The Most Important Thing You May Ever Add to Your To-Do List: Your Friendships

I have been a productivity coach for over a decade.  And, although I love the tools of productivity – calendars and task lists, timers and process documents – they are not the reason that I still enjoy what I do.

What keeps me fired up and engaged with my clients is seeing them live better, more fulfilling, lives because they improved their productivity.

You see, it’s not about the to-do list.  However…

 

Your to-do list is a crystal ball that reveals your future. ~Dr. Melissa Gratias

 

Ahh, the future.  I promise that this article is not about death.  I’ve already written about death.

Or, maybe it’s a little about death.

This article will tell you how NOT to die friendless.  Yay!

 

Having friends is a good thing, and maintaining friendships can get difficult as we get older.

We get distracted by jobs, mortgages, spouses, kids, and this annoying thing called “self-care.”

 

How do we prioritize friends?

 

I recently coached a client who set a goal to reach out and contact at least one of his friends every week.  We added it to his to-do list.

But, adding a recurring task to your to-do list can be stressful.  Especially when you already have a challenging list of tasks.

Here’s what we don’t want:  Oh no!  I forgot to call Herb!  I’m a failure! I’m a terrible person!  Herb will hate me now!

Those thoughts benefit nobody, especially Herb.

 

Here are some suggestions for productive friendships…

After you decide that calling your friends regularly is something that would be life-affirming and fun, set and communicate some rules.

Rules for friendship?  Yes, I’m totally serious.

Setting boundaries and clearly communicating your expectations saves tons of hurt feelings down the road.

Imagine sending this email to your friend Herb…

 

Dear Herb –

 I would like to call you more often, but here are the rules:

  • If you are busy, don’t answer.
  • If we are talking and you need to go, say so. Conversations can last 30 seconds.
  • There is no “turn taking.” No “I called you last time, so it’s your turn to call me.”  We don’t track turns.
  • When you get a voicemail from me, smile, but feel no obligation to return the call.
  • If the spirit moves you to call me, do it.
  • All the rules above apply in reverse.

If the rules sound good to you, let me know.

 Sincerely, Me

 

Does that seem crazy?  Nobody would ACTUALLY send an email like that to a friend, would they?

I did.

 

I’d lost touch with a friend when she moved across the country from me.  The bullet point list above was copied and pasted from my email to her a few months ago.

She loved the idea and quickly agreed to my terms.

 

Now, we happily trade voice mails every couple of weeks and speak once or twice a month.  My friend is back, and my life is the better for it.

 With these rules, calling my friend is never a source of stress or guilt.  Yes, I have it on my to-do list, but if it doesn’t get done, no biggie.  I postpone the task to another day.

Yes, friendship is organic and cannot be scheduled like an appointment.  But, if we do not allocate time and mental resources to maintaining friendships, they may fizzle.

 

Besides, calling friends is fun.  Fun is good.   People should have more fun.

Productivity tools help us allocate our time to work, family, yoga, and lots of other important things.

 

Why not use these same tools to manage our friendships?






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Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at getproductive@melissagratias.com or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.

4 Comments

  1. Joyce Teal

    Time for friends is vital to our well-being. Sometimes we get so “talked out” at work talking to co-workers, leading meetings, being on the phone, and so on, that we forget to talk to our friends. For example, my job requires me to have personal interaction all day at my job often with little or no break from others. Outside of work, I dreaded being on the phone or even visiting with friends. I knew this had to change.
    I stay active on Facebook and frequently send personal messages to friends. Every week I try to send at least one card with a personal note to someone. This is one of my favorite things to do! I nearly always get a call or email from the recipient!I felt good writing the card and receiving the thank you. The recipients live locally as well as globally so it makes the world feel smaller.
    Thank you for keeping us organized!

    Reply
  2. Charlie Collins

    Melissa isn’t just highly professionally skilled, she is also relationally wise. You are a constant value to your clients and friends.

    Reply
  3. Denise Reed

    I feel like I need to send your blog post email to some of my friends, insert crazy emoji here. Everyone seems like they are running 100 mph for business and personal. It seems the contact etiquette lines are blurred between business and personal, to become personal business. We’re almost imposing ourselves when we just want to visit with someone we care about.

    I’m with you Joyce Teal and Dr. Gratias. I’ve tried to make Saturday my P.J. day where I don’t leave the house and plan some personal “think time.” It’s my day to take a timeout, or personal mental health day. I try not to leave the house because I do that every other day of the week.

    Reply

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