Working from home now? Maintain some of your existing structure.


Working from home is the new normal for many of us, and we may be doing it for quite some time. Even if you've set up a dedicated workspace in your home (and you should, for your own mental health; see Jeremy's article on The Pros and Cons of Working from Home), it won't be the same as working from your normal location. In your office or usual workspace, you have likely created routines and processes that may not easily translate to your home workspace. I encourage you to take a few minutes and re-create some of that structure. It will be easier to maintain order in your new workspace, and it may also help keep things from falling through the cracks.

If you're working with paperwork that will need further processing once you return to the office, sort it into logical groups now, while it's fresh in your mind what the next steps will be. This will save you time and mental energy later when it's time to do something with this stuff. You won't have to look at each paper and wonder "What is this? What should I do with it now?"

Get some file folders, hanging folders or accordion files - whatever format will best hold the groupings of paperwork - and clearly label based on the groupings you choose. Those labels might be based on next destination of the file contents: File, Scan, Shred; or maybe who should get the paperwork next; or possibly the next actions you can only take from the office.

Grouping like things with like things will also save you some time if you need to locate a particular paper between now and when you've returned to the office. You'll likely only need to look through one group of papers to find what you're looking for. And you'll have the added benefit of reduced mental clutter.

Another way you can reduce mental clutter is to continue following established routines for task completion. It may be tempting to only do what needs to be done right now, and leave the remainder of a task for later, but disrupting your normal process adds to the mental overhead needed to complete the task. Now you need to remember to come back and finish the rest, and your mental cue to do so may be missing; your brain recalls starting the task, which usually implies completing it as well. Even if you're extra-organized and use a task list to prompt you to finish later, you're still leaving an open loop in your brain. This creates more mental overhead to complete routine tasks, and also sets you up to be thinking about work during off-hours, which further blurs the line between work and home life.

Take care of yourself and make good decisions while working in your new environment!

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