“The great thing in this world is not so much where you are, but in what direction you are moving.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

During a private coaching session, one of my clients expressed frustration because she hadn’t been able to get started on the priorities we had laid out for her practice.

She is a successful advisor and as we began our work together I could tell she was truly motivated to take her business to the next level. But something, as yet to be determined, was getting in her way.

As we discussed this problem, I asked her to pull out a document she had printed following one of our prior calls. After several minutes, she simply couldn’t find the paper she knew “was here somewhere.”

“Aha,” I thought, “maybe this advisor needs to consider some basic office organization.”

Since most of my coaching work is conducted by phone, I had never seen this advisor’s office. Based on her professional demeanor and past success, I would have never guessed that this advisor would have a highly disorganized office.

So I asked her, “Can you see the top of your desk?”

And she replied, “Robb, I’m not even sure what my desk is made of.”

Then, for the next several minutes, my client described all the pent up frustration she was feeling because she had let this “obvious problem” go unattended for so long:

The bottom line — disorganization was getting in the way of progress.

Now, I know you may be thinking, “My office is messy, but not this bad.” And I hope you’re right. But my experience tells me that at times most advisors suffer from some of these same feelings of frustration.

Do you ever?

If you never find yourself questioning your organizational skills with questions like these, you may not need this article. Stop reading and pass it along to someone who will benefit. You know who they are! (They could be on your team.)

For the rest of us, here are a handful of “spring cleaning” tips to keep your office mess from becoming a distraction:

1.  Start with a giant trash can (or recycle bin) — As you get started; you’ll feel better if you can quickly get rid of a lot of your visible clutter. Don’t hide it in a drawer or a closet, throw it away. Here’s the type of stuff you can probably get rid of most quickly:

2.  Get your assistant involved — Now that there’s actually room for 2 people in your office, ask your assistant for some help. After all, helping you keep your office organized is probably part of the reason you hired him or her in the first place. And when left to do what they do well, most assistants will shine.

Think about it:

3.  Don’t create an overly complicated file system — If you take this “spring cleaning” process too far, you can cause more harm than good. Don’t try to turn simple organization into the world’s greatest filing system. Dewey already invented the decimal system and your office is not the local library.

Here are the main (and possibly the only) files you need to keep:

4.  Adopt the clean desk rules — Now that your office is free from clutter and your files are organized, live by the clean desk rules.  Repeat after me, I will…

The client I referenced at the beginning of this article has reported great strides in most of these areas.  She is feeling more relaxed and is ready to tackle new challenges for growing her business.  Plus, her assistant now feels even more like she’s part of a team.

She recently told me, “I love walking into my office now and seeing how nice everything looks.  It looks a lot more professional.”  Isn’t it funny how we can sometimes turn the simplest of problems into mental blocks that affect the direction of our businesses?

Is it time for you to break out the trash can and the dust rags?

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