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We never actually learn how to manage time or make plans. Social arrangements are made by our parents. Then when we go off on our own, we are just supposed to know how to make appointments. But we don’t so instead we spend a lot of time double booking ourselves, tiring ourselves out, or even burning bridges. It becomes stressful!
I certainly still make these mistakes from time to time but here are a few of my strategies on how to make plans like an adult.
I know this is difficult because I answer “maybe” all the time to invitations. But it is a horrible habit. The feeling behind “maybe” or “we’ll see” or “I’ll let you know” more or less means that this person isn’t important. That you’re waiting to see if something better comes along. That you’re not really interested in being with this person. If that’s the case, then just say no outright.
Look at this way, your friend would prefer you say no right away, rather than saying maybe/yes and cancelling last minute. They’ve been looking forward to seeing you then you drop out. Now they’re disappointed. On the other hand, if you say no initially, then decide later you can make it, you can still (in some cases) attend. Drop in as a surprise and your friend will love it. Or ask them last-minute if you can attend. If you can’t, then it is your own fault. But at the very least your friend will be glad you wanted to come.
Start saying Yes or No. Never maybe’s. Respect your friends and their time.
This is also related to respecting your friends and their time. Plan ahead! Stop underestimating how long it takes you to get ready. Or to drive somewhere. Or to walk to the train. Or construction work detours. Leave early. Let someone know right away that you will be late.
Being late is rude. This person has planned their day around this time slot and you being late will interfere with all of it.
At the very least, be conscious of the event you are going to. If you are meeting a group of people at a bar, you probably don’t have to be there from the beginning. But if you’re meeting for dinner, your lateness might really mess up the rest of the evening. In this case, it’s not only about you.
Double booking always sounds like a great idea because you get the best of both worlds. For example, you decide to get dinner with your roommates around 6p, then you’ll still have time after to get to another friend’s birthday party by 9p. So you say yes to both.
Then the inevitable happens. Someone is disrespectful and gets to dinner late, so you have to wait longer for a table, and wait service is slow. It’s now 9p. You had a great dinner. Enjoyed yourself and had fun with your friends. Now they’re suggesting keeping things going by going somewhere else for a drink. You’re having a great time and want to spend more time with them. But you remember you have the birthday party to get to.
This will only end badly.
First scenario, you stay with your friends and cancel on your friend. Or you tell your friend you’ll be late, go get “one drink” with friends, then end up cancelling on your friend later.
Second scenario, you leave and get to your friend’s party. But you are already late now and it’s close to 10p. The party is much calmer than you expected and people start leaving at 11p, you barely get to see your friend at all and wish you hung out with your roommates intead. Or you spend the whole time thinking of what you missed out on. Or the party was crazy and your friend is already too drunk. You wish you got there soooner.
No one wins here. You are trying to please everyone but instead you’re stressed out from running all over, watching the clock, and barely getting to talk to anyone anyway. FOMO will get you no matter what.
Another way double booking gets you is if you are exhausted after the first event. Especially if things take longer than you expected them to. Or you waited around for someone who was late. Or it took longer to find a place for drinks. All sorts of unexpected things can come up. But now it’s 9p and even though you can still make it to your friend’s birthday party, you would rather just head home to watch Netflix.
So you can go to the party, be miserable and tired, and stay for such a short period of time you don’t even get to talk to your friend. Or you cancel last minute and head home, feeling guilty.
Sure you can chance getting a second wind but it’s hardly worth it. Just think things through and don’t double book to begin with. A better option is to tell your friend you can’t make it to her birthday. Don’t say “maybe”. Don’t say “I’ll see how long dinner takes.” Just say you won’t be there. Then after dinner, and only then, if you are feeling up to it, by all means stop by your friend’s party. (This is assuming it is something casual and not dinner where they needed a head count). Your friend will be happy and surprised to see you!
Related to not double booking is also not over booking. This took me a long time to figure out. I would look at my calendar and see that I had plans every day but Wednesday. Then when asked to hang out that week, I would say “I’m free wednesday.” Well, after going out Mon, Tues, Wed, by Thursday I’m beat and end up cancelling on that friend. Now, it’s not their fault that i overbooked myself. That I didn’t make time for them.
Instead, I focus on only one or two social activities on week nights. Then I actually schedule quiet nights for myself. I will write in my calendar “Netflix” or “Writing” or “Cats” or whatever I need it to say to remind myself to not make plans that night. Because I do have plans that night. My plans are to stay in and rest up. Then I will be energized and not crabby for more social plans afterward.
Trust me, your friends will be grateful for this. It’s never fun to be cancelled on last minute or to hang out with someone who is exhausted.
There is absolutely no excuse not to remember an appointment. Treat friend hangouts as you would anything else. You have a calendar on your phone. And your google account. And at work. Write things down! Seriously! Now! Forgetting or cancelling because you forgot is rude. It is telling people that they are not important.
Find what works for you. Phone reminders and notifications might be the easiest. I personally love my moleskine calendar. I keep it on my every day and write down everything in it as soon as I make the appointment. I also look in it every morning so I know what is coming up later in the week. This is the best method for me. But may not work for you. You have to find what works for you. Trust me, you cannot remember everything no matter how hard you try!
You probably already know that you can or can’t make it to that event. Why wait a week to respond? Just tell the person right now. Nothing is going to change. Especially if you can’t make it. Say that right away. Then if things change, it will be for good news.