Healthy Lifestyle

Find More Time to Socialize: 8 Time-Savers for a Better Social Life

How to make time for your friends and fun without getting overscheduled.

By Sara Droman

It's All About Scheduling

When you were younger, it was easy to have an active social life. At a moment's notice, you could pop around the corner for a beer or game of Frisbee. But as you get older, more pressing matters take over -- like earning a living, staying healthy, and spending time with your family. If you want to reconnect with friends and jump-start your social life but don't think you have the time, try these tips from our experts.

1. Double Your Pleasure

Instead of meeting your best friend for a glass of wine or cup of coffee, combine your socializing with other activities like exercising or shopping. "Schedule a manicure with a friend -- you can talk the whole time you're being worked on," says Kathryn Alice, author of Love Will Find You. After all, going for a run or picking out your fall wardrobe is a lot more fun when done in twos.

2. Book the Next Date Before You Go Home

Whenever Laura Stack and her husband visit with their friends, she always ends the evening by planning the next date. "They used to tease me about this, but now they're very disciplined about bringing out their calendar," says Stack, author of Find More Time. For people with kids, Stack advises having a standing date with a babysitter. "Then you know and she knows that every Saturday night you're going out. You may not know what you're doing, but you're going out," she says.

3. Buy Birthday and Holiday Gifts All Year Long

"When I see something a friend would like, I just get it," says Stack. After all, it takes no extra time to toss something into your cart the moment you see it, and it saves you from trolling the malls the day before the big occasion. You'll probably also get a better price.

4. Combine Work and Personal Calendars

"If you keep multiple calendars, you'll have conflicts -- you'll double-book. You'll talk to your friend and say 'Let's have coffee.' Then you'll check your Blackberry and realize you have a big meeting at work," says Stack. You can only be in one place at one time, so your appointments should all be in one place, too. Your best bet: sync up your work calendar and contacts with a PDA device so you can have the most up-to-date information with you when you're on the go.

Prioritizing People and Place

5. The More the Merrier

Organize group activities like book clubs, pub meets, or potluck suppers. "This way, you can catch up with many friends at once," says Alice. You'll also give your friends the pleasure of each other's company, and maybe make a few new friends yourself. Another bonus of group outings: You eliminate the problem of the endless rescheduler -- that maddening person who always cancels at the last minute. Set the date once, and anyone who gets "held up at work" will have to wait until the next time.

6. Guarantee a Worthwhile Evening

As any single person knows, finding time to date can be incredibly difficult -- so many frogs, so little time! If you're planning a date with someone you're not sure about, like a man you met through an Internet dating site, or that guy your Aunt Sally insists is your soul mate, there's no way to ensure that the chemistry will be in sync or the conversation sparkling. But Lynn Harris, author of Breakup Girl to the Rescue! A Superhero's Guide to Love and Lack Thereof, says you can avoid that wasted-evening feeling by doing something you wanted to do anyway -- like seeing that film everyone's talking about or that museum exhibit you've wanted to get to. "That way, there's no way you'll come home and say, 'Well, that date was a complete waste of my precious time.' Unless, of course, you hated the film," says Harris.

7. Use "Dead Time" to Connect

Stuck in a traffic jam or doctor's waiting room? Stack advises carrying a box of pretty note cards in your bag at all times, along with your address book or PDA. So even when you're at the DMV, you'll be able to use that time to connect.

8. Be Choosy

Don't feel like you have to have lunch or a drink with anyone who asks. "In my business, I get hit up 20 times a month with people saying 'I want to pick your brain. I want to take you out to lunch,'" says Stack. "But you can't say yes to everyone, because then you'll never say yes to yourself." The more time you spend with that acquaintance whose company you don't particularly enjoy, the less time you'll have for the people who really matter.


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