Friendships: Using your calendar to help you show up as the friend you want to be

December 18, 2023

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If you’re like most of the women I work with, your relationships, including your friendships, are the most important parts of your life – more important than work or home logistics. So, let’s talk about how to use your calendar to help you show up as the friend you want to be. 

To learn more about and sign up for the Bright Method 8-week program, click here: https://kellynolan.com/the-bright-method-time-management-course-with-kelly-nolan.

Full Transcript

Episode 34. Friendships

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey, hey! And welcome to the last episode of The Bright Method podcast of 2023! Next Monday, which is the day of the week that I normally release episodes, is Christmas. And so, I have decided to take the whole week off and see you guys again in the new year.

As I was thinking about what do I want the last episode to be, more importantly, what do I want the episode to be around this time of year and heading into Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas, or other just time with family, what do I want it to be about. It became pretty clear to me that, while I talk a lot about calendars and work and boundaries and sharing the load at home and all of that, which I really believe in and is so important, especially this time of year though, the most important thing, I think in all of our lives, and especially this time of year, is our relationships. It’s definitely the case for me. It’s definitely the case for the vast majority of the people I work with. At the end of the day, the most important parts of our life are relationships.

Inside The Bright Method program we work on how all of this can affect your romantic partnership at home or your relationship with family and managing relationships with parents and siblings and things like that. And then we also talk about friendships, which we’re gonna talk about today. But just to take a step back, I think what’s kind of fun about what I get to do is, yes, we talk a lot about calendars and technology and getting Outlook to talk to Google or Apple and all of these things and how to set all of this up and what to calendar and what that looks like and how to protect downtime, all this kind of stuff.

How Do You Feel About How You’re Showing Up in Your Relationships – 2:06

At the end of the day, I just care about how you feel, and often, that matters in terms of our stress levels and the clarity we have on priorities and all sorts of stuff. But it also really comes down to your relationships and do you feel like you’re getting to show up in those relationships in the ways that you want to, in the amount of time that you want to, and just showing up as the friend or whatever the role is in that scenario, and showing up as the friend you want to be and also then fostering a friendship that, when times get hard (because they will), that you have the friendships to really rely on.

Why I bring all this up in relation to The Bright Method is that, if you are like me, despite your relationships being the most important things in your life, you struggle to maintain them and to show up and to remember important things in relation to them, and you forget to do things in the day-to-day of busy life, and that can be interpreted as not caring, but that’s so far from the truth. I know that my relationships are so important, but my brain on its own does not remember to do the things that I need to do to show up as the friend that I want to be, not that I should be, but that I truly want to be.

And so, I just want to talk about this today in terms of just to assure you that if you relate to that, you are not alone, and then also to talk about some strategies that you can use to help you show up in your friendships the way that you want without your brain having to magically remember to do it all on its own.

So I’ve shared this on Instagram, but this really was highlighted. I’ve been doing this stuff for a while, but the need for it was highlighted about a year ago when one of my best friends was taking her boards. It’s such a long road to get to that stage, and she was finally taking the boards, and I wanted to be there for her. I wanted to show up as the friend. You know, we live separately in different states, but I wanted to reach out to her and congratulate her and wish her good luck and all this kind of stuff. And I also wrote down all of the other things that were going on in my life for the 24 hours around her taking the boards, and what I wrote down was this.

My youngest had had a fever since Saturday, which ironically as I’m recording this, my youngest is also home with a fever. So she was not in daycare all week long at that point, and she was waking up multiple times some nights, so I was completely exhausted. I had been solo parenting, which is pretty common for me with my husband’s job. So because of all that, I’d been working in the nooks and crannies and during naptimes, and I’m trying to get some naps in there as well, and in addition, the day before the boards, when I would normally reach out to say, “Good luck,” and all that, I’d also given a two-hour workshop for a company. That evening, my oldest daughter had a massive meltdown, which obliterated my ability to get work done that night or even think straight. And the morning of the boards, so the following morning, we had also had a tough morning, which makes sense because then she got sick. So two kids were home. And then the day of the boards, I was just juggling the baby being home and timing naps with work calls.

