We live in a culture that values not just success, but how quickly we can attain it. Often, this pursuit of achievement means putting friends aside to focus on work or school. I am all for targeting what you want and doing what you need to get ahead, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing your personal relationships. Even at the busiest of times there are ways to stay in touch and let those you love know you care about them. Here are a few thoughts on making it manageable.
Apologize and Reboot
If you have been MIA and suddenly realize that you’ve been absent or unaware of some important developments in your friend’s life, pick up the phone and apologize. Even better – do it in person if possible. Everyone gets busy from time to time, but if you can own your lapse in attention, most will be willing to forgive and forget. Then follow up with plans or a way of checking in that you know you can actually follow through on. This will let your friend know that you’re apology was sincere, and that you’re a person who doesn’t just toss around empty words.
Make Friends with Your Technology…
…And your technology will help you keep your friends! With the video call capabilities offered by services such as Skype, Google Hangout and Apple’s Facetime, there’s no excuse anymore for being out of touch. These services are not just for long distance! Try to schedule a regular session on a weekly or monthly basis, and that way even if you fall into a work abyss in between chats, you’ll all know it won’t be too long before you see each others’ faces again. Think of the Skype date as you would think of any other plans you would make with your friends – make sure to keep them. Just because you’re chatting through a computer, tablet or smartphone doesn’t mean it’s OK to break your plans.
It would be great if we organically remembered to call our friends. But the reality is that when mired down with deadlines or family commitments, it can be a challenge to focus our attention on anything besides the immediate emergency on our desks or in our homes. It’s one of the few times that having the ability to focus can be detrimental. If you know you have a tendency to shut out the rest of the world when in the midst of a big project, put a reminder on your calendar to send a “just checking in” text or an email. Whenever you first check your calendar in the morning, take action immediately when you see the text or email reminder and dash off a quickie. Don’t wait and give yourself a chance to be distracted by whatever chaos the day has in store for you.
Use Social Media to Stay Social
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be great ways to find out what your friends are up to, especially when you don’t have time to jump on the phone or make a coffee date and chit chat. But social media feeds can also become huge time wasters, grabbing fast to your attention as you fall down a rabbit hole of status updates and cute kitty pics. To more efficiently use social media as a catch up tool, make a list of your close friends. Set a timer for 10 minutes and use it to just browse updates from that specific list. No deviating! No browsing! Then take 5 additional minutes to respond to some of the updates, either with a post, message or quick email. In just 15 minutes, you’ll know what’s going on in your friends’ lives and you’ll have let them know that even if you don’t have time to hang out, they are still on your mind and in your heart.
Pay Your Monthly Birthday Card Bill
Facebook provides a wonderful platform for publicly celebrating one’s birthday, but close friends should take the extra step of sending a card or picking up the phone to send more personal greetings. One method to make sending cards more manageable is to make the first day of each month “birthday card” day: buy, write and send all the cards for birthdays occurring that month. It’s just like having a scheduled day to take care of all of your monthly bills, except it’s a lot more fun! Sending cards out this way means you won’t have to worry about anyone’s actual birthday falling through the cracks. And don’t worry if a friend’s birthday occurs in the latter half of the month – no one has ever complained about getting a birthday card too early!
These are just a few ways to help get through the challenge of staying in touch when you are super busy with work and life projects. Because making an effort to show those you love how much you care is always Emma Approved!