Free time today is sacred, a precious commodity that so many of us worry about spending well. Too often, the time we have outside the office is polluted by the anxiety of getting the necessities done: laundry, exercise, grocery shopping, sleeping, and prepping for the next day. With all these things to do, finding time for yourself is hard, but making time for your friends is even harder.
The thing is, making time to nourish our friendships is important for our health, happiness, and overall life balance. Luckily, spending quality time with friends can be productive personal time as well. You may not be able to simultaneously veg out on the couch and get in a workout (as so many of us wish we could), but you can definitely hang with your bestie and check off your to-do list at the same time. That’s right, you can have your friends and clean laundry, too!
Here are ten ideas to help you amp up the "quality" in quality time.
01. Throw an ‘Inbox Zero’ party.
Yes, those thousands of emails will be organized, categorized, filed, or deleted. Going through with friends can be a creative way to make something painful actually fun. Read ridiculous subject lines and reminisce about your past, all while in the company of your BFFs. Need a strategy to wipe out the excess? Try one of these tips from Inc.
02. Work out together.
Arrange for a friend to meet you at the track, trail, gym, or yoga studio, and check that exercise box together. This two-birds-with-one-stone approach gets endorphins flowing from both the exercise and the companionship. Another great aspect of arranging after-work exercise dates is that you get to skip the early morning workout and sleep in for a change.
03. Cook dinner for the week.
What’s better than having a home-cooked meal and lots of leftovers for the week? Plan a cooking night together to catch up and create a delicious meal that will last you throughout the week.
04. Organize a clothes swap.
Host a clothes swap. You and your girlfriends most likely have piles of clothes you want to get rid of, so organize a party for exchanging. You can donate the remaining clothes to a local women’s shelter or other charitable organization afterward, such as Dress for Success.
05. Go to a TED Talk.
Most of us have “stay in touch with the world” or something along those lines on our to-do lists. If you’re looking to stay in touch, attend a TED Talk—or any other local panel or talk—with a friend. This is a great opportunity to learn something new, practice your small-talk/mingling/networking skills, and spend quality time with a friend all at once.
06. Host a nail night.
That polish you’ve had on your toes has seen better days, probably in part because it can be a little boring to give your toes the TLC they need (there’s nothing wrong with some quality magazine time though!). Hitting up the salon is always a great group event, or better yet, do it yourself at home. Have everyone bring a bottle, and finally test out some of those trends you've been eyeing on Pinterest.
Another more aspirational thing on our to-do lists is to get involved in our community and volunteer—unfortunately this is the item that most often falls by the wayside. Get a friend to commit a day to work at a soup kitchen or nursing home. Or just grab a trash bag and some gloves with your girls, and go out into your neighborhood for a couple hours of beautification. It will feel great to finally do those good deeds you’ve been thinking of, and your friends will be happy you recruited them, too.
08. Have a yard sale.
This is a great way to get rid of all the stuff that might not be junk but that you really just don’t need. Get a bunch of your friends to pool all that “stuff”—wonky Ikea tables and old college cutlery—for a one-weekend extravaganza. It will be a bit of a project, but when the day is done, you will feel clutter-free and have a little extra cash or maybe even a new tradition to share with your friends.
09. Plan a reading date.
We all wish we had more time to read. Well, set aside a night for it, and do it with friends. Find a cozy spot, and bring a book for fun. Better yet, get started on the same book, and make it an impromptu book club.
10. Start a monthly Laundromat meeting.
You might have a washing machine at your place, but the huge ones at the coin wash can do some serious washing and drying for big-ticket items such as sheets, comforters, throw blankets, and pillow covers. According to the American Cleaning Institute, you should be doing your sheets every two weeks, so rather than waiting with a crossword solo, grab a friend, bring a board game, and sit together while they wash.