10 Ways to Make Time for Friends When You Work a Lot

How to Make Time for Friends When You Work a Lot | CorporetteIt’s tough to find enough time for friends if you have a demanding job — when you have a really busy schedule, making sure you socialize and maintain relationships requires some creative problem-solving and planning. While we’ve discussed how to fit in basic things like planning meals and cooking, doing household chores, scheduling appointments, and working out, we haven’t talked about how to fit a social calendar into a busy life in a while. Let’s chat about it today!

We’ve rounded up several suggestions from Corporette readers on making time for friends when your schedule is tight:

1. Pay for an outing ahead of time: To make yourself more likely to go out and do something with a friend, take advantage of a Groupon or Living Social deal, or other prepaid offer. It’s harder to postpone a get-together or cancel plans when you’ve already spent the money. Now you’ll have no excuse not to meet a friend to take a barre class or check out a restaurant you’ve never tried. (Looking at my local Groupon page right now, I see a range of ideas for potential friend meetups: sushi for two, mani/pedis, bowling, and classes in kickboxing, fencing, yoga, and ballroom dancing.)

2. Make your workouts social: It’s hard enough to fit in working out and socializing, so combine them by meeting friends for a walk or a run, going to the gym with someone, or taking a workout class together. Or, hire a personal trainer and schedule pair or group workouts — typically a trainer will reduce their rates when sessions are semi-private rather than one-on-one. One reader mentioned taking brisk walks on weekend mornings with a friend or two — she’d even schedule them for 6:30 a.m. to make sure they happened!

3. Use your lunch breaks: One reader had an excellent point about meeting for lunch on a weekday: You won’t have to worry about canceling if your workday goes longer than you expected, like you would with evening plans — and after all, you’ve gotta eat. If you just can’t spare the half-hour or hour, you can at least invite a work friend to go with you to pick up food before you have your desk-side lunch.

4. Plan breakfast: Another way to hack a busy workday is to plan breakfast with friends before work. A bonus: if you choose a fancy restaurant, the prices are better than at dinner, and you can breakfast with other titans of industry.

5. Multitask with your phone: This tip isn’t for everyone, and it got mixed reviews the last time readers discussed it — it wasn’t always popular with those on the other end of the call, for one. Still, it might work for you. Call a friend to chat while you make dinner or clean up around the house, or have a conversation with someone while you take a walk around your neighborhood.

6. Don’t be vague: Make concrete plans when you’re scheduling your social life. Don’t just say, “We should have lunch sometime!” or “We should get our kids together for a playdate!” Instead, get your calendar out and suggest a specific date. Tying your plans to a particular event helps with this — maybe there’s a First Friday coming up when you’re both free, or maybe you pick a movie to see on the night it comes out.

7. Don’t go home: An object in motion stays in motion, so if you’re trying to squeeze in socializing on a Friday after a busy workweek, make sure not to stop at home first before going out (if possible). When you’re home, it’ll be much easier to stay there — especially if you sit down on that soft, comfy couch and start scrolling through Facebook on your phone.

8. Free up some weekend time beforehand: Always feel too busy for those Sunday brunches with friends because there’s so much to do? Try to get more chores done on weeknights — laundry, bill paying, grocery shopping, etc. — so that you can feel better about socializing on a weekend day.

9. Combine business and pleasure: If you need to attend a professional organization event or night of networking, ask a work (or non-work) friend to come along. Of course, if you’re really there to network, it can be tempting to stick with her the whole time instead — especially if you’re not the most outgoing person — but you can always agree on both one-on-one social time and solo networking.

10. Get organized: One reader shared how she and her social group use social media to facilitate, not replace, face-to-face time for friends. They set up a Facebook group to easily plan events for whomever’s interested, and members are encouraged to bring friends, both to the Facebook group and to the in-person events.

How do you make time for friends? Do you find that you have to let other things go in order to find enough time for a social life? What’s your favorite time or day to spend time with friends? 

When you work a ton it can feel really hard to have time for a social life -- so we rounded up ten ways to make time for friends.


