact that that could lead to you not having a job anymore, it leaves you demoralized and puts you in a position of weakness. You want to come at your job search from a position of strength. 

She felt so demotivated at work that she couldn’t fathom how to remain engaged while beginning her job search journey.

We’ve all been there. You’ve been at your job a month too long. Ok, maybe a year too long. Maybe more. And one day, you wake up and realize, “This will not go on any longer. I’m done. I’m out of here.”

Hallelujah! Life is too short to stay stuck in a job where you are undervalued, underutilized, or just unfulfilled. Whatever the reason, you are choosing to make a change, and that is awesome.

And now, comes the hardest part: not leaving before you leave. Staying motivated when you know it’s just a matter of time until you hand over that resignation letter. Trying to stay engaged while also getting excited about your next opportunity. My client found the perfect SAT vocab word to describe it: enervating.

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Just seeing that word and its many syllables is draining.

So, what can you do? How can you stay motivated when you're enervated, when you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and just want to check out? Here are a few tried and trusted strategies:

1. Use your mornings wisely. Instead of dragging yourself out of bed and rolling into work in your typical sloth-like fashion, leverage your morning to do something that's motivating and energizing for you. Some ideas that come to mind: exercise, cooking a delicious breakfast, meditating, taking the dog for a walk, or reading.

I get Shine Texts, daily motivational text messages which help me ground the day in something meaningful. It's like they are inside my head and know just what I need to kick off the day.

Whatever it is that centers you, do it. And use it to set an intention for how you want to approach the day ahead. 

2. Seeks out the work that is interesting to you. This is your last hurrah, so make it count. Seek out a pet project that you’ve always wanted to work on and plan to make it your legacy. Maybe you’ve always wanted to contribute to your company's blog. It’s now or never. Obviously, you still need to get your job done, but having a side project that you want to do and has meaning will not only keep you engaged, but help you finish strong.

3. Set boundaries. To give yourself some room to focus on the work that’s interesting to you, you’ll need to set some boundaries. Perhaps you’ve been working your tush off for years - late nights, long hours, dreaming of work (you haven't even been taking a break when you sleep!). Those days are over. 

Say it with me: no more overworking.

Need some spine for that one? Read this article about the lack of glory in overworking. Seriously, your days of burnout are over. 

Tip: Set BAMs (Bare Ass Minimums). No more than three per day. Those are what you absolutely need to accomplish. Get them done, do the work that you want to do, and get out.

I know, I know. They need you. What about all of the work that has to get done? The company will fall apart if you don’t work 80 hour weeks.

Well, everyone’s going to have to get used to that. You are leaving. The company will go on, you’ll go on, and so will life. And if you want to do your best in your remaining days, you need to reclaim what’s yours.

4. Reclaim your life. So often we get lost in our jobs. We lose our sense of self and become our title or what we do every day. You’re no longer Jennifer, you’re the Director of Operations. 

Leaving a job - particularly one where you’ve given a lot of your time and (maybe all of) your self - is a grieving process. Give yourself have the space to mourn the loss.

Reflect on what you loved about your job, how you grew, and what you have learned. This will not only help you create your resume and tell your story; it will allow you to move forward knowing that you’re ready to close that chapter. You are ready to step back into your own identity and everything you bring to the table as a person, not as a title.

5. Focus on what you do appreciate. What’s good about this job? Your colleagues? The location of the office? Vacation policy? There’s always something you can be thankful for.

Write it down on a post-it note if you have to. When you feel like you can muster no more strength, use it to find some energy.

If it's your colleagues - or even a colleague - focus on them. These relationships are way more important than the accomplishments you list on your resume or LinkedIn profile. Foster them and enjoy the time you have together.

6. Buddy up. Going through this alone can be the hardest part. Find an accountability partner outside of work - coaches are great for this! - who can help you process this change and hold you accountable for staying engaged (and sticking to your boundaries!). It's easy to slip back into disengaged mode, so having someone to check in with on a regular basis about what you're doing to both step forward and maintain integrity in the present is critical.

You are in the home stretch, and this can be the hardest part. Breathe through it and know that there will be days when you just can't. That's ok, and be easy on yourself. If anything, use those days of disengagement to motivate your next steps. Hang in there and remember, it shall pass. You’ve got this!