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Priority 1: Stop the Chaos. Priority 2: Live with Purpose.

I’m a serious student of time management. I was hooked the first time I attended a Franklin-Covey seminar—I was 23. Using a system that included life planning (not just a calendar), I was able to get more done without feeling so scattered.

But since then, “more” has turned into a lot more. And it’s not just my stuff that that I have to keep track of… it’s my kids, my husband, work, school, writing deadlines, travel schedules, etc. Keeping everything organized in one online calendar helps, but the warning light on my mental-stress indicator was flashing OVERLOAD on a regular basis.

So it’s no wonder that the title of Patrick Lencioni’s book The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family caught my attention.  Frantic is exactly how I felt. Maybe Lencioni and his book could offer some guidance for getting back to that not-so-scattered state.

It’s ironic that the day I was to interview Patrick Lencioni on the topic of frantic families, I realized I had a schedule conflict; I had to pick up my oldest son from driver’s ed.

Lencioni was able to push the meeting back by 20 minutes, and when he called I was ready with my first question: Is frantic simply a way of life for today’s busy families, or is there a better way?

My interview with Lencioni didn’t go exactly as I expected. For one thing, he is as busy as the rest of us. People were coming and going from his home office, and before either of us had said all we needed to say, his next appointment rang the doorbell signaling the end of our call.

But, what really took me by surprise were the questions he asked me. Things like, “What’s your family’s rally cry—your top priority right now?” and “What are you going to do this week to move toward your family’s goals?”

He quietly waited for me to answer. I finally had to admit I didn’t know. I’d allowed myself to get so busy that the top priority was simply to survive the chaos. And I don’t know about you, but that’s not how I want to live.

If we don’t know what our family’s goals are, how can we work toward reaching them? My handy-dandy Google calendar and BlackBerry do a pretty good job of maintaining the chaos, but that’s not the same as living purposefully.

On the other hand, a life-planning system (like the Franklin Covey Planner or The 7-Minute Daily Life Planner mentioned in our 47 Top Tools & Strategies for Productivity) forces you to prioritize your time based on what’s really important to you.

Meaning, first you have to stop and think about your priorities. And second, you have to eliminate (or at least cut back on) those things that are not priorities… ouch.

So that’s what I’m working on now. Getting clear about my family’s goals and cutting out the activities that aren’t moving us in the right direction. With school starting up, I’m expecting some challenges, but my family is worth the effort.

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