So all of that’s going on, which is, while not great days, fairly typical for, at least if you’re being a parent of young kids, I don’t think it’s that abnormal from everybody’s day-to-day life, and just writing all of that down made it so clear for me that it is actually absurd for me and any of us to expect our brains, in the middle of all of that, to go, “Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Your friend’s board are tomorrow. Text her, ‘Good luck!’” or “Ding, ding, ding, friend probably is done with her boards. Reach out to her if you want to.” It’s crazy, right? I mean, you could do this, too, on just an average day. Write out all the things you’re doing in note form and then be like, “Why didn’t I remember it was my friend’s birthday,” or “Why didn’t I remember just to call my friend? I haven’t talked to her in a month,” and all of the things that we think of, the actions we think of that will show up as the friends we want to be. All of those actions are somehow supposed to come to mind when we’re in the middle of all the things we’re managing.

And so, as with anything, I truly believe that everything in our life comes back to time. Maybe not in full, but a large portion of what can help us comes back to time and, therefore, can be managed and helped out by putting stuff in a digital calendar within The Bright Method system.

Using a Digital Calendar to be the Friend We Want to Be – 6:39

And so, that’s what I want to talk about today. How do we leverage a system like The Bright Method or, more loosely, a digital calendar, to help us show up as the friends that we want to be so that we feel happy and proud and confident of the friends that we are, we want to be good friends and we can take pride in that and how we’re actually showing up, not just our intentions but the actual walking the talk, and also, then, have those amazing relationships that can help us get through the hard times and support us through when we need to lean on them and that kind of stuff. So how do we use a calendar in this way?

So, when it comes to friendships, I think of it in kind of two parts. One is the normal maintenance of friendships and then the other is more like when a friend is going through a tough time or a fun time, I should say, too. Like that example of the boards. Maybe it’s not the most fun to take the boards, but it’s not a bad thing going on in their life. It can be a celebration too like starting a new job or things like that. And so, you have the normal and then you have the abnormalities, good or bad. And so, let’s talk about those in turn.

Day-to-Day Friendship Maintenance – 7:47

So, in the normal day-to-day typical maintenance of a friendship, what I want to point out is just really kind of taking a step back, maybe making a list of the really close friends you want to maintain a friendship with, like your five closest friends, something like that. I wouldn’t go crazy here. Don’t go write 30 people down because it’s hard. I mean, hopefully once you’ve used The Bright Method or your own time management system and get the invisible to-do list and all of those things that you’re doing in there, you see, “We had a lot of stuff going on at baseline anyway.” So don’t go crazy here, but let’s pick your five closest friends, let’s say, or less. Totally fine if it’s less.

Think about, “What action items do I want to take to maintain this friendship. Do I want to call them once a week? Do I want to call them once a month, every three weeks? Whatever it might be, do I want to also throw in some texts in there or maybe only text?” That might be just how your relationship is maintained during the phases of life that you guys are in. And then use your calendar to plot those things out. Just to be clear, these are not scheduled calls, so I will put something in there that just says “call friend,” and it’s repeated on a weekly basis for that friend, and I put it at a time when it typically works well for our time zone differences and our schedule differences.

So, I’m in Minnesota. For my east coast friends, I often schedule it more in the mornings, like if I’m driving home from a daycare drop off, they might already be at work, which might not work for them. But it works for my schedule. It’s a morning time for them. Often it does work, so that’s great. Where, my more west coast friends, I’m gonna do it more on my afternoon walk with my dog. I schedule it for around that time, and it might hit their lunch break, typically.

Again, what’s important here is they don’t know that. They don’t know that I’m scheduling these calls. I mean, they probably do knowing me. But for the average person, they don’t need to know that you scheduled those calls. It’s not like a calendar invite type thing. It’s just a reminder for you that’s a default. Let’s say every Monday when you’re driving home from something, you have a calendar alert that tells you to call that particular friend. If you need to move it around for any reason, you just drag and drop and move it around. Again, they don’t know you can move it unilaterally. That works great.

