Me too. I get it! There are a million things asking for our time and energy every day, and there’s only so many hours available. How are you supposed to see your friends, go above and beyond with extra hours at work, cook healthy homemade Instagram-ready meals, achieve and maintain a toned physique, travel, keep in touch with everyone you’ve met ever, and also stay levelheaded and sane? Answer is: you can’t.
1. Think carefully on your existing commitments, and break any that no longer bring you joy.
Do you need to do all of these things? I know the default answer that comes to mind is a kneejerk “yes,” but take a minute to really consider why that item is on your calendar. Does it make you feel fulfilled? Does it make you happy, or move you towards a greater goal? If the answer is no, then it’s time to reconsider, and see if there’s a way out.
2. Say no.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s worth saying again: say no to as many demands on your schedule as possible. Instead of going for coffee, can you talk on the phone for 15 minutes? What social obligations can you reasonably turn down without offending? There will always be more demands on your time than you have room for – so be relentless but respectful with your No’s, and don’t agree to something just because you don’t already have something scheduled.
3. Initiate fewer plans.
Some people never initiate plans, and they’re already a step ahead here. For the people who say, “But if I don’t make plans with X, we’ll never see each other!” What does that say about that relationship? The good friends will stay, and you’ll find time for them without even thinking about it.
4. Build in time for yourself, and treat it with the same respect that you would treat time scheduled for work or with a friend.
You wouldn’t schedule over plans with a friend – instead, you probably say something to the effect of, “I don’t have a free night this week, but how about next Tuesday?” It works the same way whether your weeknight plans are with another friend or with yourself. Don’t be afraid to politely defer. The true friends will be happy that you’re taking time to yourself.
5. Stop combining activities.
This might seem counterintuitive, but constantly multi-tasking your commitments gets exhausting. Sometimes you really should just go work out by yourself, even though you could potentially squeeze in a catch-up with a friend if you invite her along. There’s a chance that by inviting her that you wouldn’t get in the workout you had planned (she agrees, but asks if you can go to slow yoga instead of front row at Soul), and also prevent you from catching up with her the way your friendship deserves. There’s only so much real talk conversation you can have while sweating it out through a circuits class, so be respectful to all of your commitments and stop double-booking yourself.
6. Know when to put in the extra time (and when to take it back).
Going to a friend’s place for dinner, and want to bring a host gift? Sure, you could absolutely make your famous brownie bars (that take two days and a trip to a specialty chocolate shop to make), but wouldn’t a beautiful floral arrangement from the shop on the way work just as well? Know when your time will be appreciated, and when it would be better spent elsewhere.
7. Don’t schedule things down to the minute, and give yourself plenty of breathing room to get between commitments.
I can get most places in central San Francisco in 30 minutes – oftentimes even less if I take a car. To avoid stress, I round up and build my schedule with the assumption that it will take me 30 minutes to get anywhere. It’s important to be realistic about timing, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to notice how much more calm my days are when I’m not scrambling like a madwoman because omigod I need to be there NOW and why is the nearest driver 12 minutes away?!
8. Be forgiving.
I’ve gone through spirals where I feel like a horrible friend for saying I don’t have time to get together right away – yet I’m sympathetic when a friend says the same thing to me. Be forgiving to yourself if you feel guilty for saying no, and be forgiving to others if they say that this week is crazy. We’re all just doing the best we can.