Not too long ago I wrote about 'the entrepreneur's dilemma,' a clever formulation of the work-life balance tradeoffs faced by busy professionals from entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg. It goes like this:

"Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3."

It's brutal but it's true, Zuckerberg insists, and based on the strong reaction to the post, it appears lots of readers agree. So which three do you choose?

When Zuckerberg's schedule gets nutty, friends and fitness tend to fall by the wayside, she's confessed in interviews. With sleep being a biological necessity, the demands of kids near impossible to ignore, and the passion many of us feel our work (or at least our pay check), I doubt very much Zuckerberg is alone in her priorities. When time gets tight, friendships often suffer.

Is there any way around this sad reality? It's a questions time use expert and author Laura Vanderkam tackled recently in a thoughtful Fast Company piece. In the article, Vanderkam examines the psychological benefits of strong friendships (and why we sometimes let them slide anyway) before offering a long list of "ways to be a good friend, even when you've got a lot going on." Here are a few of her tips in brief:

1. Plan big

"Paradoxically, big get-togethers can be easier to prioritize than smaller ones," writes Vanderkam, offering the example of a busy professor who plans an annual getaway for her old college friends and their families. Because of the scale of the event, it becomes a (super fun) priority. "If you've got a friend group you'd like to cultivate, become the instigator of such a trip," suggests Vanderkam.

2. Go recurring

You know how hard it is to find time in your calendar for a single event, so make your life easier by creating a recurring engagement -- such as a book club or weekly coffee date with a friend -- that you'll soon see as a schedule staple. "Making it regular makes it happen," insists Vanderkam.

3. Texting isn't just for teens

You don't need to send constant selfies like your 14-year-old daughter, but the occasional, thoughtful text can be a great way for extremely busy adults to keep in touch. "A simple 'I'm thinking of you' is a much nicer way to pass the time in the Starbucks line than looking at email (again)," Vanderkam reminds readers (true that!). Group texts are another way you could go.

4. Double up

Try mixing friendship and errands, suggests Vanderkam. Not only will bringing your friend to your exercise class or shopping for your kid's school uniform brighten up the experience, but it'll help you pack more friend-time into your crammed schedule.

5. Choose wisely

Not all friendships are worth maintaining when you're extremely busy. Pick wisely and think carefully about whether it's more important to make new connections or maintain old ties. "Friendships should energize you, so when time is tight, it's best to invest your time and energy in the relationships you know already enrich your life," cautions Vanderkam.

Do you have any other tips to add to this list?

Published on: Mar 28, 2016