If you’re fortunate enough to be employed full-time, you’re spending close to ¼ of your 168 hours a week at work. This is even higher if you’re a salaried employee or work for yourself. Even if you are doing something you absolutely love, work is an inherently draining activity. When you factor a myriad of family obligations and responsibilities, it’s absolutely no wonder 1/10 people report not having even a single, close friend. Friendships, like all relationships, require a great deal of nurturing. More often than not it can feel impossible to justify spending the time strengthening existing friendships or seeking out new ones if life is just one big blur of going from one activity to the next.
The reality is that even with a demanding job, a full plate at home, and an energy tank that seems to constantly be on empty; it is wholly possible to cultivate your friendships and open yourself to new ones. It just requires some creative thinking and doing.
I actually surprise myself all the time by how quickly one can feel overwhelmed and feel that life is spiraling out of control. Yet, it is the time that I scarcely feel that I have yet choose to invest in those around me that actually renews me and gives me a greater sense of purpose and well-being. Let’s face it, life is rather dull if all you do is go to work, come home, eat, watch TV and go to bed. Repeating as needed.
Even on my busiest weeks (and this week would definitely rank up there in terms of sheer volume of work) I still prioritize my friendships. Even though I worked close to 55 hours this week (with one especially lovely 13 hour day), I still managed to spend almost two hours at an indoor pool with a girlfriend on Tuesday night, get coffee with another friend for about 25 minutes Thursday evening, host a girl’s movie night on Friday and attend a dinner party last night with my husband for about a total of four hours.
I understand if it may not be feasible to spend that much time in a week with friends, especially if you have little ones at home and would need to hire a babysitter each and every time you wanted to go out. Yet even when my stepdaughter was younger, my husband and I made it a priority to give the other ample opportunities to indulge in a boy’s night out or attend a concert with mates from school. Why? It’s important to us to encourage one another to seek outside relationships even if it can be logistically difficult to do so.
How do I make all of this possible? It boils down to prioritizing my friendships. I have felt true loneliness before and now that I am blessed with a strong and growing social network, I wouldn’t just toss it aside because I’d rather sit on the couch after a long day. This means that as much as I questioned my thought process of hosting a girl’s movie night after the end of a super long workweek, after the night was over I was glad I did because it led to complete and unexpected relaxation; the kind only giggling with girlfriends about silly movie plot lines can.
Besides prioritization, I practice the Golden Ratio, a concept I created for balancing work, family and friendships each and every week. Every Sunday I take a look at my calendar and get a sense of the landscape for the upcoming week. I already know at a bare minimum I will be at work for 8-10 hours a day Monday thru Friday. Then, I discount the number of hours I will be sleeping and in transition between tasks like commuting, which take up close to an hour every day. The remaining hours, roughly about 40-50 hours a week are what remain for things like doing chores around the house, running errands, catching up on shows on Netflix, and spending time with the people and things I care about.
With my calendar in front of me, I schedule blocks of time to spend with friends, family members or my husband. The Golden Ratio is the formula I use to allocate this time. Since my family and my husband in particular, are my number one priority, I plan to spend half of the remaining 40-50 hours a week with them. Whether that’s sitting in the kitchen chatting with my husband while making fettuccine alfredo or sitting on the couch Sunday morning and giving a quick ring to my mom to say hello, it’s how I hope to spend half of my ‘free’ time.
The other 20 hours or so, I divide roughly equally into time I would like to spend cultivating my friendships and time I plan on spending with myself to recharge after working long days. This means that I plan on spending about 10 hours a week with my friends. Once I have this in mind, I can start making plans in advance or accepting invitations to hang out. It doesn’t mean that it always works out to exactly 10 hours a week but because this is my goal; I can push myself to go the extra mile and not turn down an invite to go for a walk in the park merely because I’m tired and would rather take a nap.
The beauty of the Golden Ratio is that you can customize it to whatever is important to you. Once I have children of my own, I will likely want to adjust the amount of time I spend on things like commuting, doing chores, and even working so that I can focus on nurturing my little ones. The key thing is that with this technique, I ensure that I’m in charge of my time instead of the other way around. Life isn’t happening to me, I’m actually living it according to my own terms.
Building strong and balanced relationships is one of the keys to a creating a meaningful and well-lived life. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily living that before you know it, you’re just on auto-pilot, repeating the same pattern over and over again without really experiencing anything new and exciting. With the Golden Ratio, you decrease the likelihood of letting your life feel like it’s running away from you as you put yourself in charge of living in accordance with your values; making sure that you’re spending time doing the things that really make life worth living.
All it really takes is a calendar, some planning and a change in attitude to prioritize your needs and want. Before you know it you’ll be getting coffee with friends from days long past even with insane deadlines looming because it’s important to you.