Summertime is for living easy. It's a time to enjoy the weather and each other, as much as we can. Given our increasingly busy and remote ways of living and working, however, getting together with friends can often feel like one more thing on the to-do list. One that requires time, attention and energy you're not sure you have, instead of a fun and fulfilling experience you can't wait to do more of.
Yet, time spent gathering and connecting with friends is one of the most important antidotes to counter the crazed and often isolated nature of our modern lives. It is time well-spent, so the easier and more convenient we can make it, the better off we’ll be. Here are 5 ways to help you simplify and solidify plans to get outside and get together this summer season.
1. Meet at a Park or other Outdoor Space
Take advantage of the weather to meet outside at a park or public garden. This means no hosting stress—like tidying up the house, stocking the refrigerator, or any other pressures. These things just aren’t necessary for us to get together and have a good time. If you have any doubts, check out the Portland Picnic Society blog. These “picnickers extraordinaire” have the art of effortless outdoor gatherings down, providing pure inspiration for finding the best shady spot in your city to kick off your sandals and kick off the good times.
2. Make it a Standing Date
Since one of the key principles in making and maintaining friendships is consistency, getting together and doing it regularly matters. Establish a re-occurring event that doesn’t require starting anew each time—plan once, and have everyone simply show up thereafter. Pick a regular meeting time, such as the first Sunday of every month at 4 PM, and invite your group to meet at wherever your chosen public venue may be (see #1)—whoever is free just shows up!
Not everyone will be able to make it every time, but chances are that with enough folks on the list, at least some will be able to come, some of the time. And if you encourage those that can make it to bring others along as well, it’ll be an ever changing mix of friends. A simple group email can serve as the invite or you can use an e-invite service like Paperless Post which offers the advantage of generating an auto reminder to your group each time the next event approaches.
3. Time it Right
Planning meals—even when it’s potluck style—can involve a lot of preparation. If it feels like coordinating a picnic at the park will only add to the stress, then plan to meet mealtime adjacent. For example, plan for 3 PM Sunday afternoon; everyone brings their own drinks, and a bag of almonds or summer fruit to share. No silverware or dishes needed.
4. Keep it Fun
Some people abhor small talk, which can be especially painful if you’re getting together with people you are still getting to know, or haven’t seen for a while. I find rallying around activities works beautifully as an ice breaker. Plus, play is good for us, and as adults we don’t do it nearly enough. Lawn games are perfect for this. Encourage guests to bring their favorites. Bocce for the park, ladder ball, or even good old croquet is sure to make for a good time.
Even as we, mercifully, move into an era of backlash against the previous decade of “crazy busy" (where more and more of us are attempting to reframe our thoughts towards abundance instead of scarcity when it comes to time), the fact is most of us do still feel busy, even if it’s no longer a source of pride. If it feels like there is too much else on your plate competing with your intention to be social, build your gatherings into activities you’re already doing. Instead of hitting the gym solo, consider finding an after-work or weekend hiking pal. That might even qualify as a triple-dip—combining your exercise time with social time, and an outdoor fix. It's like a scoop of Neapolitan in your summer sugar cone.