Home Health The Friendship Challenge: How to Make Time for Your Friends

The Friendship Challenge: How to Make Time for Your Friends


This is Day 3 of the 5-Day Friendship Challenge. To start at the beginning, click here.

One of my favorite running middle-aged jokes on TikTok and Instagram involves two busy parent friends trying to make plans.

You know the script: “Are you free next week?” one mom shouts into her earbuds while driving car pool.

“No, I have four dance recitals, two block parties and 67 soccer games to attend,” the other mom answers, stirring a pot of chili while answering a work email.

“Next month?”

“No, we’re finally taking that vacation we’ve put off for 10 years.”

And on it goes, until they finally settle on a date in late 2026.

Making plans to socialize with friends can be challenging, no matter what stage of life you are in, said Kasley Killam, a social scientist and the author of the forthcoming book “The Art and Science of Connection.” That is why she believes that one of the best things you can do to prioritize your social health is put your friendships on autopilot by scheduling regular opportunities for connection.

“It’s about automating the logistical sides of our friendships so that we can just be present,” she said. “It ties into the fact that friendships — and all of our relationships — blossom the most when there are consistent touch points.”

Here are a few ways to do it:

A standing dinner date. Ask a handful of friends over to your home for an easy meal on the same day of the week every month. Add the date to your calendars, making sure it repeats each month, and whoever can make it will make it. There may be specific benefits to meeting up in real life, said Eric Kim, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Kim worked on a recent study that found having frequent face-to-face contact with friends was associated with better mental and physical health. And he’s putting what he learned into practice: Every time Dr. Kim meets up with his three closest friends, he ends the get-together by putting their next date on the calendar. Efficient!

“The more you have a routine of interacting with somebody, the less you have to work at it,” said Jeffrey Hall, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas. “It also gives you something to look forward to.” For example, perhaps you and a friend get together every summer to have a barbecue, or every winter when you’re back in your hometown, you visit the same friend, he said.

A weekly call or text. OK, nothing beats in-person connection. But as we already established this week, it is also true that even a brief text exchange can feel meaningful. So here comes that calendar reminder again: A pop-up might prompt you to ping the same person every week, or maybe it suggests someone new. The point is to reach out.

Break out the Post-its. A low-tech option is to place a note somewhere you are apt to see it, such as a bathroom vanity, reminding you to reach out to a friend. Or, while you are writing out your to-do list for the week, make a “to-love” list, Ms. Killam suggested. Corny? Sure. But a list like this can help you prioritize your friendships, she said.

“It’s about having these reminders and rituals so that it becomes habitual,” Ms. Killam said. “It’s so easy for our connections to just be the last thing on our to-do list.”

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