How to Organize Your Social Life

planning on calendar
Photo: iStock
Divvy up your free time so you can dish out the biggest slice to the people you really like—and (politely) leave crumbs for the ones you don’t.
  1. Your Mom

    She called last night (twice actually), and she’s already left a voice mail this morning: “Are you coming to your nephew’s second birthday party this weekend? If you miss it, your sister will be devastated. Plus, I never see you anymore....” You love her, you swear you do, but sometimes you could just... Anyway, the last thing you want to do is waste your weekend watching two-year-olds run around Chuck E. Cheese’s.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    Come on, she’s your mom. She may be a little annoying, but she loves you and misses you (yup, we went there with the guilt). Suck it up and go to the kid’s party—there will be pizza! Then check in with a weekly phone call, plus the occasional dinner. That, and visits for major holidays, should keep Mom happy -- and you sane.

  2. Your Work "Friend"

    You guys are war buddies now that you share a new boss whose temper puts Gordon Ramsay's to shame. While you may not have a lot in common outside the office, you know it’s important to hit happy hour with your coworkers for professional reasons. But maintaining work ties can feel like more, um, work. So you reschedule drinks a million times, and somehow that cocktail just never happens.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    The annoying but true reality: It’s important to make an effort with coworkers and to keep in touch with other people in your industry too. It’ll help you stay relevant, and it could even get you a promotion or new gig. That means throwing back an occasional after-work beer is actually good for your career. What’s one night every six weeks or so compared to the payoff of a great job rec or promotion?

  3. Your Closest Pals

    They’ve been there through it all: the what-am-I- doing-with-my-life phase, the failed relationships and questionable hookups, and, of course, the big decision to move in with someone. But now that you’re all so busy with your careers and significant others, somehow the crew that’s most important to you barely gets face time, while the people you’re not even that crazy about (in-laws?) hog much more of your schedule.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    It’s time to shuffle your social priorities around. Just because your best buds understand when you have to work late or put in family time doesn’t mean they should get a smaller piece. Research indicates that connections like these are great for your mental and physical health. Read: They make you happy. So make a point to hang at least twice a month. And don’t miss their birthdays and housewarmings -- that stuff really does matter.

  4. Your (Still-Partying) Fraternity Brother (or Sorority Sister)

    When you were both single, you were a force to be reckoned with. But now that you’ve found yourself a mate -- and your pal’s still on the prowl -- your relationship has changed. Unfortunately, your Sigma Chi bro doesn’t try to hide his disappointment at all: “You’re so whipped. Why don’t you grow a pair already?” The truth is, you just don’t get your thrills from shotgunning beers anymore (at least not at 11 a.m. on a Sunday). Still, the bonds of brotherhood are way too strong to completely cut him out.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    You do have a history with this guy (even if he’s bordering on being a jackass these days), so just be straight with him: You’d love to watch an occasional football game or grab a beer after work sometime, but he’s going to have to find a new wingman for picking up college chicks. There’s a reason you’ve settled down -- you’re over that part of your life, and you’re happy about it. So if he wants to keep hanging out, he needs to be cool with that. Final verdict: A once-a-month meet-up is plenty for now.

  5. The Old (Sort of Toxic) Friend

    You know the one -- the person who’s been in your life ever since you can remember, which is probably the reason you put up with this pal’s seriously uncool shenanigans (standing you up, criticizing your relationship and competing over just about everything). Every time you meet up, you go home pissed off, yet something keeps you coming back for more. Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve known each other since preschool or maybe you’re just a masochist -- either way, you’re running out of excuses for why you can’t check out your frenemy’s “amazing” new pad.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    As hard as it is, it may be time to cut ties with this old “friend.” Life’s just too short (and your time’s too precious) to waste on relationships that drag you down, even those that began in the sandbox. But we get it, breaking up with friends is never fun. This is a situation that calls for the passive-aggressive slow fade -- “Sorry, I can’t this weekend, but maybe the next one?” -- repeated a few times until those crumbs of your time become zilch. Or just take the mature route: Step up and air your grievances already.

  6. Your Significant Other

    Of course you love being around your special roomie (isn’t that why you moved in together?). Problem is, when you’re trying to please all the other people in your life, it’s easy to neglect the person closest to you -- after all, you’ll see each other at home later anyway, right?

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    It can be tempting to spend all of your free time hibernating à deux, but just remember that too much together time isn’t a good idea. Even the best relationships need breathing room. But that doesn’t mean your other half doesn’t deserve a healthy portion. In case you haven’t already figured it out, sharing a life together means spending a good amount of time together too. So go ahead and give ’em the biggest chunk -- because this particular person requires lots of extra time for something you don’t get to do with anyone else (wink, wink).

  7. Your Wife's (or GF's) Best Friend's Husband (or BF)

    Now that you share a home, you apparently need to share friends too -- at least your partner thinks so. She’s hoping you’ll hit it off with this guy, so the four of you can double date, or maybe go in on a share house together this summer. So when he invites you over to watch the game, she won’t stop dropping “hints” that it would really mean a lot to her. The guy seems perfectly normal, but you’ve got plenty of other people you’d rather hang with.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    Hate to break it to you, but now that she’s dropped the “it would really mean a lot to me” bomb, you’re stuck going over there to watch the game -- at least this time. Since it’s important to your wife that you make an effort, fork over at least a baby slice for the dude on occasion. Maybe you’ll discover a shared love of the Patriots and PBR. But if the chemistry’s just not there, hey, at least you tried -- and things won’t be awkward when you see him on Pictionary night.

  8. That Girl from Yoga Class

    She moved her mat and helped you squeeze into class when you were 10 minutes late, and then you shared a laugh about the creepy guy in the back who seemed to enjoy watching you do camel pose a little too much. Sure, she seemed like fun, but that doesn't mean you want to give up sushi and The Real Housewives for a Tuesday night spent sipping green tea with your new friend. Geez, it's technically a school night after all.

    Piece of Your Social Pie

    Oh, come on now -- when did you become so lame? New friendships keep life fresh and interesting! And who knows, she may end up becoming one of your closest friends. (Okay, she could also be a total whack job -- but the point is, there's only one way to find out.) You don't have to expend a ton of energy on a start-up friendship, but throw her a bone (or some crumbs). One drink won't kill you. If you just don't mesh, no need to return her calls. You can always switch yoga classes (you're usually late for that one anyway, right?).

    Nestperts: Connie Stapleton, PhD, a licensed psychologist and author in Augusta, Georgia (MindBodyHealthServices.com), and LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, a Florida-based psychologist and relationship expert (LoveVictory.com)