  1. I commute about 2 hours a day. I try to make an effort to spend 3 or 4 of my 10 trips per week on the phone (bluetooth and hands free of course) catching up with a friend or family member. I lovely making that drive time “productive” and it helps the trip go faster!

    • Same! I started my first “real” job last year in a new state. I call a different family member each evening on my drive home and honestly, I feel closer to them than when I was living locally.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I do this with my walk home. I call my mom and get it out of the way (this sounds bad but I mean that once I’m home, there’s a million things I’d rather do, including zoning out on the couch) and we get some quality chatting time in.

  2. Introverts :

    I don’t have suggestions, but would love to hear from fellow introverts about how they fit in connecting with friends. At the end of the work day and week I need quiet time to take care of myself. I find that quiet time ends up being instead of friends. And all these suggestions make me feel drained even reading them! Is the only way to maintain relationships by going, going, going all the time?

    • Find fellow introverts with demanding jobs to be friends with. My two closest girlfriends and I had primarily an email/gchat relationship even when we all lived in the same city. Writing an email didn’t drain me the same way hanging out did. When we did get together in person, we frequently just hung out at someone’s home and watched movies or talked (often in PJs). We did occasionally go out to eat or shopping or other more traditional girlfriend stuff, but it wasn’t the center of our friendship.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        My closest friends are the same way. It makes things easier for me.

        Sometimes I find scheduling things in advance makes me less likely to want to go. It depends but sometimes I’m much more likely to be social if there was only a vague plan to get together or a more spur of the moment decision. If I have something specific scheduled I find myself reluctant to go, which I realize sounds stupid. I always have fun when I go but the anticipation is sometimes exhausting for me.

        • Anonymous :

          Totally agree with this. When I’ve got a plan in advance, I get anxious about it and go into a bad thought spiral of how stressful having that block of time tied up is going to make the rest of my day/weekend–things like “ugh, what if I’m tired and don’t get up for run in the morning–normally I could run at night but because of this dinner I CAN’T!” It’s silly, but I end up resenting the plan instead of being excited about it. I tend to do better when I can make a spontaneous plans on those nights I’m feeling really energized, but of course that makes it harder to coordinate.

          • Introvert :

            Thanks for putting words to this! I feel this way too, but hadn’t identified it. Something about it being “a plan” makes it another obligation! I find now that friends are all so busy they’re less likely to want to do spontaneous things though.

          • Anonymous :

            It’s funny, I’m the exact opposite. I mean I definitely experience the anxiety spiral. But if I plan in advance I can mentally prepare myself for being social. And I can do other things to prepare like make sure I get enough sleep the night before, wear something that makes me feel confident, and have an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon.

        • Sydney Bristow :

          I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who feels that way!

          • Anonymous :

            That’s funny, I feel the opposite! If I’ve planned ahead for it, I’m more likely to go. Versus if someone asks me at the last minute to do something, I’m more likely to decline because I’ve already planned on some alone time. But if someone has to cancel our plans, I am always a little grateful for that unexpected alone time!

            I try to combine something I’m already planning on doing with socializing. I run and have a lot of runner friends that I’ve met through my running club. So sometimes I’ll just post in our Facebook group the mileage/pace I’m planning on doing and can usually find a couple people that want to join! (Or I’ll join up with other people if I see they are doing a similar run to my plan.)

            I used to have a good friend who lived in my neighborhood and we would actually meet up to go grocery shopping sometimes. Really random, but it was a nice opportunity to catch up, we could chat about what we were planning on cooking (we ended up swapping recipes a lot!) and it wasn’t a huge time commitment. (She moved to a different city eventually, though.)

            Or if I need to go shopping for something in particular (new jeans, a dress for an event), I might ask a stylish friend to come with me to give me some ideas.

            So I still end up with the same amount of “me” time in the end, if that makes sense. The other nice thing about all of those activities is that I don’t feel like I’m having to come up with things to talk about, we can talk about what is going on around us, you know?

    • I like going out on Friday night after work. Then I have the rest of the weekend to relax by myself.

    • Anonymous :

      I’m the same way. I force myself to socialize once a week, and I tell myself it’s worth it because I almost always end up having a good time. I like Fridays for socializing, because I feel more energized/willing to be social knowing I have the weekend ahead of me to hibernate.

