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10 Business Strategies to Organize Your Family Life

Tried-and-true management tips for busy households.

By Patrick Lencioni
Pot on a stoveCoral Von Zumwalt

5. Understand your opportunity cost. In business, when taking one course of action prevents a company from accomplishing other tasks, we talk about opportunity cost. One of the best decisions we ever made was to let our sons opt out of Cub Scouts (the opportunity), which was eating up our weekends (the cost). Why cut that and not, say, guitar lessons? We decided that Cub Scouts was a little too regimented and that music better suited our style. Knowing the decision reflected one of our values―creativity―removed any sense of guilt we might otherwise have had.
 
 6. Assess which balls bounce and which ones break. Sometimes tasks that feel urgent can actually be ignored. (In other words, those balls will bounce.) As we were getting ready to have our fourth child, I was overcome by the urge to landscape the front yard and to start going to Pilates. Would the house be overtaken by a jungle? No. Did I need to touch my toes again? Well, eventually that might be nice, but not right now. What I really had to do was prepare my home and family for something that mattered―the arrival of Baby Number 4. The rest could wait.
 
 7. Don’t confuse long-term strategies and short-term tactics. For parents, this can take the form of discussing what to have for dinner in the same breath as whether to change jobs. Or trying to make a decision about finances or discipline while brushing your teeth and getting the kids off to school. Vital issues can get short shrift or be entirely lost in the minutiae if you don’t stop, filter them out, and return to them later.
 
 8. Meet often to review your progress. Don’t groan. This is not a bad episode of The Brady Bunch. But families do need to meet once a week, for no more than 10 minutes, to review what’s going on and what adjustments need to be made to their time and priorities. We’ve noticed that our twin boys get a sense of clarity and accomplishment from our Sunday-night discussions. They like talking about how we’re doing as a family and seeing their role in it.
 
 9. Get out of the “office” from time to time. Most executives I work with develop a condition I call adrenaline addiction: They’re convinced that they can never slow down and think about the big picture because there is so much to do right now. Which inevitably ends in burnout. Parents should also take time as a couple to review calmly the bigger picture of their family, even if it means just going for a drive with the radio off. A long date or a weekend away can pay huge personal dividends even if you have to shell out for a babysitter.
 
 10. Welcome productive conflict. When executives can’t argue, they can’t make good decisions and commit to them. Families are the same. Remember―many of the ideas I’ve described here were born out of a messy, tense discussion I had with my wife when I clumsily critiqued the way we were running our family. For the record, she’s not mad at me anymore.

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