Leaders Take Control

What characteristics do the exceptional leaders share with well-organized people? They all have a vision of accomplishment, of efficiency in pursuit of that vision, and effective handling of priorities.

We tend to equate good leadership with good organization. Yet, there are some successful professionals, regarded as leaders in their fields, who do not invite visitors into their homes. (You’d never guess it, because at the office they appear “very organized.”) However, they don’t even allow plumbers or housekeepers in … because of the clutter. Stacks of newspapers line passageways, opened and unopened mail and numerous other items to deal with are littered over tables, sofas, chairs and floors. And their home office is a disaster too. Nothing can be located quickly or easily. Organizing experts explain that simply “Clutter is postponed decisions.”

In their professional lives, most leaders have no trouble making decisions. Every day they get things done, lots of things. Moreover, they delegate what they don’t have the time or ability to do well. Organized people do the same thing. What the most effective leaders do is combine skills. They apply basic organizing principles to their professional and personal lives.

Professional Organizers often hear clients protest, “I’m both intelligent and successful. Why can’t I keep everything organized on my own?” But getting organized doesn’t require instinct. It requires skills.

Fortunately, those skills can be learned. Most people don’t know how to speak a foreign language or develop an appropriate fitness program. That’s what professionals are for. A Professional Organizer can give you a jump start in the techniques you need, and will coach you to develop a routine that will keep you on track.


Leaders cannot afford clutter — it wastes too much time. More than one busy executive has discovered the virtue of paying attention to their “To Do” lists. These consist of a short term list and a long term reminder list of priorities. The lists are updated daily, because circumstances and priorities change. When a delivery is facing delay, or a family member is in crisis, they need to immediately reconsider “what’s next.” If their space is efficient, their time is well-planned, and all incoming information has a “home,” they can instantly juggle the pieces of this ready-made structure to meet new challenges.


There are two quick ways to find “what’s next” — keep it within easy reach and find it where it belongs. You reach for only a few things all the time: calendar, datebook, notepad, stapler, scissors and active records. Outdated records such as last year’s taxes and correspondence are boxed, labeled and put someplace else.

Categorizing items helps you group them and store them near where you’ll use them later. The process of sorting eliminates redundancy and duplication of labels and files.


Leaders who are organized have time under their thumb, and they don’t do it alone. They rely on tools like dayplanners, baskets and dividers to plan and manage their lives and activities. They are limited by the same amount of time we all are, yet they use it to a better advantage.

For one thing, they remember to allot time for preparing for each task, as well as noting its due date, which removes a lot of deadline stress. To make sure they relax and have fun, some people confess that they also make an occasional “date” with themselves (and don’t break it!).


Business and professional leaders owe a lot of their success to the relationships they cultivate. The trouble is, more people in their lives means more information — phone numbers, business cards, emails and events to attend. When every item has its “proper” place, it’s easier to put it there. And it’s where they expect to find it when they need it.


Successful leadership requires skillful management of time, space, and information. Chaos can be conquered, paper dragons and all, with basic organizational skills. If you can’t do it, the professionals
can. Then they will teach you how.

This article was published in New Woman Spirit Magazine — Fall 1997

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Reprinted with permission from Donna D. McMillan
Professional Organizer and Productivity Consultant
McMillan & Company Professional Organizing

Donna D. McMillan
Productivity Consultant
Efficiency Trainer/Coach

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