The Struggle is Real: Disorganization Can Cost You

Jan 7, 2016 | Organization

cost of disorganizationAs a whole, administrative professionals are usually a pretty put together group – we have to be to do our jobs well! But we all have our trouble spots. As organized as we may be in one area, there’s always an area or two that plague us. So why do so many of us, myself included, struggle with areas of disorganization?

I believe part of the reason is that most assistants don’t understand their organization style.

Learn Your Organization Style

Being organized doesn’t always mean having everything put away or in neat piles. For some people, myself included, the best way to stay organized is by having everything out in front of them. This doesn’t make them less organized – it just means their organizational style is different from someone who can work with only one thing on their desk at a time.

Just like you have your own personality type, you have your own unique organization style, too. And if you don’t have an understanding of your style and what works best for you, you’re going to have a hard time getting and staying organized.

To understand your organization style, I highly recommend using the Time & Space Style Inventory (TSSI™), which was created by the team at Sane Spaces in collaboration with co-authors Sunny Schlenger and Roberta Roesch. You can find the online assessment here: This inventory and the book, “How to Be Organized In Spite of Yourself,” can help you better understand your time-style and space-style preferences. This is vital information in helping you get and maintain a more organized environment.

Implement Organizational Tools & Processes

Once you know your time and space style, you can implement the right organization tools and processes to support your organizational needs, and stop the disorganization cycle. But this is often easier said than done.

I have a lot of organization processes and tools I’ve learned over the years, but using them is the tricky part. A professional organizer I used to work with once told me, “These are all great organization principles, but you have to modify them to fit you.” And she’s right. You can have all the organization principles in the world in place…but if you’re not using them and adapting them to work for your overall organizational style, they’re worthless. This is why it’s important to adjust the processes to make them work for you. For instance, if putting everything away in your desk or filing cabinet doesn’t work for you, try organizing things in trays or piles across your desk from left to right by order of importance. If you’re a pack rat, don’t attempt to do a mass cleaning and throw everything out right away. Instead, put unnecessary items in a box near your desk and only take out what you need. If you don’t need it after a month, then consider tossing it.

Remember, the goal is to get and stay organized in a way that works for you – not make yourself fit the status quo of organization.

Know the Price of Disorganization

Another important motivator in getting yourself organized is understanding the cost of disorganization.

Being disorganized might seem like a personal problem…but it’s not. You can’t keep your executive and team on track and organized if you’re not organized yourself. Disorganization can cause you to miss deadlines, overlook tasks, and forget about important details. This can damage your professional reputation or worse, cost you your job. It’s also a waste of time and money.

An Express Employment Professionals survey of more than 18,000 business leaders showed that 57% of respondents said they lose six work hours per week due to disorganization. The survey also found that disorganized employees who make $50,000 annually cost their companies about $11,000 per year in lost time due to their disorganization. You do not want to be one of these people!

The cost of disorganization goes far beyond measurable losses, such as time and money, and damage to your reputation. It can also add significant stress, and being a disorganized, frazzled mess can further damage your professional image. And this negativity can lead to even higher stress levels. Getting organized can literally help you breathe easier during your workday, lower your stress level, and contribute to better health.

In this digital age of information overload, disorganization is an ongoing struggle for a lot of assistants. If you have trouble spots, identify what isn’t working and try some new strategies with your organizational style in mind. It may take some experimenting, but you’ll find it is a solvable problem that you can and should address now. Your reputation, career, and health depend on it!

This article first appeared in Executive Support Magazine, a global training publication and must read for any administrative professional. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at to find out more. Or to get your 30% discount, email and tell them we sent you.

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