As the first part of my SMILE series of posts, I wrote about “How to Live a Balanced Life“.
It was about an acronym that I came up with many moons ago as an attempt to always consider all the different parts of my life each day, and to not let any one thing dominate too much. Basically an easy way to ensure a balanced life.
This acronym was S.M.I.L.E – standing for Social Life, Managing the Home, Income, Leisure and Energy – and I wanted to go through each of these in more detail over the coming weeks – to give you more of an idea of what falls under it, and to get you thinking (as I have over the years) about each section really carefully.
I hope that this helps you to think about what your priorities are, what your goals are for each section, and enables you to lead a more balanced life! I know that having a balance has really helped me over the years.
So – first off in this 5 part series of posts is a look into your Social life – let me know your thoughts!
What does your Social Life consist of?
Part of living a balanced life is gaining a network around you of family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc… – your role in the world is not one, but many – think about it:-
e.g. Are you a mother, wife, partner, daughter, granddaughter, sister, auntie, niece, cousin, friend, colleague, neighbour, businesswoman, volunteer, group member, I could go on and on…..!
You have so much going on in your life that its no wonder life can be so full.
The key is to acknowledge these various roles, and plan out how you can feasibly spend time cultivating each and every relationship you have, without getting stressed along the way (or doing what we have all be known to do in the past and not seeing people for months or even years at a time….)
However, firstly we must get to grips with our good and bad relationships – as we will want to spend more time with the good, and less time with the bad (or more time making the bad the good! bear with me and I will explain!)
Good vs. Bad Relationships
You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family
Now, while this is mostly true, there are so many exceptions to the rule that I can’t help but think that we are in the midst of a huge social change in our lives.
In days gone by we used to rely on our family so much more, they always lived close by, helped with childcare, and were more often than not dropping by daily. Our partner was usually someone that we grew up with, that lived close as well.
Nowadays we are much more likely to live away from our family (having left for Uni and never come back, or relocated due to a job move or a new partner etc…), and as such we tend to rely much more on our friends to be our family.
As such, I am considering ALL relationships together – as it really depends on your own circumstances as to who you class as your family!
I want to be quite analytical in looking at our relationships, as this is how I work – but I really think that its the easiest way to do it – and if you take the emotion out of things for a while you will be able to see things much more clearly than ever before.
So – first things first – get some paper and a pen and split the paper into 4 columns. In the left hand column, write down a list of ALL your relationships – anyone that you spend time with at present. This could take a while!
In the next column along, write down how often you see that person and how you spend time with them.
MARK – Every Week at the pub
HANNAH – Once a month for coffee
CHLOE – Every 2 months we email
Then in the third column add a tick or a cross. This represents how you feel after you have contacted/seen that person. A tick means you are energised and happy, and a cross means you are worn out/stressed and generally not happy.
The last column is your “Going Forward” plan for that person.
You may want to continue as is – as this works well for you and you feel like you see them the right amount of time. You may want to see more of them or change how you see each other (i.e. you and your best friend may be used to a call every fortnight to catch up, but maybe you want to change it so you see each other once a month). Or lastly, you may decide that you don’t want to cultivate this relationship anymore, as its doing you more harm than good (can be just a friend who asks for favours all the time and doesn’t ever return them, or someone that always talks about themselves with no interest into your life etc…))
Being this analytical really does help you to see who is the most important in your life, who shouldn’t really be using up your time anymore, and also really highlights how often (or not!) you get to spend time with those that matter.
It simply shows you where your good and bad relationships are.
Balancing your time with people
Like most people you will find that you have so many people in your life its pretty much impossible to keep regular contact with everyone – but here are a few tricks to help you get more out of your time while still having loads of great relationships:-
1. Think in Groups!
Whether it be friends of family – why not socialise in groups? Have a BBQ for your whole family, or a night out with a group of friends. This makes catching up all the more easy, and probably means you get to spend more time more often with those you care about.
2. Prioritise your time
You have already identified people that are basically wasting your time – in that they make you feel low after you have seen them. Now’s the time to declutter them from your lives.
This is much easier to do with friends than family members, but is possible in any relationship.
Try to be less proactive for a while with sending out invites for meeting up – and at least lessen the number of meetings you have. Also, when you do socialise with them, try and make it for less time than usual, or mix with a group of friends so that you see others as well. For family members, only see them at family occasions for example.
This is hard, and quite cold, I know that and I understand that. But the fact is that these are people who you ar letting have a negative effect on your life, however small that may be. You need to do something about it. Think of it another way if this helps – what are you now able to do if you spend time with this person? Who else are you having to postpone?
3. Use social media
In this day and age, everyone is pretty much on Facebook or twitter.
I am not saying that this should take the place of talking and meeting up – BUT if you are really struggling for time, why not ensure that all your friends are following you on one of these sorts of sites. That way they can see what you are up to, and you can keep in touch with whats going on in their lives as well.
You only have to update once, and everyone can see what you are up to.
Its worth thinking about as a quick fix while you get yourself more organised. (Word of caution – you can spend MANY hours on social media if you let yourself – just use it quickly for a few minutes a day and it can work well for you)
4. Use your down time to your advantage
I tend to use my driving time or when I go for a walk in the evening to make phone calls (hand free of course!). Its a great way to keep in contact with people, and you can even get a sort of schedule going so that you always speak to certain people on certain days of the week (I have recently noticed that after my Tennis Cardio class on a Tuesday I tend to always have a chat with my sis on the way home, the journey is about 25 mins which is a good amount of time – and we keep up to date with whats going on. If I had to find time when I was at home then I doubt that this would happen so regularly, as there is always something to be done at home that distracts…)
5. Make sure you are keeping on top of your relationships
I mentioned a schedule in point 4 briefly. And although this seems to be an analytical way of doing things (welcome to my world!), it makes sense really.
When I am checking in at the end of the day and working through my S.M.I.L.E acronym, or checking my diary for upcoming plans, I find that it helps to have my list of people close to hand.
I can then quickly run down the list and ensure that:-
1. I have seen/spoke to them recently – or within our usual time frame
2. I have made plans to see them and they are in the diary already
This simply means I can maintain relationships, no matter how infrequent – and hopefully it stops me from neglecting anyone!
Making new relationships
Over the course of life, you will meet new people, move house, join new clubs/groups etc… and people will naturally come and go from your life. This is the nature of relationships.
And its exciting!
However, I would like to think that now you are more aware of what relationships you have, what time you have, and what you need/want out of relationships, you will find it much easier to make new relationships.
You will also be a lot more aware of what you need from relationships.
For example, over the years I have come to term some people as “Fair Weather Friends” – people who want to be around you when the going is good, but are notably absent when times are tough. This is no problem if you are aware that they shouldn’t be the people you ring in a crisis, as you will only be disappointed. But knowing that they will be the life and soul of the party when you organise a night out means that the relationship is more geared towards having fun – and sometimes that can be just what you need!
I find that having a balance of people in my life always works well. People I can lean on, people that can lean on me, and people I have fun with – all work so well, and makes life much more interesting!
So – hopefully you will have completed the actions we have talked about, and got much more to grips with your network of family and friends etc….
You will know what you want and what you need from your relationships, and also be much more aware of any relationships that you should let go, any that you aren’t spending enough time on, and any that are just right!
You will be more open to new relationships, and much less likely to be disappointed as you will be more aware of what kind of relationships you have with people.
And hopefully, you should be able to more clearly keep up to date with catching up with people – not letting friendships drift, and making your social life part of your balanced life!
Here’s to a happier, more balanced you!
psst – Click here to be taken to “Getting the Management of my Home Sorted – SMILE post 2 of 5” next!