Inside: No time for friends? Think again. Here are 10 doable tips for making time for friends again—even with a busy schedule. 

Do you remember the last time you had a blast with a friend who “gets” you? You could pick up right where you left off, even after not seeing each other for a long time. You hadn’t had so much carefree fun, laughter, or connection in a long time.

At the end, you both chimed in as you parted ways, “We’ll have to do this again!” 

Life returned to its normal hustle and bustle. Christmas, summer, and your (dreaded) birthday rolled by.

Crickets.

Welcome to the new norm for modern-day stop-and-go relationships. As Americans, we tend to prioritize friendships after our families and work, when little time or energy remains. So despite our best intentions, friendships drop to the bottom of our to-do list.

But how do we maintain friendships when 1001 things are clamoring for our attention? When we can barely manage our day-to-day lives, let alone another commitment? And does it even matter?

Why is Making Time for Friends Important?

Ignoring our friendships comes at a cost at both an individual and societal level. Underneath the frenetic pace of our life lies deep loneliness. The problem is that we rarely slow down enough to get in touch with this loneliness, so many of us aren’t aware of it.

A recent study shows that 58% of U.S. adults struggle with loneliness. Almost fifty million Americans over the age of forty-five suffer from chronic loneliness. 

Another study shows that Americans report a declining number of close friends over the last few decades. Now, forty-nine percent of Americans report having three or fewer close friends, and 12% of Americans have no close friends. 

Loneliness impacts both our physical and mental health. Studies show that it’s associated with a higher risk of hypertension, heart disease, obesity, as well as weaker immune systems.

People reporting loneliness experience more depression and worsened sleep. Social isolation is also correlated with poorer coping skills and less physical activity. 

What You Need to Know About Social Isolation

Loneliness and social isolation tend to go hand in hand (though not always). Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 warns of the dangers of social isolation:

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (NIV). 

Social isolation is connected with pride, self-serving desires, as well as foolishness. Proverbs 18:1 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment” (NKJV).

When we see the Amazon delivery guy more often than our friends, it’s understandable why loneliness is the new epidemic. The good news is that God provided a solution from the very beginning. 

How God Provided for Loneliness

God never intended for us to live without friends or support. In Genesis 2:18, God recognizes man’s need for companionship: “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NIV). 

Friendships are one of God’s greatest gifts to us. All it takes is one good friend to reap the benefits of meaningful friendships. Good friends can help us:

·       decrease loneliness and social isolation

·       lessen stress and improve physical/mental well-being

·       provide encouragement and emotional support

·       improve our resilience through the storms of life

·       fulfill our needs for companionship and a sense of belonging

·       keep humble by reminding us that we are not self-sufficient

Finally, let’s not forget that good friends help us enjoy life and have much-needed fun (that elusive three-letter word that seems to dry up in midlife). For this, too, is a gift from God. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (NKJV).

You might relate to the feeling of being surrounded by people (or kids), yet still alone without meaningful friendships or authentic church fellowship. We were never meant to do life alone, yet unfortunately, many of us live this way—and are paying dearly for it.

Let’s examine how we can make more time for friendship and fellowship.

Making Time for Friends When You’re Already Busy

1. Make friendships (and fellowship) an intentional priority. 

Stephen Covey first coined the concept of “big rocks first.” According to this model, we should prioritize and schedule our Big Rocks first, referring to our most important priorities. For most of us, friends are the bits of gravel that we may (or may not) fit into the nooks and crannies of our schedules.

If we want to change this, we must make the paradigm shift of making friendship one of our Big Rocks.

While our spouses and kids are important, consider if you need to rebalance your priorities to make friendships happen. Friendship is a form of self-care, just like a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep.

Sure, we could go without, but we’ll suffer for it.

2. Schedule friendships on your calendar. 

Don’t relegate your friendships to your mental Someday List. Translate your “I-should-call-her-sometime” good intentions into concrete plans. Make a specific plan with a friend, schedule it like any other appointment, and protect it.

