We get it—you’re busy. But nothing fills your bucket like meaningful moments with friends and family, so we asked our Hallmark community and coworkers to share their successes in making more time for relationships. Here are 10 of our favorite ideas to help find space on your calendar for the people you care about most.
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If you’re craving more talk time than your schedule allows, scope out a trail and take a walk. A nature walk feels longer than an urban walk of the same length, research suggests.
My mom, daughter and I take daily walks together and share our news, feelings, ideas, opinions, etc. It is a wonderful way to share what is going on in each other's lives and get a workout at the same time. —Laurie
At first, including family members—especially little ones—in chores can make more work, but soon enough you’ll be grateful they’re used to helping. And one day they’ll be grateful, too: Kids who help at home feel more connected to their families and are more aware of the needs of others, studies show.
Letting your kids help you cook creates great memories, help, and time together. Let them go to the grocery with their “missions”—their own list of things to find. My friends and I often keep each other company when we are doing chores or cleaning. We know we don't have to help—sometimes we ask each other not to help because we have our special ways of doing things—but having company makes it better. —Elle
Doing less is definitely one way to free up time for meaningful moments. But it’s hard to scale back when we’re always gearing up for the next day or season. Looking back on a project with a critical eye is a common business practice for a reason: It helps you move forward better and smarter.
Every January, I spend a few evenings before bed journaling about the previous year—what worked, what didn’t. I literally list activities, big and little, and circle the ones that brought me and my family a lot of joy and those that seemed to suck the joy out. Then we talk as a family about what to cut and what to grow for the current year. Sometimes we don’t all agree, but it can be surprising how much we do! —Diana
Establishing a routine for extended family gatherings means no one has to burden their overly burdened brain about the “when, where, who” details…details that sometimes cause us not to see one another. It can be Sunday or every other Friday or the first Monday of the month, pretzels and beer or doughnuts and coffee or board games and water. You can even Facetime out-of-towners. And if some weeks it’s a skeleton crew, well, that just might lead to some of the best talks of all.
We do Sunday lunch with our grown-up kids, grandkids, their great-grandmother, and a nephew, a niece, and her partner. Each person gets to choose the meal on their birthday week, but otherwise it’s usually something pretty simple and stretch-able like chili or pizza or just subs from a nearby place. All told, up to 12 people, sometimes as few as six, but we do it every week and it’s a high point for us. And, we like to think, for them. —Dan
Not everyone is cut out to be the soccer coach. But marrying something you enjoy with a need at your child or grandchild’s school, church, troop or sports team can be triply rewarding: You’re doing something you enjoy, helping out, and spending time with a loved one. It may take a little experimenting to find the right fit, but we guarantee there’s a spot for you.
I recommend volunteering at one of your kids’—or grandkids’—events/sports/groups. Then you are spending time with them during a time you may just be sitting on the sidelines. —Elizabeth
Nothing illustrates the first part of Newton’s first law of motion—an object at rest stays at rest—more clearly than a person on a couch. Sit down to look at your tablet, phone, or TV and it’s awfully hard to get up, even though we know these passive forms of entertainment are rarely soul filling. So turn off your TV and ringer and write a note, plan a gathering, interact with your family…you get the idea.
Pull, tear, or dynamite yourself away from the Internet. It’s tough! Nowadays many phones send you a screen-time report at the end of the week. Try to beat your previous week’s screen time each week—and by “beat,” I mean spend less time staring at your screen and more time starting pillow, water pistol, and snowball fights—or whatever your idea of “fun” is. —Ellen
Sometimes we automatically say “no” to invitations when we’re busy or stressed. Try responding with an enthusiastic “yes” instead of “maybe” or “we’ll see.” If that makes you a little anxious, make yourself a deal: Plan to stop by for a bit, knowing you can leave after 15 minutes or one beverage.
Start saying “yes" to more invitations, which could lead to more quality time with friends and family. I did this and it got me out of my rut! —Bonnie
Unless it’s a group thing (see No. 2), time spent on domestic drudgery is time away from the bucket-filling stuff of life. Yes, we all have to do it, but we don’t have to over do it. Ask yourself what you can delegate, eliminate, or modify to gain back a little time.
Make lunch dates while children are at school if you are at home during school hours—it is easy to want to catch up on laundry and cleaning, but more important to be with friends. —Nancy
The benefits to stepping away for lunch are many: You get the stress-relieving boost of socializing and return refreshed, better able to creatively resolve the problem that had you stumped just an hour earlier. And you’re less likely to graze mindlessly or fill up on junk, research suggests.
I used to feel guilty taking a lunch, but then I noticed when I ate in our break room or went out with coworkers, I was more productive (and happier) in the afternoon. Now I plan lunches at least twice a week and they really keep me going. —Sara
Season tickets to performing arts or sports events make sense for busy people. It’s a one-time decision process—which theater or team and package option—that results in several date or family nights. You can put the dates in your calendar sometimes months in advance, forcing you to work other to-dos around these fun outings rather than vice-versa.
My boyfriend and I have an annual pass to the local theater and enjoy the plays. We have a blast after the performance sharing our thoughts about the performance and our “sleep meter:” stayed awake, nodded or napped. —Stephanie