The last few weeks have been very different for most of us. All the activities we used to plan — happy hours, movies, comedy shows, kids’ extracurricular activities, and more — were all suddenly and shockingly canceled. Places were closed down and all we could do was stay home.
And while many have complained and felt cooped up, some may have found this to be a bit of a relief. Introverts and others who frequently made plans they didn’t really want to make were a bit grateful that they had a legitimate reason to stay home — and excited that they weren’t the ones who canceled!
Before the pandemic, you might have canceled for legitimate reasons — a sick kid, a sudden deadline at work, your own illness. But sometimes you canceled just because you didn’t really feel like going. And sometimes you kept plans you didn’t want to keep just because you couldn’t think of a good reason to bail.
Now that things are beginning to open back up and we can get out there and start doing things again, you’ll start making plans. But by implementing a few simple steps to your planning, you can make plans that you’ll not only truly want to keep but be able to.
Remember the reason you’re getting together
Whether you’re planning a date with your significant other or a night out with friends, the first step to making plans you’ll want to keep is remembering the reason for the plans: to spend some quality time together.
When we focus too heavily on the activity, it’s easy to back out. We can see a movie, go to dinner, walk around the park, or have drinks anytime (in theory, anyway). But when we remember that the point is to spend time with someone we care about, the plans take on a different meaning. We might be able to do the activity anytime, but will we be able to see this person anytime? Maybe not.
When you put more importance on the reason for getting together, you make it much easier to want to follow through. You also allow more flexibility. You might not even make specific plans. You might simply put it on your schedule that you and your friend Jenny are getting together on Saturday at noon. You’ll figure out what to do once you’re together.
Confirm budgets and stress levels
Financial constraints can be a big reason for canceling plans. We agree to do something when we’re doing good, but then we have car trouble that costs hundreds or thousands to repair or some other unexpected expense, and suddenly, that pricey weekend away is more than we can afford.
Sometimes we don’t want to admit we can’t afford something. So we agree and back out later. It never hurts to check with the others you’re getting together with and confirm budgets. Be honest and encourage your friends or partner to do the same. Spending time together isn’t worth anyone going broke.
Stress is another reason we might bail on plans we’ve made. We didn’t realize we’d have a big project due and be working long hours when we made the plans. Or a babysitter might have canceled, or something else that has sent our stress level through the roof.
When you’re trying to make plans, consider what projects you might have coming due around the date of your plans. Look into pooling resources such as babysitters or carpooling, if needed.
Keep your weekend plans realistic
Friday and Saturday nights are party nights. On Monday morning, or even in the evening, we’re still bright and fresh and looking forward to letting off some steam on the weekend. But by Friday or Saturday night, we’re tired, wanting to recover from work, and often just wanting to stay home and chill with a glass of wine and something on Netflix.
So if you’re making those weekend plans, try to keep them realistic. Instead of a plan to hit every nightclub in town Friday night, plan to go to happy hour at one bar instead. Instead of a late Saturday night, consider a late Sunday morning brunch. Make plans that are simpler, more low-key, and easier to persuade yourself to go.
It’s a lot easier to push yourself out the door for a couple of drinks than it is for a night spent bar hopping until two in the morning.
And if you make more realistic plans and then find you want to do something bigger? Being spontaneous can be fun! Go ahead and go bigger when that happens. You’ll enjoy it much more because of the spontaneity than if you tried to force it.
Plan early but not too early
It’s good to get plans on everyone’s schedule before it gets all booked up with other things. But if you plan too far in advance, finances and other priorities may still require canceling.
As a general rule, I suggest not planning more than two weeks in advance. Two weeks is usually close enough that you should have a good idea of what else will be going on and you can plan accordingly.
What about plans that might require planning further in advance? Maybe there’s a concert or other event coming that requires purchasing tickets and might sell out if you don’t buy them early. If this is a concern, I suggest asking yourself how much you really think you’ll enjoy the event. If it’s a concert with your favorite band, you’re a lot more likely to push through and go even if you don’t feel totally up to it. But if it’s an event that doesn’t mean anything to you, and you’re just going because a friend is into it, you might back out later. Only make these bigger commitments when the event is something meaningful to you personally.
Weekend getaways require more planning, with reservations and deposits. I suggest making those plans one to three months in advance, and no more. I also suggest that you block out the time immediately upon making these plans and planning the rest of your life carefully around the time.
Keep one day for yourself
Keep one day out of each week (or one day out of each month, at a bare minimum) that’s just for you. No plans, no errands, just a free day to do whatever you want. Sleep in, go to bed early, read, lounge on the couch or in the pool… spend this day however you want.
Knowing that you have a day every week where you have no plans, no commitments to others, and can just do whatever you want can make it a lot easier to commit to and keep plans with others. Knowing you’ll have that downtime, that it’s guaranteed, gives you the security of knowing that you won’t be on-the-go all the time and that makes it easier to push yourself out the door for some fun with others.
Whether you choose the same day each week, or you choose it randomly based on other plans, make sure you give yourself that time.
Create a list of go-to plans
Sometimes we want to bail on plans we made just because we really don’t want to do whatever it is we planned. That’s why it can help to have a go-to list of plans. This list should be things you always enjoy doing and that don’t require much effort or advance planning for you or anyone else.
Think activities like a movie and popcorn night at home, brunch or lunch at a café near your home, or a leisurely walk through the park. These should be the kinds of activities that you can bring yourself to do even if you’re feeling tired, pressed for time, or low on cash, so that you have fewer excuses for bailing when you’ve made these plans.
As an introvert, I understand very well what it’s like to make plans and then realize you don’t actually want to follow through on them. But spending time with those we love is important. Take the pressure off and keep things simple.
You’re in charge
Above all, when making plans remember that you’re in charge. You can, and should, say no when you really don’t want to do something. If you’re not sure, be honest and say so. Don’t let people coerce or bully you into doing things you don’t want to do.
Be realistic about what you can fit into your schedule. Whether it’s a girls’ night out with your friends or signing your little one up for T-ball, be sure you can commit the time to it before you agree. And don’t let others’ disappointment cause you to overextend yourself.
When you remember it’s your life and you get to be in charge of your plans, you’ll find you say yes to the things you really want to do and no to everything else. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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