In addition, if you get to that time of day and you do not feel like calling anyone, and you just want to listen to music or a fun podcast or sit in silence and do whatever you want, that’s also fine too. Again, no one is expecting a call. I just sometimes delete it. I’m like, “Yeah, I don’t feel like calling anyone today, so I’m just gonna delete that and not call.” Sometimes I’ll move it to a different time. It’s really whatever you want to do. Really, all we’re doing is helping make visual and get out of our head what we would like to do to show up as the friends that we want to be. We do not have to do it 100% to be that friend. It’s just helping us do the things we want to do to be a friend more often than we would do if our brain was left to their own devices. Because if you like me, again, you’ve got enough going on and you’re not gonna remember to call the friend or text the friend at a frequency that you would like to to maintain that friendship.

What happens instead is that six months go by and you’re like, “Man, I haven’t talked to that really good friend of mine in an entire six months,” and it’s just through no fault of anyone’s. It’s just that’s life. That’s what happens, and it’s very normal if that’s what’s happening to you. So, if this is important to you, then use your calendar just to tap future you on the shoulder and be like, “Hey, why don’t you call that person. Now is a good time,” and it will happen more often than it would have happened otherwise.

I’ll also throw out there that I typically tend to do this for more of my friends who don’t live near me, but you also can do some of this for local friends, and it might be more of like a text situation where you might text a particular friend and say, “Hey, we should make plans for the next two to three weeks, somewhere in there. What works best for you?” Again, it’s just a reminder to reach out to the people so that you can schedule things in a way that works for you.

Another alternative, then, is listing out the specific friend you’ll reach out to. This is weird, so feel free to not take this one. But truly I don’t trust my brain for anything, and I’ve just embraced that reality, and so, I kind of work around it. I started doing this when I moved to Minnesota, and also my kids got older, and we’d gotten through COVID for the most part. And I should say I know COVID’s still going on, but we were socializing much more than we were in 2020 and 2021. And so, what I started doing is every Monday, I calendered to figure out what we wanted to do for the next two weekends, and I also — this is where it’s weird — hyperlinked to an Excel sheet that just lists out the friends that we know in Minnesota, mainly because I had just moved to Minnesota, and I couldn’t keep straight who lived here anymore and who had moved back. And so, I know it’s really weird, but again, I need that. Why am I taking up the brain space of a list of who lives there, and there’s no rhyme or reason or cadence that I see people within this. But I just pull up the list, and I’m like, “Who should we see? Oh, yeah! Okay, oh, yeah, I forgot they live here,” and then I can reach out to them and try and set something up.

So, again, what that looks like is every Monday morning it says something like “schedule for the next two weekends.” There’s a hyperlink to an Excel sheet. It’s just a quick-and-dirty list of people who live here, maybe their kids’ names, and I can just kind of scan through that, look at our next two weekends, and see if there’s anything that works for us. I tend to keep my weekends very light, so I don’t book a lot of things, but it’s a really nice way to be like, “Oh, my husband’s actually not working this weekend. We could actually do something,” and just a reminder also closer in time that we might calendar something.

I’ve found that looking ahead two weeks is really good for us. It kind of helps me know what season of life we’re feeling, our energy levels, that kind of stuff. And so, if I know we’re feeling tired because we’re coming off a sickness or my husband’s been working a lot of nights and is really tired, I’m not gonna book two nights of dates. Dates I actually do book farther ahead of time because you’ve got to get sitters, but I’m not gonna book a whole weekend of plans because we just want to chill more.

So closer in time works better for me. (I’m a little bit rambly.) You can decide what works best for you, but I have found that that has really helped me, again, not expect my brain to remember to constantly be making social plans, but kind of corral that into a time that works better for me unless someone reaches out to us. Again, I have the list of people that I can just peruse and be like, “Oh, yeah. We haven’t seen them in a while. It’d be great to see them,” or “Oh, I saw them at school the other day, and I really would love to hang out with them,” and it really, really helps me then get some things on the calendar that are exciting and fun and really kind of foster some friendships more locally. Again, take it or leave it, as with anything that I teach.

