By: Barbara Reich and Erica Keswin, Founders of Never Caught Up, LLC
Every year, as the weather grows warmer, there’s a flurry of interest in spring cleaning. Morning television segments, news articles, and blog posts will all feature the latest organizing tips, cleaning short cuts, and advice on how to get to those hard-to-reach areas. That spring cleaning is “business as usual.” But, there’s another kind of spring cleaning that no one talks about…that is, spring cleaning your friends.
We heard a story about a famous designer that a couple met on their honeymoon. They all bonded engagingly, and this famous designer suggested they meet for dinner when they returned to New York. The couple enthusiastically agreed, until he explained matter-of-factly that they would only have dinner once. In his words, he was very busy professionally, divorced, and had recently taken stock of his time. He gave them a detailed analysis of the number of days a year he saw his children, family, and close friends, the number of days he worked and traveled for business, and the number of days he vacationed. He broke down the remaining days and described how he allocated a small percentage of time to new friends. Since the couple could only be considered “new friends” one time, they would most likely not have dinner again. The story was related to us as an illustration of something extreme and somewhat ridiculous. Yet, we think he was on to something….
As we’ve presented Never Caught Up around the country, we’ve heard again and again that a major cause of stress for women is a lack of time. There are many ways we squander time which we’ll describe in the coming months, but today we encourage you to assess the time you spend with “friends” that is unfulfilling. And, with spring cleaning in mind, perhaps it’s time to let go of these relationships.
Here are our top five spring cleaning tips:
- Eliminate “Friends” That Don’t Add Value to Your Life.
Do you have relationships in your life that feel toxic? Friends who make you feel insecure or defensive? Friends who always cancel plans without initiating new plans? Emotionally draining friends? Friends who aren’t supportive when you hit a bump in the road? These are the “friends” who aren’t worth the time they take from you and aren’t adding value to your life. It sounds harsh, but cut the cord. Think of all the time you’ll have when you’re not chasing after friends who are just not that into you.
- Invest in the Relationships That Matter Most.
Think about the friends you always look forward to seeing, the ones who prop you up and are there for you when times are tough. Those are the friendships you want to strengthen. According to relationship expert, John Gray, investing time in quality relationships and pleasurable activities are the “make or break” factors in the lives of women. Studies show that relationships with other women are critical; they actually decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase oxytocin (the “feel good” hormone).
Given how little time you have, spend it with the people who matter to you. We all love our husbands (most of the time), but there’s no replacement for a night out with the girls.
- Reduce Time on Social Media.
Social media friends aren’t real friends. You don’t need to “follow” the person you weren’t friends with in high school, watch a toddler sing and dance, see a picture of a teen with a new driver’s permit, or see that Nana would have been 110 today (Nana’s dead, she definitely won’t be seeing that post). Do you care what someone ate for breakfast or where they ate dinner? Likewise, resist the urge to post about your own life. You would be better served talking to a good friend about the fight you just had with your teen than posting a picture of your “happy” family in Paris. Keep it real.
- Identify Essential Commitments (Say “No” Not “Why”)
In Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown urges us to determine what commitments are truly necessary and/or enjoyable and send regrets for the rest. We would add, while you’re at it, let go of the guilt you feel when you say no, and the compulsion to communicate the reason for your response. Say “no” not “why”. When you say why, your reason might not be viewed as valid, and, if you lie, you have to remember the lie, and run the risk of getting caught. Instead, try this: “I wish I could be there. I’m sure it will be a special day,” or “I can’t participate, but I’m flattered that you thought of me.”
- Be Present
If someone has passed the tests above, and you’ve carved out the time to be with them, keep your phone off the table and in your bag. This isn’t easy. In fact, a recent Pew Study, showed that 89% of people had a phone out during their most recent social interaction, and 82% of those people felt that it took away from the interaction. The “iphone effect” suggests that the mere presence of a phone at a table guarantees that a conversation will be more superficial. Do you want to tell a friend something that’s emotional and personal while she’s looking at her phone? Be present. You’ll get a higher return on your investment in time.
So this month, when you begin spring cleaning and start pulling out the soccer balls and baseballs, swapping winter coats for spring ones, and corralling dust bunnies, think about the “friends” who are weighing you down. You don’t need them any more than you need the ski boots that won’t fit your daughter next winter. It’s time to let them go.