Ever catch yourself thinking… why am I so disorganized?

You may be disorganized simply because you don’t plan things. Or, you may be disorganized because of lack of discipline, lack of priorities, or a tendency to multitask. Clutter and distractions can also lead to disorganization.

In today’s article we’ll have a look at the most obvious signs someone is disorganized, as well as the eight most common causes of disorganization.

I’ll also share my thoughts about whether being disorganized actually makes you more creative (spoiler alert: I don’t think it does).

As usual, if you’d like to share your own thoughts or experience, feel free to do so by leaving a reply at the end of the page.

Let’s dive in…

Signs of a disorganized person

  • Too much clutter. Can’t seem to find anything, even when you need it? The first sign of a disorganized person is a cluttered environment. Clutter affects you in subtle ways, and seems to be both a cause and an effect of being disorganized.
  • Missed deadlines. Whether it’s for projects at work, or deadlines you set yourself. Disorganized people struggle to complete tasks in time, even when there are no real obstacles or issues.
  • Poor money management. If you make enough money to live comfortably, yet there always seem to be too many expenses, it may be because you’re disorganized. Disorganized people tend to struggle to manage their resources.
  • Never enough time. Just like money may never be enough, time may never be enough for disorganized people. Don’t get me wrong: we’d all like to have an infinite amount of money and time. But it’s impossible — we need to learn to make the most of them.
  • Being late. Obvious one, right? If you’re disorganized, you may be late way too often. Disorganized people struggle with things like punctuality and time-keeping, with the risk of being labeled as unreliable.

You don’t have to be disorganized

If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking: yes, I’m a bit disorganized, but that’s just the way I am, It’s just part of my personality…

Then I encourage you to challenge this belief. Because it’s not true.

Now, there are personality types that tend to just “go with the flow”, that want things to be spontaneous rather than organized.

In the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator, these would be called perceivers (as opposed to judgers). 

And there’s nothing wrong with going with the flow, with wanting a life that’s a little messy. I think it makes life a lot more interesting.

But… being spontaneous doesn’t mean being late. Or never having enough money. And so on.

Regardless of your personality type, traits, attitude, beliefs, and outlook in life — you can learn to be more organized. It really is like any other skill. Nothing prevents you from being more organized.

Let’s have a look at all the potential reasons you may be disorganized, so you can identify those that apply to you and fix what doesn’t work.

Here’s why you are disorganized

1. You don’t plan

The most intense, most beautiful, most exciting things in life are those that can’t be planned or predicted. I think we can all agree on this.

There will always be a degree of uncertainty in life, and once you learn to embrace uncertainty, the unknown, the unplannable, you’ll be able to truly live life to the fullest.

That being said — there are things that should indeed be planned. I’d say most things in life should be planned.

The main reason you are disorganized may be that you simply don’t plan anything. And you can change that.

Turn “someday” into a clear date. Don’t say “later” and give an approximate time instead. Don’t always improvise. Don’t be afraid to plan and schedule things.

This alone can make you more organized and more productive than the vast majority of people.

2. You multitask

“The scientific study of multitasking over the past few decades has revealed important principles about the operations, and processing limitations, of our minds and brains.”

“One critical finding to emerge is that we inflate our perceived ability to multitask: there is little correlation with our actual ability.”

“In fact, multitasking is almost always a misnomer, as the human mind and brain lack the architecture to perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”

That’s one key fact neuroscientists and psychologists have discovered (the paragraph above is taken from this article). It’s been scientifically proven that multitasking isn’t really a thing.

Essentially, the most productive, most efficient people have learned not to multitask — that is, they have learned not to constantly switch between tasks.

And focus on just one thing for long periods of time. Which, considering that our attention span has decreased quite a bit in recent years, could be an hour or so, depending on the task.

3. You have too many distractions

Our willpower is limited. Even the most disciplined person in the universe has a very limited amount of willpower.

If you’re wondering why you are so disorganized, it may be because there are too many distractions in your life.

Please note, I’m referring to things that do nothing but steal your time and energy. I’m not referring to hobbies, fun, going out, etc. Those are healthy.

Examples of distractions you may engage in, mindlessly or compulsively, daily:

  • Phone notifications
  • Social media
  • TV and the news
  • Gossiping/chatting
  • Unimportant tasks

Eliminate or reduce unnecessary distractions and it’ll be so much easier to stick to things and be organized.

