When I have people track their time, they are often pleasantly surprised to see how much time they are spending with their families.
Friends, on the other hand, are a different story.
When people get busy with work and kids, friendships can be hard to push up the priority list. If adult-only time is available, you might make a rational choice to invest that time in keeping your marriage going (or at least getting some exercise). Getting together with friends tends to require making plans, and managing a career and a family already requires planning a lot. Sometimes it’s easier not to bother. So people will track a normal week and see close to zero time with friends who aren’t colleagues. Colleagues can make great friends, but if it’s not time outside of active work (e.g. happy hour or a lunch time walk) it probably doesn’t feel quite the same.
This is all unfortunate, because there is pretty good evidence that friendships make people healthier and happier.
The good news is that maintaining and growing friendships doesn’t need to take a ton of time. Investing 1-2 hours per week — out of 168 — can make a big payoff. Plus, knowing those 1-2 hours are coming up can change the feeling of the entire week as you know you have something good coming up and can look forward to it.
This leads me to my March Friendship Challenge. If you tracked your time in January — or even if you didn’t! — and felt that you would like to spend more friends, here’s the chance to hold yourself accountable. Here’s what you do:
- List a few folks you’d like to get together with. If you and your spouse tend to socialize together sometimes, you could create a joint list plus some people you’d want to get together with individually too.
- Look at your calendar for March and see what might make sense. Are some weekends more open than others? Maybe there’s a school half-day coming up where you’ll be taking a half day too. Look at events that your friends might want to join you for, or just get creative. As we learned a few weeks ago, no one is busy at 5 a.m. For long distance friends, a blocked out time to FaceTime/Zoom/chat can work too.
- Call/email/text these people and offer them a slot plus a back-up. As in “we would love to have you over [x weekend]! Could you do a Friday early dinner or Saturday lunch?” The back-up increases the chances of it happening — plus if the person can’t do either, they’re highly likely to offer an alternative, as your specifics have shown you are serious in a way that “let’s get together sometime” doesn’t necessarily show.
- Aim for weekly. Challenge yourself to get at least four such get-togethers on your calendar for March.
- Trouble-shoot any logistical challenges that might thwart your plans. Your proposed back-up slot might come in handy here. But the upside of planning at least four get-togethers is that 2-3 are highly likely to happen, and that’s probably more than were happening before.
If you already have some friend get-togethers on the calendar, great! Some people have book clubs, run with a group every Thursday morning, rotate houses for lunch after church, or have a neighborhood pot-luck once a month, and those are all amazing. All these count, but you could still challenge yourself to add another get-together or two to the calendar for March. If you don’t have such a regular get-together, March might be a good time to start one! Regular get-togethers lower the transaction costs of getting together because no one needs to plan it, and people start to protect the time on their calendars.
And as for people you see regularly? You might consciously try to turn an occasion where you regularly see someone into something more friendly. If you’re headed to the playground after pick-up see if another family wants to join you. If today doesn’t work, figure out another day that would. If you see someone frequently at the dog park, see if they want to set a time to be sure to meet (and let the dogs play).
Anyway, if this sounds of interest, let me know! Life is always busy, but when it comes to friendship, 1-2 hours a week can change the narrative from “I have no time for fun” or “I have nothing to look forward to” to something a little more positive. And when so much in the world seems bleak, that can make a big difference.
Photo: No flowers yet, but this photo was snapped on May 1 last year so they are coming!