Categories | Community Contributions
Personal relationships are among my GTD Areas of Focus and Responsibility. I maintain a list of all persons with whom I have friendly relations. I informally call it my “friends list” even though I think it would be too presumptuous to call all of these people friends: There are well over 300 people on it right now. It is a work-in-progress and whenever someone pops into my consciousness and I am unsure whether he or she is on my list, I make a note on my ubiquitous capture tool and add them to the list later.
Each of my “friends” fit into one of these categories. Note that I do not consider a romantic partner, or children if I had them, to be friends. Similarly, if you have a singular “best friend” that person need not be on the list. These persons are not comparable to others and are each their own category.
- Closest and current friends. These are my dearest friends and are, fortunately, a current and regular part of my life. Contrast with Category 2
- Closest but not-current friends. I value these friends equally to Category 1 friends but life circumstances have deprived me of enjoying them as I wish. The main reason is that they live far away. I know that if circumstances improved they would be Category 1.
- Forever-friends. I want these people to be friends for life, but they do not have the same level of value-sharing as I do with Category 1 & 2 friends. Many of these friends are from various schools, my childhood, etc. Some of them were Category 1/2 friends but we grew apart. Many relatives might be in this category, as well.
- Current acquaintances. I know these people and like them, but my interaction is very context-specific. If that context changed the relationship would likely end. Examples are neighbors, some co-workers, work-out partners or sports team members, and service people like your local butcher, bartender, storekeepers, hair stylists, etc.
- Not-current acquaintances. These are people I know and like, but they are not actively in my life and presently I do not expect to do anything to change that. Whenever I run in to them, I am glad to see them. Examples would be people I see if I happen to visit their towns (or vice versa), or see them at a party of mutual friends. However, I do try to reach out via email or calls on occasion.
These categories, as you can imagine, form a pyramid: Categories 4 & 5 are massive; 2 & 3 are greatly diminished in size, and 1 is very small.
This list is practical for when you need to send Christmas cards, announcements, etc. But the really important reasons to do this are:
- By categorizing your friends, you can then allocate your time and resources to your friends in proportion to their level of importance. Recently I told a Category 2 friend how much he matters to me, and I deeply regret the deeply between us but I have the highest esteem and affection. That made me feel good, and I think it made him feel good too.
- It helps you to evaluate your friendships objectively rather than emotionally. For example, I felt very bad for years for not keeping in touch with my childhood best friend. Through categorizing him, I realized my emotions for him were misplaced: he was not a Category 2 friend any more. At best he is a Category 3. While that caused sadness to me, because I realized we were no longer close, my emotions readjusted and now I am content with this fact.
- It is dynamic. If you have time for more friendships, you can look to promoting someone one by engaging with them more. If you are too busy, you can reduce the amount of time you are spending with Category 3, for example.
- It triggers action: review the list and do something for friends you have not contacted in a while. A phone call, email, ordering a gift, etc., may be all you can do.
Finally, if you have trouble deciding where a person fits — say, a Category 2 or 3, or a 3 or 4, consider how they relate in importance to people in those categories. This is how I re-categorized my childhood best friend: I had to be honest with myself and recognize he did not hold the same status to me as did the others in Category 2.
Try it and let me know what you learned.