It’s time to order your holiday cards and plan the holiday gatherings! The many annual traditions of staying in touch make this time of year extra special. Yet, when January arrives, we get back to our routines. Often, we forget the importance of staying in touch and connected throughout the year. It’s not too early to think about how to keep your relationship momentum going long after the holidays.
Not only are relationships essential to our happiness, they help us do big things, come up with better ideas and make our work far more meaningful. Relationships are never “done.” They take a year-round commitment, not just in December.
The best at keeping in touch and making sure relationships are a high priority do the following:
- Reserve & protect the time. When your day is packed with commitments and meetings, staying in touch can feel like an extra to-do. Relationship pros reserve pockets of time to grab coffee with a friend or make a quick call. A mentor once told me that “even if you are jam-packed busy and you love your job – spend at least 30 minutes every day reaching out to others and investing in your relationships.” This only happens when you protect some time on your calendar to do so.
- Grab small pockets of unused time. One of my best (and busiest) business friends calls me every couple of months on his drive into the office or on his way home to check in. He views his commute time as his ‘stay in touch with others time.’ So before you spend 15 minutes on Candy Crush while waiting for your flight, try using that small pocket of time to do something important and keep in touch.
- Use time limits to your advantage. I delay calling some friends because I think I’ll call when I have plenty of time and we can really catch up. As a result, the call is never made because I always feel that my time is limited. It’s ok. Make the call. A short check-in is better than waiting for the perfect time. “I only have about 10 minutes before my flight, but I wanted to call and check in on you.” It works.
- Invest in small gestures. You can write a quick personal note (which is much more memorable than an email) in five minutes. Send a quick text or an email that shows you are there. Drop off a book or small gift on an important day. Small actions add up to a big impact.
- Calendar your follow-ups. When you stay in touch, and you listen, you’ll hear about important events and issues – a parent’s upcoming surgery, a new job change, or a child starting kindergarten in the fall. Mark these upcoming dates on your calendar or make note of your conversation in your Contacts so that you remember to follow up. These back up notes can help you remember the small things that matter.
- Mix up your networks. You can make the best use of your time by breaking down the invisible walls around your relationship groups. Mix personal friends with work friends for dinner. Blend family, co-workers, and friends so that it’s simpler for you and you avoid treating them as distinct and separate circles that can’t be connected. A friend often has her version of the retro dinner party by including an eclectic mix of people for a sit-down dinner and interesting conversation.
- Go to the _______. You can fill in wedding, anniversary party, baby shower, birthday celebration or funeral. Be there. Those honored or affected will always remember your attendance at these special and symbolic events. Even if you can’t stay long – being there matters. Your presence makes others feel that their big day matters to you and it enriches your relationship.
As you make plans to reach out to personal friends, family, business friends, and clients this holiday season – think of creative ways to keep these connections alive throughout the year.
Above all, stay in touch. Even when it’s not the holiday.
Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults. She can be followed @PattiBJohnson or @People_Results.