As the count down (15,14,13,12,11,10………….days left) marches relentlessly forward and only a few days of work are left, worry about using the time effectively strikes. People provide advice to take long lunches, to enjoy the last meetings, to arrive late and to leave early. I find myself ignoring all of the advice and proceeding through my days at pretty much the same pace as ever working hard to finish all of the projects for which I have responsibility, to write the speeches for retirement events, and to finalize notes for my successor.
In moments of reflection I realize that I am slowly disengaging –sometimes consciously by taking a deep breath and saying to myself that I won’t be part of the outcome of the decision, event or transaction. I listen to the updates on various projects with less interest and without the feeling that I need to understand the nuances and the details. Overall, my concentration is not as intense.
With each day that passes, I realize that layers of stress are gradually lifting. There are moments when I day-dream of how I will spend my time when I don’t have to come to the office. I find myself humming favourite show tunes. I am told that my smile is getting bigger every day and that my eyes look happy. There is a sense of peace with the ending that is imminent.
What is helping me to get through these last days?
- Three months ago, I made a very long list of all of the tasks that I needed to complete before the last day at the office. With an average of 21 working days each month, I calculated how much time I had to spend on each of the key projects, how much time was necessary to complete performance appraisals, and how many days were committed to meetings and other day-long events. At times it seemed that the list was growing rather than diminishing but I persevered. As the last days approach, there is a sense of relief and a sense of satisfaction as I cross the last few items off the list. Although some of the tasks required late nights at my desk, there is no panic during these last days.
- Allow time to celebrate. Several colleagues and friends have taken me out for lunches, breakfasts and dinners to acknowledge my retirement. These occasions have allowed me to thank people who have helped me and to allow them to thank me for those occasions where I helped and when we worked together. These celebrations are the reward for a long career and they provide a time to ensure that important relationships will continue ‘postwork’.
- Recognize that clearing out the office will take time. One of my colleagues jokes about how, after a 25 year tenure, a shredding truck had to be parked under his window to accommodate all of the paper that he was discarding. Although most of my files were already electronic, it was surprising how much paper had accumulated — paper that I felt would be required. During the clean out I knew that my need to evaluate prior to discarding would mean extra time for the clean out routine, so thankfully I had enough time to decide what to keep and what to pitch.
- Make time for the hallway conversations. This is not the time to hide out in your office. Many staff members will want to spend more informal time with you, hearing about the ‘postwork’ plans and recounting the shared experiences. These are the most precious moments during the last days. Make them count!
While the last days at the office can be stressful some preparation will ensure that these last days are also memorable. Disengagement will come more easily and you will float through those retirement celebrations and all of the good wishes. Savour each moment — you have earned this reward!!