We’ve all realized with wide-eyed panic that we forgot a best friend’s birthday. Or we remembered too late to be there for a friend whose kid had surgery. Or we remembered to be there for a friend at the beginning of their long-term medical treatment, but then life took over and we forgot to show up the whole way through. No one taught us about the benefits of scheduling time for friendship.
For those of us who think of ourselves as wonderful friends, it hurts to drop the ball on the people we care about, and it brings about surprising amounts of shame and disappointment in ourselves. Fortunately, there’s a better, gentler way to handle this. Maybe it’s time to start scheduling time for our friends.
Let’s give ourselves grace AND make sure it doesn’t happen again. I, myself, love to take the approach of, “okay, my brain clearly can’t remember this stuff on its own—what am I going to do about it?” Maybe it’s time to start scheduling time for our friends.
Here’s the thing: everything comes back to time. Everything. It all requires your time. So help Future You out and use a tool you’re likely already using to manage your time—a digital calendar—to help you show up in your friendships in the way that you want to.
I know this doesn’t sound all that fun or tech-sexy, but the reality is that we can’t and shouldn’t rely on our brains to show up for our friendships given everything else we have on our plates. Our brains need help to remember to intentionally connect and invest in our friendships, and there’s no shame in that. Here’s how to do it.
Scheduling time for birthdays
This first step may seem obvious—so if it does, bear with me. In order to start scheduling time with those you care about, first write out a list of the most important people in your life. Make sure their birthdays are in your calendar, repeating on an annual basis.
Next, write out what you want to do for each person’s birthday. For example, you might text one friend, plan a date or small dinner party for your partner, and send a card to your mom. Feel free to get creative. It can be large or small.
Then, for each person you want to start scheduling time for, think through all the steps that go into enacting those plans with them, and WHEN you’ll do them. For example, you might send a birthday text at 8am their time on your friend’s special day, start planning a party 4-6 weeks before your partner’s birthday, and buy and send a card the week before your mom’s birthday.
Finally, schedule these bite-size steps into your calendar and repeat them annually. While, yes, it takes front-end work, you’ll be feeling like an amazing friend, partner, and daughter for years to come.
Practical scheduling time tips for staying in touch
Whether your friends are local or long-distance, it’s hard to remember to touch base with them consistently when you’re juggling your career, health, and (potentially) partner and kids.
Using the above list of important people in your life, think about how often you’d ideally like to talk to those people. Once a week? Once a month? Every other month?
Then, using that information, start scheduling time to call them at that frequency (gotta love digital calendars for those repeating events!). Repeat “Call Cici” in your calendar at the frequency you determined, and “Call Jane” at that relevant frequency—weekly, monthly, etc. Pick times that generally work for any time zone differences that may exist and for discrepancies in both of your schedules.
To be clear, this is not a firm time you scheduled with them but just a reminder for you to call, text, or email them. Stay flexible with this. If you’re not in the mood when the alert goes off, move it to another day or let it go entirely. This approach is just designed to help you stay in touch with people in your life more often than you would otherwise.
Here’s how scheduling time actually helps you be there for loved ones going through a hard time
If someone is going through a hard time—whether it’s a divorce, chemo, or a rough time at work—increase the frequency with which you start scheduling time to reach out to them.
For example, if you normally try to call a friend once a week and that friend starts going through a hard time, up the frequency to every three days. This can mean a phone call or just a text—whatever works best for you and your friend. Again, this isn’t meant to be rigid or make you do anything you don’t want to do. It’s a way to help you show up for your friends in the way that you want to without having to juggle it all in your head. Say hello to your easier life.
I have a client who does this for a friend going through chemo every three weeks. Reminding herself in her calendar to buy her friend a funny card or just send her a text has allowed her to truly be there for her friend—something that makes her friend feel cherished and my client feel like the standup, wonderful person she is.
Relationships are everything
Our relationships are the most important parts of our life. And while they might have been easier to maintain in our school days, the lack of structured time to connect means we need to get more intentional about it. Don’t expect it just to happen or for your brain to magically remember to reach out enough to foster those friendships. Make sure it happens–even if it means using your time management tools to get there.
Not only will this help you feel like a terrific friend, but you’ll also be fostering the relationships that will hold you up when you’re going through a tough time. Better quality relationships lead to a better quality of life—so make the effort by scheduling time in advance to make it happen on purpose.
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