Navigating the Harder Seasons for Friends – 14:43

Okay, turning to the more abnormalities of this, abnormalities, gain, could be good or bad. There can be harder seasons for friends. So you might want to shift the whole cadence of how often you reach out to someone.

So, if a friend is going through, let’s say a divorce, or their kids are going through something really hard, medically maybe, or they’re going through something medically, what you might want to do is take that “I call this friend every two weeks” notification and just change the frequency so you call them every three days. If that’s not realistic for you, then maybe you keep the calling at that normal cadence, but you also add in you text them every three days. That can really just help you, again, show up in the midst of all the other things you have going on in your life as the friend that you want to be and really support them through that.

If it’s a more one-off thing, like, again, the friend’s boards or a kid is going through a procedure maybe or they are going through a procedure, those are more one-off things, and what you might want to do is calendar those things and then also think about all the things that you want to do around it.

I think it was the last episode or two episodes ago I talked about capturing to-dos, and what I shared is I’m very a do not get my calendar out and find the perfect home for a to-do in the moment. The exception to that is if a friend tells me something really important going on in their life, I might, in that moment, get my phone out and just quickly calendar it. If it doesn’t make sense, it would be like totally rude given the context, I might wait. But as soon as I remember, like if they go to the bathroom.

If I’m at dinner with them and they tell me something that’s going on in their life and they tell me a big date, and then the go to the bathroom or something like that or I go to the bathroom, on my way, I will pull up that date and put it in my calendar because, again, I do not rely on my brain for anything. And so, I put that in right away because I will forget about the whole thing entirely by tomorrow or I will forget the actual date and then I’m like, “When’s that?” And so, that is a time that I do actually break out my calendar as quickly as I can within reason and then calendar those things.

Then, as I said, I want you to ask what do you want to do to acknowledge this and calendar those things. So, going back to my example of my friend who’s taking the boards, this meant what I calendared is for 6:00 PM the night before the boards I said, “[Her name], boards are tomorrow, text her good luck.” I’m very long in my calendar entries, and so, I’m like, “Tell future you exactly what you want her to do.” At 7:00 AM the day of the boards I said, “Friend’s boards are today! Text her good luck again!” And then for 3:00 PM that day of the boards, I said, “Friend’s likely done with the boards. Check in with her.”

I know this is kind of weird. But I think what’s even weirder is that we expect our brains to do all of those things without the reminder, as if we’re walking around dealing with the chaos of life in the day-to-day. At 3:00 PM we’re like, “Oh, my friend is done with the boards. I should send her a text,” or that morning when you’re trying to shower and get ready and get food in your tummy and go do this important work thing and all that kind of stuff, to be like, “Oh, right. My friend’s boards are today. Let me text her.” It’s just not realistic, and so, instead of beating yourself up for not magically remembering to do that kind of stuff because you’re not a robot, why not use a system that is more robotic in that it’ll alert you and all that kind of stuff to help you show up in the way that you want to.

I’ve also had friends use this in the context of if a friend has lost a parent, remembering to reach out to them on the day of loss, even the month of loss, to be there for them more. I’ve had a friend do this where her friend has cancer and still has indefinite chemo every three weeks, and so, she has those dates of the chemo cadence in her calendar and also a couple days before sends her a card or does something special for her to really show up for her in the ways that she wants. That client who’s now a friend has shared that that’s her biggest win, that specific example, not just her friendships. Being able to show up as that friend for that friend going through cancer, this indefinitely and for such a prolonged period, is the greatest win that has come out of The Bright Method for her.

It resonates so deeply with me, and I think for most people I work with. I’m close with all the people I work with, that if you can show up in your relationships and be there for the people you love in this way without, again, your brain having to carry the burden itself, that is what is so important, and that’s why I just get so thrilled about this type of stuff.

Adjust As Needed – 19:38

So I hope you see the benefits of this stuff. One last thing I want to say is, not only does doing this help you with kind of the mental load of friendships and showing up as your friend in the way that you want, but one really awesome benefit of this is if you do this, if you sit down and calendar out all the things you want to do to maintain your friendships for all of the friends that you really want to do this for and then you also start doing this for the kind of abnormalities, good and bad, that show up in your friends’ lives, you might do all this and be like, “This is not realistic. I wanted to call ten of my best friends every single week, and now that I actually calendar all of it, this is crazy! I have no time to do this,” and you can adjust.

