I used to be the kinda gal whose instinct in a busy season was to put my head down and get to work, check the boxes, and move on to what’s next. I had a bad habit of losing myself in the chaos, not prioritizing self-care let alone friendships, just so I could keep my head above water. But I learned the hard way that handling my busy seasons that way not only took a toll on my quality of life but negatively affected my friendships. The last few months have been all-consuming, to say the least, but this time, I have been making room for joy—a.k.a. learning how to maintain friendships and find time for things that aren’t just tasks on my to-do list.
In my experience, the smallest things (like a quick coffee date with a friend or calling my bestie to say hi) can feel like a colossal undertaking when I’m busy, but prioritizing them makes all the difference in maintaining the quality of my friendships—and that’s more important to me than anything. If you have found yourself in a busy season of life, I want to encourage you to still make time for your friends, and to do that, I am suggesting the ways I am doing so in my own busy season:
Be upfront about your schedule
If your friends are keeping up with what’s going on in your life, they probably already assume your schedule is pretty packed. But it’s important that you acknowledge that and let them know that you want to see them—you just have a lot going on and need to find what day/time works best to get together. Communicating this and being honest with them about your schedule is the difference between them knowing you still want to prioritize your friendship and them thinking you forget about them altogether. That way, if you need to book a friend date for a few weeks from now, they completely understand.
Make plans far in advance
In this season of my life, if something isn’t in my planner ahead of time, it’s not happening; all my spontaneity goes out the window when I am busy. My calendar helps me keep my responsibilities and plans in line, so when it comes to scheduling time to see friends, I like to do it pretty far in advance. Not only does this help me organize my week, but with plenty of time to plan for it, it prevents me from canceling last minute. For example, if I have dinner plans with a friend for two weeks from now, I know ahead of time not to book too many other appointments, meetings, etc. on the same day (if I can help it). This helps me ensure that during the day, my responsibilities get done and don’t run late into the time I’m supposed to be meeting a friend. And similarly, this helps me make sure that I’m not overwhelmed when I get there and can be more present.
Don’t double-book friend dates
I made this mistake a million times over again before actually learning my lesson, so please, I beg of you, learn from me. If you have a free Saturday, for example, do not—and I repeat—do not book a coffee date with one friend and a lunch date with another. Because this is what happens: You will enjoy your coffee date with your friend and lose track of time, so you will have to cut your time short knowing you have somewhere else to be (making that friend feel less important), rush to your lunch date, end up being late to that (making the other friend feel unimportant too) and everyone, including you, will feel like crap about it. I hope that sentence felt as chaotic to you as the situation does in real life. Like I said, just don’t do it.
Call or text to check-in frequently
Sometimes days go by where I don’t talk to a single one of my friends simply because work, meetings, life, and other responsibilities are all-consuming. That’s normal in a busy season. However, being busy isn’t an excuse to disappear. Maybe you can’t schedule a time to get together with friends this week, but you can take a few minutes during your lunch break to text them that you’re thinking of them or you can call them on your morning walk to catch up. Check-ins go a long way, even if they are only for a few minutes before you have to hop into a meeting. Doing this consistently can help you make sure that you’re keeping up with what’s going on in your friend’s life instead of being consumed with your own.
Invite your friends to join you while you tackle your to-dos
Just because you’re busy does not mean you have to do everything alone. This is something I have repeated to myself over and over again. Being in a season of life when you feel like you can’t even keep up with your own schedule can feel isolating, but it doesn’t have to. One of the best ways that I have been able to prioritize my friendships among this is by inviting friends with me to do the things I am already planning on doing. For example, if I have to head to the mall to do returns, I ask a friend if they want to go with me, or if I am going to take a morning workout class, I tell a friend to book the class too so we can see each other there. These little pockets of time with friends, even if they are short (like seeing them before and after class) add up and ensure that weeks don’t go by without seeing the people who are important to you, and honestly, the people who help keep you sane on your busiest days.
Be there when it’s important
I know, we all have a lot on our plates, but do any of our “important” to-dos really matter when our friends need us? No. Your to-do list can wait, tasks can be pushed to the next day, and it’s going to be fine if you have to reschedule a meeting that could have been an email anyways. A good friend is willing to sacrifice things in their own life for the needs of others. So even if this means that your next day is busier than you expected because you had to rearrange your schedule to be there for a friend, it’s worth it. We don’t always get opportunities to show our friends how much they really mean to us—especially when we can hardly find the time to see them—so when it matters most, show up.