How to stop dropping the ball with your most important friendships

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Everyone I know says they’re busy. “How have you been?” I ask. “Busy” they reply. Bla bla bla.

It means nothing. It’s an excuse. An excuse for not doing something else.

Often that something else is spending time with the people that matter most.

I suffered from the same tragic oversight. There were people in my life that were very important to me. These were the people that supported me through difficult moments. The ones who encouraged me to take risks. Who made sure I learned a lesson after making my mistakes. Who waited patiently for me to stop being so busy so they could spend time with me.

They aren’t just family. Some of them I’ve known for a long time, like Nick Seguin, Ben Milne, Marc Nager, and Danny Schreiber. Others I’ve know for meer months, like Alison Lindland and Greg Isenberg. Greg and Alison are true friends. I’d be a fool not to build the best relationship that I can with them. You don’t meet too many people like that in your life.

But it can slip so easily when we get “busy.”

Which is why I started taking a more deliberate approach to making sure I maintain the important relationships in my life. I call it my Top 10 People list.

It’s simply a list of the people that matter most to me. This is actually a technique I got from my friend and now coworker Charise Flynn. Thanks Charise.

Here’s what my list looks like:

My Top 10 People List

I review the list every Sunday. Unless I already spoke to them that week, I take action right then and there to communicate with them, schedule a coffee with them, provide value to them when I can, or – and I try to keep this to a minimum – ask them for help.

I also review and update what I wrote in each of the columns. It forces me to think critically about what I want from the relationship. More importantly, it forces me to make sure I’m creating more value for them than they are for me – which should be the goal of both parties in any friendship.

Your list will change over time. You’ll meet someone new and you’ll add them because you don’t want to lose touch with them. You’ll change jobs or move to a new city and find yourself crossing someone off of the list. That’s okay. Just because they’re not on the list doesn’t mean you won’t stop being friends with them. This list is just a mechanism. It’s a list of the relationships you sometimes take for granted. The ones you don’t want to regret not cultivating over time.

#noregrets

I let my list grow to more than 10. There’s actually three more under Marc Nager. The list can be however long you need it to be. This is your list.

It isn’t a to-do list. Don’t feel bad if you let one of them slide for a few weeks. Maybe the right cadence is once/month for some people on your list. Maybe you really did get busy one week. There are three people on my list that I haven’t reached out to in more than a few months. Maybe I’ll take them off soon if I don’t get my act together when it comes to them, but for now I’ll keep them on there because they are still important to me and I wish I had a better relationship with them.

Here’s a dead simple template to get you started: http://ge.tt/5sycxLT/v/0?c

Life is all about friends. And what we choose to do with those relationships.

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