What I love here, though, is that you can adjust and see what’s realistic and make modifications so that whatever you plan out is realistic, and you might be like, “Oh, I thought I could call these friends one a week, and I’m gonna have to call them more like once a month because there are so many friends that I want to do this with, it’s not gonna work. For this one friend, I’ll call her once a week or every two weeks, but everybody else is gonna have to get once a month.” How freeing to figure that out now instead of holding yourself to this crazy expectation of calling all your friends once a week and then every single week beating yourself up for not doing that.

That’s so much of what I love. It’s just such a fun way of seeing it play out because that’s so much of what I teach of embracing the reality of our limited time and that we are gonna have time be so limited. I know I just said that, but there’s only so much we can fit in it, and we have to make decisions and calls based on that. The more that we can get awareness around that limited capacity, an awareness of what we’re trying to do within it, and then make sure it’s realistic, the more that we will feel confident because we’re hitting those realistic plans. We’re proud of what we got done instead of defeated by what we constantly are not getting done even though it was not realistic to begin with.

I see that so often inside The Bright Method with the things that we’re trying to do at home and the things that we’re trying to do at work and all this kind of stuff, that it’s just kind of fun to see it play out. In a relationship context, it comes out as more fluffy in a sense. But I would say that it’s actually the most important part of what we do. And so, I think that is really empowering in a weird way to embrace the reality and then feel proud of the friend that you’re getting to be through this process.

So I hope that you sit down, if you want to do this, and really just think through who are the friends that you want to show up for, what does that mean, what does that look like, is all of this, when combined, realistic with everything else you have going on? Again, that’s the benefit of using a digital calendar in the way that I teach in that you’re not just plotting all of these action items into a bunch of white space in your calendar. You’re seeing how they interact with the rest of your life. You’re seeing if they fit with the rest of your life and getting to embrace that reality.

Join The Bright Method Program – 22:39

If you’re interested in learning this full system of using the calendar in this way but using it across all parts of your life, relationships, work, personal, all of it, seeing how it all interacts, keeping it all realistic, helping you show up in all of the roles in the ways that you want to with more clarity, with more confidence, with just embracing the reality of it all and really having pride in what you are doing in all of those roles, I would truly love to work with you.

Inside The Bright Method, I help you set up this whole system, whether you’re using Outlook, whether you’re using Google, whether you’re using Apple, or some combination of all of those things, I help you set up the technology and then we really build out a system using smart, strategic, and tech strategies to make it not overwhelming. I help you really execute and tailor and implement all of this kind of stuff together over the course of eight weeks.

While we talk a lot about calendars and setting up the system, we also talk a lot about the ripple effects, like relationships, as I mentioned, your romantic relationships and sharing the load there but also protecting time for the quality time, not just the mundane time that we have in relationships. We also talk about family and other people in your life that you want to show up for in these ways. We also talk about boundaries and delegating and so, so much more. As I said, everything comes back to time. So I truly believe you’ll feel the ripple effects of getting a handle of your time on your time and managing it all. You’ll feel those ripple effects in so many different and even surprising places.

And so, if you’re interested, enrollment for my January through March program is now open. You can learn all about it at www.kellynolan.com/bright. You’re also welcome to email me with any question you have at ke***@ke********.com. And I will not be running it again until the fall of 2024, so if you want to learn about this now, now is the time to jump in. Again, if you have any questions, let me know, and I truly hope to see you in there! It is weirdly fun. I know that time management itself sounds so dry, but it is weirdly fun to dig into this stuff. If you want to nerd out on it with me, I would love to nerd out on it with you. Again, you can check it all out at www.kellynolan.com/bright.

Again, I won’t have an episode for you next week just because it’s the Christmas week and I’ll be out. But I hope that you have a wonderful, safe holiday season, and I’ll catch you in the new year!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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