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How To Maintain Strong Friendships While Working Full-Time

Heidi Zak

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build strong friendships

You’ll always feel better after getting together with a good friend—even if it’s on short notice.


As a founder, I’m always short on time. 

And if I’m being honest, time spent with friends has been the biggest casualty on my calendar since starting ThirdLove. I still love seeing my friends, but I simply don’t have as much free time as I used to. 

If you’re in a similar position—working full-time and raising a family—then you know how easy it is to go without seeing your friends for months on end. But strong friendships are essential to a balanced emotional life. You need people you can connect with and talk to about your highs and lows. You need people to confide in. You need friends.

I know firsthand how difficult it is to keep up with people as your career progresses. But it’s not impossible. It just means rethinking how you budget your time and getting a little creative with your schedule.

Here are my four tips for maintaining strong friendships and a busy career at the same time:

Bring friends together for casual, real moments.

My husband (and co-founder) Dave and I like to host people at our house. We often have groups of friends over for barbeques or dinners to spend time catching up. 

I really treasure those nights because there’s nothing quite like a get together at someone’s home. The casual atmosphere is something you can’t replicate at a restaurant. The kids are running around, the house is a little messy, people are chatting in the kitchen—it feels a little more “real.” And there’s no rush to leave so the conversations can go on for hours. 

If you’re looking for more intimate moments, try getting your friends together over the weekend for dinner. It’s a lot easier to get people to commit when they don’t have to meet a reservation or think about a dress code. If you don’t want to cook, just order in and open a few bottles of wine. 

Make time to meet up when traveling.

I live in San Francisco, but as a CEO, I do a lot of traveling. Usually, that means heading to either LA or New York. 

One of the most important ways I keep in touch with friends is by having a running list of people I want to see in those cities. So, if I’m going to be in New York for a few days, I go down the list and start reaching out to people. Sometimes, they’re busy. But usually, at least one of my friends has time to grab lunch or catch up over coffee

As you get older and move into the middle of your career, you’re going to know more people in more places. Friends take jobs in other cities. Life separates you. By keeping a list of where everyone is, you can make the most of even a short trip by turning it into a chance to reconnect.

Let people know you’re open to last-minute meetings.

When you’re in your twenties, you might actually be offended by a friend sending you a last-minute invite. You get the feeling someone else must have canceled. You’re the backup plan.

As you grow older, maybe start a family, and get deeper into your career, that mentality changes. I tell people all the time that I’ll never be offended by a last-minute message. Everyone is busy. Schedules are hectic. Time slots open up when you least expect them. I’m always sending people last-minute invites, so I have no problem with getting them.

If you want to maintain strong friendships when life gets crazy, then you have to be open to both sending and receiving invites whenever you can. You’ll always feel better after getting together with a good friend—even if it’s on short notice. 

Don’t overcommit and become a flaky friend.

I really try not to cancel on people. When I say I’m going to do something, whether it’s personal or professional, I feel a responsibility to follow through on that.

The best way to keep your word is to avoid overcommitting.

If a friend invites you to go out with them on Thursday, but you know you’re going to be dead tired that evening, it’s better to say no than to commit—and then bail out Thursday afternoon. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, things come up. Kids get sick. Meetings run long. There will be times that despite all your best efforts, you have to cancel. As long as you aren’t continuously committing and then flaking, your friends will understand. 

After all, strong friendships aren’t made or broken over a single dinner plan. They’re grown and sustained over time, through a variety of circumstances and situations in life. That’s what makes them so special—and worth the maintenance.

This article originally appeared on Inc.

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Why Emotional Empathy Is A Leader’s Greatest Strength

How To Encourage Workplace Friendships And Increase Team Happiness

Heidi Zak is the co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. Prior to ThirdLove, Zak cut her teeth in retail at Aeropostale where she quickly rose to Director of the retail giant, launching and running the International Division, before becoming a marketing executive at Google. Zak holds an undergraduate degree in Economics from Duke University and an MBA from MIT Sloan. In her free time she loves spending time with her two kids. Heidi has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People, Goldman Sachs 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, Business Insider's 30 Female-Founded Startups to Watch, and SF Business Times 40 Under 40. Follow her on Instagram: @Heidi.

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