The Cost of Disorganization

I got tired of moving things back and forth, looking underneath one pile after another.  Not being productive.  Getting agitated.  Adding to the stress.  I had lost track of my organization plan. 

As I was sifting through the stacks, getting them back in order, I was asking myself, how difficult is it to get things organized? 

It’s really not that hard, right? ... and once you get there, if you keep your eye on it, it’s fairly easy (and highly recommended) to stay organized, especially if your sanity relies on it.  (I’ll share a few of my “filing" management secrets later on.)

As I continued working through the piles, I wondered if I was the only one who wasted time on looking for things! As part of my wondering, I conducted a LinkedIn survey to confirm my bet that I wasn’t alone. 

One of the survey questions I asked executives was how many minutes a day they wasted looking for things.  The choices were 55 minutes, 1.5 hours, 2.5 hours, or “I’m totally organized”?

Not surprising, the results showed that sixty percent – 60% – of the respondents reported that they spend just under an hour looking for “misplaced” things. Every. Single. Day.   Yikes!

The first thing I looked at was the time suck of disorganization.  But then I did some math.  Not only can disorganization drive you crazy and lead you into greater chaos, but it also costs money!

Let’s say an executive makes $208K USD annually.  The typical hours worked per year is 2,080 so the hourly rate for this executive is ($208k/2080) = $100.

This executive “wastes” about 5 working hours a week… that’s $500 of non-productive time per week. Calculating this out to an annual expense:  52 weeks/year times $500/week = $26,000 USD!

Granted, I’m excluding vacation and business travel, but this is a huge financial expense for any organization, and this is just for one executive.  Consider what that cost would be for a department of five, or 12, or 15! 

Here are a few ideas to help save you more time each day. By first investing in the cleanup, and then practicing these tips, you’ll easily cut these expenses.  Note: These tips may be applied to both electronic and hardcopy and can be done at your home or the company’s office. 

  1. Folder Titles. Are they readable and organized in a method that works for your needs (e.g., alphabetized, numerical, etc.)?  Are they in one filing cabinet or should they be in multiple (i.e., for confidential or compliance-related)?  Example: I use printed labels for vendor and client names, and they are in the same filing cabinet.  Human Resources needs to file employee folders in a locked cabinet.  Employee investigation documents should be filed in a separate locked cabinet. Care should be given for password protecting confidential electronic documents.
  2. Group Categories. Are your files categorized or combined? Example: Weekly reports may be filed by month.  Strategic documents, updates, and other supporting forms may have a separate folder that’s added to throughout the year.
  3. Use of Numbering. When dates or numbers are to be used, consider your numbering system.  I default to using two digits at all times.  When referencing dates in a title, I use dayMONTHyear: 24May2022 or 01Aug2022.  The difference is that the files will remain in date order (i.e., 01, 02, 03… 10, 11… 30) instead of day “10” following day “1”, which in this case excludes the preceding “0”.
  4. Placement of Folders / Filing Cabinets. Electronically, do you have everything in the cloud, on your company’s server, or on an external hard drive? This matters for those who travel or cannot access the company’s network or the cloud.  Remember to consider your organization’s IT policy as it relates to company-owned documents.  How close are your filing cabinets to your desk, how “overstuffed” are they, and how well organized are the folders?

Having the right things at your fingertips matters.  If you continuously have to move things out of the way for items you use daily, reorganize that space.  If you’re searching for books or articles because they’re randomly shoved on a shelf, consider alphabetizing by title or grouping them by subject.

You can do one thing a week.  Don’t have the time?  I bet if you take one of those “wasted” hours a week to reorganize just one thing a week, you’ll become more productive, efficient, and effective – and less stressed. 

How important is cost savings to you and your organization?  Consider the implication of having an organized system.  Are you intentionally building the right processes, or do you leave productivity to chance with disorganization and poorly designed workflows?

Seriously, how much is this costing you?  Financially, it’s expensive.  But it also impacts customer service, project completion, and strategic results.

Interestingly enough, as a certified coach, and an executive with three decades of business experience, I can help you get better organized.  Let’s chat.  Schedule a call now.


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P.P. S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with demonstrated ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.