4. You don’t prioritize

If you have no priorities in life, you’ll tend to procrastinate. You’ll be indecisive, or you’ll just waste time in general.

I’ve found that those who are disorganized often don’t know what their priorities in life are — they are not clear on their priorities.

Think about it: if you don’t define what’s important, then why be organized? Why plan? You may as well let things happen to you, randomly.

Worse yet, having no clear priorities can lead to multitasking and having too many distractions, and I’ve already mentioned how those can make you disorganized.

Take the time to define what’s important in your life. What you want (or need) to do. It’ll be much easier to be organized.

5. You don’t declutter

Clutter has at least ten negative effects. A cluttered environment affects your productivity, your physical health, and even your mental health. Sounds like an exaggeration, but just trust me on this one.

A room that’s neat and tidy inspires you (and allows you) to be organized. A room that’s full of stuff does the opposite. It prevents you from taking action. It makes you lazy.

Do you need to turn into a minimalist? Or a “neat freak”? Absolutely not. Just say no to clutter, to piles of stuff that look ugly.

Take a day off and declutter — get rid of things that are unnecessary, and that drain your time and attention (if it sounds overwhelming, have a look at these 17 tips).

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that clutter makes people creative. Just get rid of it. I’ll expand on this thought later in this post.

6. You don’t write things down

Here’s another little secret that helps you be more organized — just write things down. Both apps and pen and paper work.

This is the idea behind writing to-do lists. We should never trust our memory. We forget things all the time. So it makes a lot of sense to write down our tasks (or things we’re supposed to do in general).

It really is that simple. I’ve been using to-do lists for years. Had I never used them, I probably would have done half of what I’ve done. Seriously.

Whenever you have an idea, or think of a task you keep postponing, or think of anything that’s important — write it down.

Over time, you’ll notice that it makes a big difference, and that it’s easy to be disorganized if you rely on your thoughts/memory alone.

7. You have low energy

Don’t expect to be productive if you have low energy.

Do you often eat foods that are hard to digest, that cause brain fog? Do you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept enough? Are you actually sacrificing sleep?

Do you drink enough water? Do you rely on caffeine to keep you going? Do you spend time with people who drain your energy?

These are some of things you want to look at before you even try to be more organized.

A better level of health and wellbeing leads to better mental clarity and more energy which, in turn, help you get stuff done. Even things like going for a walk can clear your mind.

Get rid of things that lower your energy. Prioritize your health. Notice how that helps you be more organized (and generally happier).

8. You don’t use reminders

If you’re supposed to take a certain supplement each morning, put the bottle on the bedside table.

If you’re supposed to throw away an old item, don’t put it in a drawer and place it directly on the floor instead.

If there’s a goal you’re working toward, set the image of that goal as your phone wallpaper.

Literally place things strategically so you’re forced to see them. Have your own visual reminders that force you to do things.

The last reason you may be disorganized is that you don’t make it easy for yourself to be organized.

This includes a home/office where you’re surrounded by stuff you don’t even use, and where you spend ages trying to find the things you do use. See how clutter affects productivity?

Disorganized ≠ Creative

Francis Bacon (the artist) was known for being very disorganized. And if you look at pictures of his studio, “disorganized” sounds like a euphemism.

The same applies to other artists and creatives. There are even scientific studies that, at least in theory, prove that disorganized people tend to be more creative/original.

Here’s the issue with that: it’s almost always a way to try and justify being disorganized.

Because the truth is that most artists and creatives, particularly successful ones, don’t have a tendency to be disorganized.

As for the scientific studies, I doubt they actually proved anything. How do you measure creativity? More specifically, the type of creativity that works, or that produces beauty?

So that’s my very last tip — if you think you’re disorganized, don’t assume it’s a good trait just because it makes you more original, or creative. It doesn’t.

Speaking from experience: I’m a creative person. I used to be disorganized. Now I’m not. And it’s much better now.

In fact, being organized has helped me actually create things. Like this website.

In the past, I would work on a project for a while, then jump on a different project, and so on, and never actually accomplish anything.

Final thoughts

Being organized is easy and makes things easier. Being disorganized is hard and makes things harder. Think of it this way.

Use to-do lists and reminders, declutter your home/office, and plan things that are important.

And stop multitasking, because you don’t have any superpowers.

Being organized is easy — give it a go.