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5 Ways to Maintain Friendships When You're Busy

How to juggle friendships with all the other stuff going on.

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Friendships are beautiful because they're voluntary: they lack blood ties or formal rituals to cement them. We chose them freely because they enhance our lives. But because they are voluntary, they also get neglected when our time is squeezed.

Below, I share five tips for keeping friendships alive when we're busy.

Hang out in a group. Research finds that individuals are more likely to maintain friendships when their friends are friends with one another. Plus, the friend group is a great way to check-in with many friends in a consolidated time. So if you have a free evening, invite a bunch of friends to all hang out together. The con of group hangouts is that it can be more difficult to achieve the same level of intimacy, so set aside some time to have a conversation one-on-one.

Talk on the phone. Sure, a text does keep a friendship alive, but just barely. If you don't have the time to show up face to face and see your friend, then call them during your downtime—during a commute, or while standing in line somewhere. You can also send them a voice message if your phone phobic but want to create more intimacy.

Invite your friends to join your day-to-day tasks. When I was a Ph.D. student in the thick of my dissertation, and a friend texted me and said "I know you're really busy with school. Let's meet up and do work together?" I felt so grateful for his thoughtfulness. He presented the perfect solution for us to stay connected and for me to get done what I needed to. His behavior taught me the importance of inviting friends to accompany us in the day-to-day tasks that keep us so busy. Need to go to the gym? Invite your friend. Need to take care of the kid? Invite your friend for family movie night. Before you head to Ikea, see if your friend needs to get something for their house, too.

Be upfront about your busyness. Busy people lose friends because friends assume unavailability is rejection. It's a fair assumption since some do use perpetual busyness as a passive way to end a relationship. To make sure your friend knows you still care, be sure to be honest with them about your life and reassure them that you value them: Hey, I'm going through a busy time, so I might not be able to show up as much as I used to. I wanted to be upfront so you knew I value our friendship and that if I had more time, I'd love to see you more.

Re-prioritize friendship. It may be that we're just prioritizing other things right now—family, career, hobbies, and that's OK. But we should make sure to check in with ourselves internally and see if we're prioritizing what we truly want. Work has deadlines and a boss to keep us in line, but friendships don't, so it's easy to let them fall to the wayside. Instead of drifting into fulfilling what's expected of us, we need to make sure we prioritize what matters most.

Note: This article is also posted on my website where you can take a quiz to assess your friendship skills.


Salzinger, L. L. (1982). The ties that bind: The effect of clustering on dyadic relationships. Social Networks, 4, 117-145.

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