Whether you’re about to give notice to your employer or to your spouse, strategically planning your exit means sliding your emotions off to the side while you make a practical “to do” list.  This is neither the time nor the place to improvise.  Instead, during this last metaphorical mile before your exit, make a plan and rehearse your words.

The first step in any exit strategy is to consider your options as well as your desired outcome. If you’re leaving a job, do you have another lined up?  Are you considering changing fields?  What are your work-related priorities?  Salary, opportunity, health insurance, convivial working atmosphere, and hours are certainly things to think about.  And don’t forget that ever-important letter of reference.   If you’re exiting your relationship, are you the one moving out?  Have you determined when this is going to happen?  Do you have a place to stay?  What about your stuff?  Are you able to move on without a rear-view mirror, or are you going to be co-parenting with this person for the next umpteen years?

The second step in your exit strategy is to evaluate your finances.  Can you afford to move out?  Can you afford to be out of work while you’re looking for a new job?  Are you able to pay for your own health insurance?  What about your credit card bills?  Your joint bank accounts?  Your student loans?  Your kids?   When a marriage is ending, the financial exit strategy can become more complicated and more stressful even after you’ve made the difficult decision to call it quits.

The third step in your exit strategy is communicating your intentions to those who need to know. This list includes parents, siblings, employers, colleagues, co-workers, day-care workers, friends, teachers, and even your accountant.  Regardless of who you’re telling, the words you choose are of the utmost significance.  If you’re quitting a job, make sure the conversation happens privately and in a location where you can easily escape.  Try to make your statement positive, concise and respectful.  If you’re leaving a long-term relationship, remember that you’ve had the benefit of advance notice (i.e., you’ve thought and thought about it, and made an informed decision), while your partner is likely going to feel blindsided.  Be kind, be calm, be patient, and then be outta there.  Know that your spouse is going to need time to process this, so offer it.

And now a word about flexibility.  This is kind of an offshoot of patience, and it’s significant.  If you’re in the middle of a major project, suggest that you’d be willing to stay until the deadline or until your replacement has been adequately trained.  If you’re ending a relationship, ask your partner to think about priorities and then be willing to schedule another time to talk about them.  Being flexible in the exit process is a smart move.  According to Albert Einstein, who knew a thing or two about being smart, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”