Assuming I have no after-work commitments, which is often the case, that leaves exactly two flexible nights per week: Friday and Saturday night. At least one of these nights I try to stay in so I can read and relax, or work on personal creative projects. When all is said and done, I really have one “free” night per week, and I cherish it.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t have time for friends. I still have a small, well-chosen group of close friends who I will drop almost anything for if there’s a crisis. It just took me a few years to realize that with the right kind of friends, those “crises” are few and far between. I am almost always free for a heart-to-heart phone call but, for me, busyness is a means of self protection.
It’s wrong to assume that anyone who is “busy” is simply bad at time management. You cannot give everyone who wants your time full reign of your schedule or you will never have time for yourself. Being “busy” is not about disorganization, it’s about refusing to dedicate precious time to any friend or acquaintance who comes calling. It’s up to you to set boundaries around your own time, not other people.
“When people say they’re ‘busy’ they mean just that: they’re busy. It’s not up to other people to deem which plans are more important.”
Likewise, the notion that saying you’re busy is some type of bragging is misguided. If anything, we all seem to covet those who live a more carefree lifestyle filled with lazy, unplanned days at the market or spontaneous trips. Talking about your endless free time seems, to me, more like a brag.
Mostly, when people say they’re “busy” they mean just that: they’re busy. As in, they have other plans. It’s not up to other people to deem which plans are more important. For instance, attending bi-weekly yoga or gym sessions is very important to me. It helps me manage my stress levels, so I often invite close friends to join me. You can be busy without sacrificing your priorities. And I’ve found that those friends who want to get together as much as they say they do are happy to accommodate. And it’s not just a one way street. I’ve sat through friend’s haircuts and mani-pedis, tagged along on trips to Target, and hung out on playgrounds so that my friend’s children could play while we caught up. I try to be as flexible with my busy friends’ time as they are with me.
In ideal world we’d all spend our days “gabbing over cocktails at a new Vietnamese restaurant,” but good friendships, like all relationships, require good boundaries. I guard my time specifically because I want to be able to make sure I have enough mental energy not only for myself, but for my closest friends when it’s most important.
Unfortunately, that means paring down the always circulating passive friendships that come with navigating adulthood. The reality is that some nights I’ll make my schedule free for a close friend, but not for someone who I know more casually.
I never want to go back to those frazzled years when I was spread so thin I couldn’t be a true friend to anyone. Prioritizing my schedule and keeping busy with the things that are most important to me has been key to my mental health.
So the next time a friend invites you to dinner with a hard stop at 8 p.m., or sends you a meeting planner for a scheduled hangout two weeks from now, don’t take it personally. They’re probably just busy, and that’s okay.