It is a truth universally acknowledged that doing things with friends is fun, but making plans to do those things is the actual worst.
Yes, modern technology *technically* makes it easier to organize a dinner or a game night or whatever floats your boat, but it also introduces a host of other setbacks and annoyances and issues and uuuuggggh.
Even though I don't ~love~ planning activities with one or a few friends like a social secretary, I've come up with enough of a method for it that it doesn't bother me anymore.
When I want to ensure that I actually get to see the people I want see and do the things I want to do, I follow these simple guidelines.*
*Put together, all of these prescriptions may seem like an overdose and the antithesis of fun. I would argue that being stuck in a permanent holding pattern of "Let's hang out soon!" "Yeah, would love that!" is the anthesis of fun, but YMMV.
Anyway, you do not have to follow these rules to the letter, nor do you have to follow them at all. Do what makes sense for your lifestyle and relationships, so long as your end goal is to not be shitty.
1. Take the reins and be the one to reach out and suggest a plan.
Listen, I get it: This is a very big and scary step if this isn't something you already do. I used to wait for other people to reach out to me, and would inevitably feel sad and alone when I had nothing to do on a Friday night, especially when I'd just graduated from college and was living in New York City with a long list of things I wanted to do. After too many weeks of this, I decided to act on my mom's long-standing advice that the phone works both ways, and I started just texting people when I wanted to try out a cool new cocktail bar or something. It's so basic that in retrospect, it sounds ridiculous that it was a lightbulb moment, but I discovered pretty quickly that my mom was right. (Thanks, mom.)
I've dealt with anxiety for most of my life, and for a long time, I let the triplet demons of "What if they say no?"; "What if they say yes but don't really want to hang out with me?"; and "What if the thing we do sucks and it'll be my fault because I suggested it?" win. To be perfectly honest, I've established more of a truce with the demons than an actual victory, but I've learned that when you stare a demon in the eye and act like it doesn't exist, it whimpers and puts its tail between its legs. Because guess what? Most people are legitimately psyched to have a cool activity presented to them — you're literally doing them a favor! —and the more times you experience a positive reaction, the easier it gets to do it again. If you do it enough, it'll become a habit, and before you know it, you'll have things to do whenever you want.
2. Try to get the ball rolling at least a week in advance, no matter what kind of plans you're making.
3. Better yet, actually suggest a date when you reach out.
PSA: "Hey! Let's catch up sometime, it's been forever!" means you likely will not see that person in this decade, but "Hey! It's been forever! Let's get coffee and catch up next Wednesday or Thursday if you're free" pretty much swings the door wide open for a good IRL hangout.
Having said all this, you won't always be in the driver's seat with plans, but being a good passenger is equally important. And thank god for that! Pay close attention to this next part:
4. If someone's putting in all the effort, offer to help them out.
5. If you say no to a date or place, suggest an alternative.
Your friend says, "Let's hang out Saturday!" WYD?
A. Say, "Ah, I'm busy that day!"
B. Say, "I can't do Saturday, but I could do Sunday."
If you said B, then congratulations — you'll probably be splitting a large pizza with another human on Sunday because you can tell which of those implies, "LOL I don't really care if we do this," and which one communicates, "I actually want to spend some of my free time in your company."
Turning down a place or time, legitimate reason or no, without saying where/when else you can do something not only is kinda rude, but it puts the onus on the other person to once again figure out ideas and logistics. It also means you'll be stuck going back and forth for a lot longer than you need to. Not cool, people. Not cool.
6. Never, ever say, "I'm so busy!"
7. Don't agree to plans you don't want to do and/or are likely to cancel.
We all have That Flaky Friend, and we all resent That Flaky Friend. Be better than that. You know yourself better than anyone, and if you can just tell you're going to really regret agreeing to go to that Zumba class the day of and try to bail, don't say you'll go to the Zumba class! If you maturely turn down the plans or suggest an alternative, that friend will (hopefully) know better than to invite you to a dance class next time.
And if someone says no to you, don't take it personally. They're just trying to live their truth.
8. Know that it's OK to cancel...if you handle it maturely and responsibly.
Canceling plans is a gateway drug to a lifetime of Netflix marathons and personal-size pizzas, but like any drug, it must be treated with care. There are people who enjoy having plans as much as other people enjoy canceling them, and we all have to compromise sometimes.
If you need to cancel for any reason, give the other person/people a heads-up the second you think there might be a problem — and no, that problem can't be that another plan sounds better, or that you suddenly don't feel like doing the thing you agreed to do weeks or days ago. You don't need to over-apologize or get into the nitty-gritty details. And if/when you do actually have to cut the cord and cancel, again, suggest another real time you can do something. Unless you really don't ever want to see them again, in which case, you do you.
9. Don't shame people for how much money they have or don’t have.
10. The flip side of this is that you shouldn't overreact if someone suggests an activity that you believe is the equivalent of setting money on fire.
Look, I know most concerts suck, but some people like them — and might even want to share that treasured activity with you! If they invite you to go to one with them, and you say any version of "Yikes! That's a lot of money to hear someone sing," they have every right to delete your contact information. Forever. Something like "That's not really my cup of tea, but how about X instead?" might go over a little more smoothly. Basically...be cool, guys.