Recent circumstances have caused me to abandon my usual orderly ways. After a year of disorganization, I decided to determine what it might have cost me. Besides creating an atmosphere of confusion, disorganization can cost you a serious amount of dollars and cents. If you are not organized, how much can you actually lose and what behaviors should you change?
Messy Problems & Easy Solutions For Improved Organization
Here are a few scenarios that exemplify my scatter-brained habits. These are areas that I am actively working on and which fall squarely into my bucket of resolutions for the year.
#1 Missed Expiration Dates
Problem: Missed expiration dates on coupons cost me at least one hundred dollars this year. I found several big ticket coupons I forgot I had. For example, the Toys R Us coupon for $5 would have come in handy if I’d been able to use it when I bought Christmas presents. Instead, I found it a day after the holiday, unfortunately past its expiration date.
Solution: So how will I remedy this issue? I will keep a coupon file instead of a haphazard envelope with a rip along the side. A simple expandable folder with dividers goes a long way. For less than the $5 I lost, I’ll keep my printable and paper coupons organized by expiration date. This attempt at keeping my stuff neatly filed away will hopefully help me to use all coupons before they expire. If I can’t use them before the date, I can swap them at my local library coupon exchange. Either way, it’s a winning solution I can handle. I also turn to an online coupon site to provide me with an alternative way to get the savings I’m looking for.
#2 Missed Deadlines
Problem: As a freelancer, I’ve also missed several deadlines in the past, due to disorganization. I’ve encountered problems too, when I misplaced my yearly calendar and never bothered to replace it. With good intentions, I then created a notebook that I unfortunately misplaced a month later! I recently just found it in my daughter’s room, filled with her diary entries and drawings. Missed deadlines result in lost work and less pay. Freelance workers depend on each job for their income so when I miss a deadline, it’s like losing a paycheck. No doubt, my absent-mindedness has cost me quite a bit of income.
Solution: My resolution is to simply replace my calendar and make sure it is with me at all times. If I lose it again, I have a new cell phone with an internal planner. My son is teaching me how to use it so I can set alarms and never miss a deadline. There are also several free organization tools that anyone can try in order to gain control over one’s schedule. My friend uses Google Calendar to remind her of deadlines, appointments and upcoming events. This is another option I want to explore. If I have several checkpoints in place, it minimizes the possibility of missing an important deadline. Another good idea is to set up a financial calendar to keep track of your money management tasks and obligations during the year.
#3 Missed Opportunities
Problem: Disorganization also leads to missed opportunities. When I miss a deadline, it makes me less valuable to those who hire me. This might mean they will pay me less on the next assignment. Worse yet, they might choose another consultant, employee or worker for the job. This is a missed opportunity that can hit my bottom line. Also, word of mouth travels fast. Whether you’re an employee or a freelancer, your reputation is tarnished by disorganization. People who consistently arrive late to work or miss important meetings tend to be overlooked for raises or promotions. They might even lose their jobs and the ability to use the employer as a reference.
Solution: There’s nothing that some discipline and a scheduler can’t do. It’s a matter of gritting your teeth and developing the habit of committing something down on paper, on an electronic page or on some other helpful tool if you can’t trust your memory to remember your deadlines. Furthermore, missed opportunities are the result of poor planning and making commitments you can’t keep. I’m actually a lot better about long term planning than managing and anticipating stuff that happens day-to-day. So I have to work doubly hard to stick to my appointment book. Also, be aware of your limits — it is better to say you can’t cover the meeting than to end up bailing or not showing up. By speaking up, you can give your employer or client the option to have another employee cover the work so that you can maintain your credibility. But be careful about overdoing the excuses.
#4 Missing Documents & Requirements
Problem: How many times have you found yourself scrambling to look for important papers and documents? I’d consider this as one of the worst consequences of being disorganized. If you’ve lost bills, your passport or even your wallet, then you know how stressful it can be. There are people who have lost untold amounts of money because they gave up on supplying the information required by insurance companies to successfully process their claims. What about any reimbursements that your company owes you? And are you safely storing any evidence needed to claim your tax deductions? Imagine the thousands of dollars you could get back if you could only get your act together.
Solution: Perhaps you can develop a system to keep your financial records. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but something like this can really save your hide when it’s time to deal with taxes, any form of accounting or your insurance matters.
#5 Confusion & Chaos Due To Clutter
Problem: I’ve realized that much of my disorganization was the result of clutter. With hundreds of papers, notebooks and files around me, how could I find what I needed? When a client or my accountant would ask for documents, it would take me hours to find them. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of confusion.
Solution: Make it a family affair! In addition to the solutions I’ve mentioned above, I have also enlisted the assistance of my family to clear up clutter. After discovering my son’s lost library book amongst my work journals, I realized we were all part of the problem. These days, we take about fifteen minutes each day to clean up and clear out. In just a few weeks, we experienced a visible difference. Our boxes disappeared, we could easily locate documents in file cabinets and we got a lot of our space back! Also, we thought about killing two birds with one stone and made it a point to monetize our Spring Cleaning activities. You can sell your clutter this way!
How Much Are You Losing To Disorganization?
Do you feel like you are always a day behind or a dollar short? Disorganization might be a major part of the problem. Proper planning and organization makes it easier to achieve your goals and meet the expectations of others.
Sit down and consider the cost of disorganization in your life. Once you figure out what it’s truly costing you, you are unlikely to think you don’t have time to get organized. In reality, you have no time to put off proper organization!
Created February 11, 2009. Updated August 30, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.