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How Financial Advisors Get Organized: The Pause That Refreshes

By ClientWise | March 29, 2012

David Allen is a productivity consultant and management guru, and author of the best-selling book, Getting Things Done.
He’s also a success story in his own right. In his younger years, Allen experienced many career iterations. In fact, he maintains that he tested out 35 different professions by the age of 35, including: magician, karate teacher, and moped salesman.

Then, at the relatively ripe age of 51, Allen began his productivity consultancy with two employees, himself and his wife. Bingo! Today, David Allen Company has more than 40 employees, and sales have tripled over the past few years.

You may have noticed Mr. Allen’s article in the NY Times a week or so ago, When Office Technology Overwhelms, Get Organized. In this insightful article, Allen asks the question, “Do you feel more productive today than you did several years ago?” Presumably, he asks this question somewhat rhetorically…knowing that, for many of us, the answer is a resounding “No!”

What Allen has observed is the paradox of modern technology. Despite rapid improvements in the overall productivity of organizations due to technology and other improvements, as individuals we aren’t experiencing the benefits of this productivity on a day-to-day basis.

Indeed, for many of us, the opposite is true. Our business lives that are even more disorganized, muddled and messy than in prior (analog) years!

The good news is that Mr. Allen has an answer. To succeed in this new world of work, we need to create structures for capturing, clarifying, and organizing all of the forces that assail us; and ensure time for thinking, reflecting, and decision-making. In other words, we need to create our own space to think, reflect, and review, as well as to integrate and connect the dots.

In fact, he goes on to suggest a sequence of five events to optimize focus and resources:


  1. Capture everything that has your attention in your work, and personal life, in writing. For the typical professional, this exercise takes as much as six hours to “empty your head”. Seems daunting but Allen believes this exercise invariably leads to greater focus and control.

  2. Clarify what each priority means to you. Decide what results you want, and what actions, if any, are required. Without prioritization and strategy, lists will hold you hostage.

  3. Organize reminders for the to-do lists that you create. Park the inventory of all of your projects in a convenient, always-seen place.

  4. Regularly review and reflect on the whole inventory of your commitments and interests, and bring it up to date.

  5. Finally, deploy your attention and resources appropriately.


ClientWise is an executive coaching firm that focuses on the opportunities and obstacles of top-performing financial advisors. Amongst the financial advisor community that we know, we have observed many of the same behaviors that Allen touches upon. In fact, in a recent ClientWise survey we learned that 78 percent of successful financial advisors do NOT consistently allocate time to work “on their business” regarding long-term planning, business strategy, etc.

The reality is that in today’s world of infinite possibility, overwhelming complexity is here to stay. The challenge is to find structures that let us keep pace with rapid technological change. Simple techniques like taking a “pause that refreshes” might be just the ticket.


For observations and ideas on how financial advisors can priortize and organize their marketing processes, we invite you to download the complimentary ClientWise Learning Tool, "9 Ways to Prioritize and Organize Your Marketing".

All the best!

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Topics: Business Development Coaching Operations

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