Friendships don’t deepen with once-a-year get-togethers but require consistent, intentional effort.

3. Invite a friend to do something you already do. 

Kill two birds with one stone. Invite someone to walk their dog with you around the neighborhood. Have another parent over for a playdate.

Attend the same church service. Run an errand together. Go brick-and-mortar shopping (remember those days?). Get your exercise steps in together.

4. Invite a friend to have a meal with you.

We’ve all got to eat, right? Jesus modeled breaking bread and having a meal together as one of the best ways to deepen friendships.

Enjoy a meal at that new restaurant that you’ve been wanting to try, or invite a friend over for a meal. Alternatively, meet over coffee, tea, or dessert.

5. Use your lunch break or work commute.

With a little planning, you can use your lunch break to call a friend or take a walk with a co-worker outside. Another idea is to call someone during your commute to work. (Okay, this one might not work for introverts, but you get the idea.)

6. Substitute real-life friends in place of social media and TV.

We often feel like we don’t have enough time for friendship in our busy lives. But one study shows that the average American spends about 2 hours on social media each day. And another study shows that Americans spend 3 hours a day watching TV.

Social media and TV are low-hanging fruit when we need more time. Consider cutting back in this area to make time for a friend.

7. Get rid of an obligation on your calendar.

Make a list of your current commitments. Examine whether you’re doing anything because you have to, rather than want to. It’s easy to conflate an obligation with importance.

Consider cutting back on this activity or scrapping the obligation altogether. 

8. Make standing dates.

Part of the reason that good intentions fall apart is a lack of a follow-up plan to meet again. It takes time and organization to make plans amidst life’s craziness.

Make it easier by setting up a recurring date with a friend instead. Plan something simple every Wednesday or every other Friday, for example.

The less thinking and planning, the better. Give the meet-up a fun name if that helps! 

9. Use your Reminders app to remember people’s birthdays.

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter, especially when you don’t have much free time. Make a habit of creating a reoccurring reminder on your phone every time that you learn a friend’s birthdate.

Surprise them by texting them on their birthday and show them that you’re thinking of them. Better yet, call them to catch up. For brownie points, send them a handwritten card or gift.

10. Prioritize your most important friendships. 

If you juggle multiple responsibilities, the chances are that you might be able to see only a couple of friends regularly. That’s okay. Studies have shown that we are limited in the number of friends that we can have simultaneously. We won’t be able to be friends with everyone. 

Quality is better than quantity during this season. Learn to say no to certain people and commitments so that you can say yes to the people you want. Prioritize and enjoy the friendships that mean the most to you.

A Decision That is Well Worth It

Keeping in touch with our friends will require intentionality and persistence, but it’ll be well worth it. Hospice nurse Bronnie Ware once identified the following as one of the top regrets of people on their deathbed:

I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

When we look back at the end of our lives, it will not be how high we scaled the career ladder, how much money we socked away in our 401K, or how many Legos we managed to keep off the living room floor. So don’t let your friends hear only crickets from you.

Recap: 10 Ways for Making Time for Friends (and Fellowship)

1.     Make friendships an intentional priority. 

2.     Schedule friendships on your calendar. 

3.     Invite a friend to do something you already do. 

4.     Invite a friend to have a meal with you.

5.     Use your lunch break or work commute.

6.     Substitute real-life friends in place of social media and TV.

7.     Get rid of an obligation on your calendar.

8.     Make standing dates.

9.     Use your Reminders app to remember people’s birthdays.

10.  Prioritize your most important friendships. 

Which of your friendships need nurturing? How can you make more time for these friends?

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For more on friendships:
How many friends can you maintain?
How to make new friends
How to deepen your existing friendships

Photo by Courtney Cook on Unsplash

About the Author

Helen Rees

I am a Christian, wife, stepmom, psychiatric nurse, and writer. I write about research-backed ways to navigate the challenges of fast-paced modern life while growing in your Christian faith.

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