As someone with a very busy career life, I also have a very busy social life. It’s not that I have a lot of friends, it’s that I want to see my few friends a lot and spend quality time with them. I don’t thrive on virtual connections and have recognized that in-person interactions nourish my soul. Between lab, teaching, outreach, hobbies, family, friends, and networking, my weeks are packed to the brim. So how do I make time for the people in my life? It’s simple: they’re on a routine schedule.
It shows you care. I have family dinner once a week on either Tuesdays or Wednesdays, date nights on Fridays, and girl brunch on Sundays. These times are the bare minimum I can do to spend time with my loved ones. Scheduling gatherings means we don’t go more than a week without seeing each other. I try my best to see them more than once a week, but sometimes, that is the best I can do. By setting aside time for the people in my life, I show them that I care, that I value their time and presence.
It establishes certainty. Creating a routine takes the guesswork out of when the next gathering will be, thus increasing the probability that it will happen. How many times have you found it so hard to schedule something with someone because your schedules don’t align and you just give up on making plans altogether?
It increases the quality of gatherings. Making a schedule also allows us to plan for the next gathering: the menu, activities, vibe, etc. I know I’ll always have to cook for family dinner so I ask everyone ahead of time what they would like to eat. Most of the time, we pick the most complicated and labor intensive recipes so I need to be prepared to set aside time and brain space for each meal. If we didn’t have regularly scheduled dinners, I’d be stressing and moving around things on my calendar to accommodate for this time-intensive gathering.
It decreases stress. I’m actually a very spontaneous person, but I also thrive on routine. I like seeing all my social engagements on a calendar so I know what to anticipate. It also helps me structure my days so I don’t drink on nights when I have a big work day the next day. I still leave big chunks of my time unscheduled to allow for whatever life throws at me that week.
Like I said, my once weekly gatherings are the bare minimum I put in to see my loved ones. I love it when they come over spontaneously and am adequately prepared to handle their visits. I believe that interpersonal relationships are one of a person’s greatest assets: human capital. By nurturing these relationships, we also nurture ourselves.