1. Blend “friend time” with another activity, such as exercising or shopping. “Schedule a manicure with a friend. You can talk the whole time you’re being worked on,” says Kathryn Alice, author of Love Will Find You.
2. Book the next date before you end an evening with friends. That’s what productivity guru Laura Stack does. “They used to tease me about this, but now they’re very disciplined about bringing out their calendars,” says Stack, author of Find More Time. Have kids? Stack advises setting a standing date with a baby sitter. “Then you know and she knows that every Saturday night you’re going out,” she says.
3. Combine work and personal calendars. “If you keep multiple calendars, you’ll have conflicts: You’ll double-book. You’ll talk to your friend and say, ‘Let’s have coffee.’ Then you’ll check your (calendar at work) and realize you have a big meeting at work,” says Stack. One solution: Carry a personalized digital assistant, or PDA, that’s in sync with your work calendar.
4. Organize group activities, such as book clubs or potluck suppers. “This way, you can catch up with many friends at once,” says Alice. And you won’t have to worry about the friend who always cancels at the last minute. Set the date once, and anyone who gets “held up at work” will simply miss out.
5. Don’t feel pressured to have coffee or lunch with everyone who asks. “In my business, I get hit up 20 times a month with people saying ‘I want to pick your brain. I want to take you out to lunch,’” says Stack. “But you can’t say yes to everyone, because then you’ll never say yes to yourself.” Besides, the more time you spend with those B-list acquaintances, the less time you’ll have for the people who really matter.
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