Summer – a chance to turn procrastination into action

Customized Family Handbooks – an Invaluable Family Resource

I’m ready for summer! Looking forward to days of when our routine is gone and relax into an agenda that reveals itself anew each day.

Where the stress of carpools, parent/teach meetings, homework assignments, and task lists are gone and the freedom to just “enjoy the day” returns for a brief season.

Purple Martin & Co Purple MartinThe Purple Martin & Co.

During the summer I close The Purple Martin & Co. and take time to reflect. I think back on the clients I have had the opportunity to serve and take stock of all I have been able to learn from each of them.

My goal is always to re-open in August with new and refreshed ideas…to create more efficient strategies for my clients and to stay on top of the latest trends and technology enhancements.

I am fortunate enough to have been able to work with phenomenal and inspiring clients over the years, such as:

  • A mother of six
  • A young mom battling cancer
  • A widowed parent of young children
  • A young mom beginning to “parent” her aging mother
  • A retiree managing her mother’s dementia

Each client has a unique set of needs and circumstances, but at the core they all have one thing in common…The need to empower others to help them.


Well the most logical answer I always receive from clients is “so I can have a break”.

But the most important answer I know we are both thinking is…

“Because I may not be here one day and I need someone to know EVERYTHING that I know.”

In the business world, when we are assessing risk within an organizational structure we always look for what we call “Key Man Dependency”. This is when one person holds all the cards, has all the knowledge, and nobody else is trained in their “expertise”. The biggest risk with “Key Man Dependency” in business is if that employee were to decide to quit, all of the knowledge of that specific job would walk out the door and into the hands of the competition.

In the case of managing a family, if one person is managing all of the “day to day” tasks of running the household and has not communicated the details of his/her role to anyone else, the family is at risk of key man/woman dependency.

The biggest question I receive from every client I meet with is…

“Why can’t my iPhone (insert any form of technology here) stand in for me in an emergency?”

I always answer this question with the following question…

“If your spouse’s plane crashed today, and you were handed his iPhone, could you figure out everything you needed to know about his job? More importantly, could his phone tell you where to find his life insurance policy or who his power of attorney is?”

Then we turn the tables…

“If you were to die today, would your husband be able to take your iPhone and understand how to do your job?”

The answer to both questions is always – “No, I would be completely lost.”

The reason being that technology does not translate our intent to others. My iPhone cannot tell my husband what time my daughter eats lunch at school, what my son’s carpool schedule is for baseball, who he can call for my four year olds play dates.

My iPhone is excellent at recording contacts- but they are just that – names and addresses lacking the CONTEXT of how they touch our family’s life.

My iPhone can you you I have an allergist, but I can’t tell you that my son receives like saving peanut allergy treatment via an epi-pen that is stored in the upper left cabinet in our bathroom.

Only YOU can provide the details and intricacies of how you manage your household.

The second question I am asked most frequently during speaking engagements is…

Do I have to hire someone to have a family handbook?”

The answer is ABSOLUTELY not.

I encourage you to take this summer and create your own family handbook!

  1. Make a list of all your specific roles
  2. Describe both how and who you use to accomplish them (be detailed and include accurate contact information)
  3. Organize your information in a logical format that others can understand (use a simple three ring notebook and tabs to divide the information into logical “chunks”)
  4. Store your information in a safe place (I recommend having both a hard copy and electronic version)

Above all else, I like to remind clients that your family handbook remains useful only if the following criteria are followed:

  1. Others know the handbook exists and know its permanent location
  2. You and your family are familiar with the handbook contents and are comfortable retrieving information in a panic
  3. The criteria data remains updated and accurate

There is not right or wrong way to create a family handbook. The most important thing is that one exists and that others can retrieve the information easily and in an emergency.

The third most frequently asked question I receive is…

“My life is so complicated, how will I ever find the time to complete this?”

I encourage you to take this summer and turn procrastination into action.

Take a few minutes each day to chronicle the important intricacies of your family’s life. When you think your handbook is in a good place, put it through a test run.

Hand your notebook to a close friend or spouse and see if they can step into your shoes and help in a crisis based on what you have created. If your notebook needs tweaking, take the time to make the changes recommended by a friend.

I’ve seen the crisis first hand and while we don’t live for the “what ifs” in life, providing a safety net for those we love “just in case” is something we can’t afford NOT to do.

Be inspired to take the summer challenge of creating your own family handbook. My hope for you is that your family handbook will become as one client described…”like the fire extinguisher I keep under the kitchen sink…I hope I never have to use it for its intended purpose, but it sure does give me peace of mind knowing it is there.”

Lori Martin

 By Lori Martin of The Purple Martin & Co. 

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