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We’ve all said it before: ‘Listen, I’m so sorry, but I can’t make it!  I hope you understand…’

And while, for the most part, friends and significant others do understand that responsibilities abound and schedules are always in flux, there comes a breaking point.  People get impatient, and the honest truth is that if you want your most valued people to feel the love, you’re going to have to carve out time for them.  Looking beyond the daydreams that involve time-traveling or a clone to handle multiple tasks at once, here are some ways to build and sustain productive habits while maintaining and growing your relationships.


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1) Building Blocks of Time Management

Go back to the basics of time management.  Sometimes we get so caught up in our work assignments that we don’t clearly plan how we are going to tackle our days.  I know I’ve done it before; assume that I can just tackle work as it comes and plan things in the spur of the moment.  Truth is, it’s really hard to manage when you’re free and when you’re busy if all your due dates are scribbled on a post-it somewhere, or are jumbled up in your email box.  Using a calendar app that syncs across devices ensures that you can track any task or deadline you need to remember in a split second, and warding off the dreaded words, ‘Oh my gosh, I forgot that I had to do [insert task here].’  By getting a visual of your day through these types of apps, you’ll see where you have blocks of free time, and can actually set up morning coffee and lunch dates.

Once you’ve planned your work, you can plan your fun.  I know, it ruins the spontaneity of the moment, but your cared-for companions will thank you for being the most reliable person that they see on a regular basis.  And trust me, that sort of respect only solidifies your relationships; people love when they know they will see you around.  It takes the edge off of your farewells, because no longer are they left wondering whether they will actually see you soon, or in a few months.

2) Bring a Buddy to Battle Boredom

I know what you’re thinking: ‘You want me to bring my friend to something I already hate doing?  Won’t that just make two of us unhappy?’  Chances are, if you have to go to the gym, do groceries, or go pick up dry cleaning, your friend might need to do the same.  They probably don’t enjoy those errands either.  If you coordinate your schedules right, you can go to the same places, get your mundane chores done, and feel more productive for it.  

Think of it this way: studies have shown that relationships grow closer when people go through unpleasant things together.  So, while it may seem distasteful to work up a sweat while complaining incessantly next to your friend or to debate the pros and cons of buying whole wheat pasta in your local supermarket, you and your friend will both benefit from the shared experience.  Who knows, you might just become fond enough of doing chores together that you will help each other spring-clean your respective closets, or even discover a buddy to help you pack for your next apartment move!

3) Widening the Circle

One of the best social choices I’ve ever made is combining my different circles of friends.  Initially, I was unsure as to whether this was a good idea.  Once I banished the fears that my friends may not get along, and realized that my friendship with each of them was a common thread that could make them suitable for each other, I was confident in my decision.

I recommend starting off small: make groups of two or three, and group them together in the same way for next few meet ups.  If you can do this in a timely manner, they’ll open up to each other enough that phone numbers will be exchanged, and they might even start planning out things among themselves.

This serves two glorious purposes in solidifying and growing friendships: first of all, your loved ones will recognize that you are not only creating a space in which they can feel comfortable, but that you are also thinking so much about their happiness that you are consciously working on finding ways in which they can forge meaningful connections.  Second, by expanding your circles, you now can see large amounts of friends in the small amount of time you have, and your friends now have more people to spend time with.  It really works wonders, because now your friends have a support group to turn to, but that support group is built on the basis of your careful thought.  Even when you don’t have time to physically be there, your care and presence is felt in every interaction.

4) Cells and Skype

While grand gestures can make a great impact, I’ve noticed that it’s the little things that matter most to your loved ones.  Dropping a small message in someone’s voicemail while driving to work, sending a small card in the mail when you had free time the weekend before, or recording a silly video for someone during your lunch break are all ways to show your care.  

While we think that ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ the truth is that when you do little things out of the blue, it makes up for the lack of spontaneity when you have to schedule times for fun three weeks in advance.  A big part of relationships is consistency.  It may sound contradictory to be consistent through small spontaneous acts, but the goal here is to be consistently in their lives; varying the means by which you communicate only makes it more enjoyable.  

I find that balancing relationships and responsibilities is not about taking on less work, or slowing your progress towards career aspirations.  As an ambitious woman in this fast paced world, it’s about putting in serious thought regarding who you value, and making an investment of your time and energy in the future of those relationships.  As long as you try to be smart about how you form bonds, it becomes less about the quantity of time spent, and more about the quality of time spent.  Experiment with what works for you to find balance, and find ways that help you say less, and actually do more!  You, and your relationships, will be glad you did.


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