    • I can definitely relate. My two best girlfriends and I have an ongoing group chat text message, which helps us feel connected during the day but is also something I can temporarily ignore if I need some downtime. I also try to make sure that I have at least two nights “off” during the week, and at least a chunk of time free on the weekend (an afternoon or morning to myself). I love my friends and I always have a good time when I see them, but I also think I’m better company if my introvert batteries aren’t too drained to socialize.

    • I try not to make plans after work Monday through Thursday. Friday evenings are my date nights. Saturday evenings are my friend nights. Saturday and Sunday days are my me time. I definitely feel run down if I try to schedule any other social activities in a weekend – but going out twice a week isn’t too bad!

    • Anonymous :

      This depends on your office culture, but I’ve started trying to close my office door more to tune out the constant hubbub from the hallway. I find that it really drains me to passively listen to other people’s conversations all day, and I’m left with no energy to see anyone when I get outside the office. I’m trying to reclaim the workday as a time to get my work done and only interact directly as needed to get my work done and put in a reasonable level of direct social interaction (i.e., I don’t walk around with my head down and refuse to talk to Sally about her weekend, but rather I just don’t wear myself out by just being in earshot of conversations that I’m not even a part of).

      • Introvert :

        Thanks everyone for helping me not feel so crazy about my needs! Comforting to hear others are in the same boat. I might have to try the Friday evening thing. I usually avoid going out then because everything is so crazy, but it might be a better trade off than giving up some of my weekend hibernation time. I also need to be better about the closed door office as well. Our culture is really one of small talk, endless conversations, and meeting after meeting. The general public is also coming in and out all day, and there is music blaring in common areas. I just need some time without stimulation to not feel so drained. I also share an office, so am NEVER alone all day. So exhausting…

        • Anonymous :

          It sounds like we work in the same office. Constant conversations, music, chatter, people in and out all day…it really is draining. My best suggestion is to really put yourself first and make your peace of mind a priority.

    • I used to make plans with friends after work so I could keep my weekends to myself (save for Friday/Saturday night). I was always too exhausted to do anything but crash in front of the tv anyway!

  3. Senior Attorney :

    I have a set night every week for “friend night.” Rain or shine, I try to make plans with one or more friends every Tuesday night, which is good for me because Gentleman Friend is off doing his own weekly thing and I don’t have any other obligations. It works out well. Last night I met up with a friend who has a much busier schedule than I do and she came over to my house at 9:00 p.m. after she got off work, and that was fine. Or sometimes I’ll meet other friends directly after work for Happy Hour.

    I also have a close group of friends with whom I communicate daily on a private Facebook group and that’s great, too.

  4. Anonymous :

    Any ideas on how to make friends in new city when you have a demanding job? I haven’t really made friends my job (and don’t expect to), but also have trouble committing to a weekly group/class given my schedule my changing and demanding schedule. Other ideas?

    • Anonymous :

      Personally I found it impossible to make new friends until I committed to an activity and it was the right activity, meaning the activity where I clicked with the people. In order to make new friends outside of work, I think you need to commit to something and volunteering with an organization is usually the best way to make friends. In order to make friendships, people need to talk to and see you on a regular basis. Can you commit to volunteering on a weekend?

      Also, what about volunteering for some kind of committee (such as a bar association committee if you are a lawyer) or a board of directors? You can do the work from home/office but by working with the other people on a regular basis, even by email, you may develop friendships with them. I joined a committee and the board of directors where I live and this is how I made good friends. The upside is that my friends live where I live so we can hang out and do things in each others apartments in our sweats without having to walk too far. Our friendships have resulted in us starting book clubs and other activities.

    • ManagementConsultant :

      Depending on your city, I’ve had a lot of luck with Meetup groups. In some cities I’ve found that they attract a bit of a socially awkward group, but in others I’ve used them to meet what are now some of my best friends. Meetup groups have the huge advantage that you can attend them when you have time, and skip them when you don’t – since they’re planned regardless of your availability, you don’t have to feel bad skipping.

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