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The How-To Lounge: Making Long-Distance Phone Time

Let's face it: Staying in touch is hard, especially if you have a big family, lots of friends, or entire time zones separating you from the people you love. But the phone is an essential tool when it comes to nurturing long-distance friendships; the problem is finding time to talk.

If you've got friends spread out over the country or the globe, there are a few simple things you can do to make quality talk time. To see my tips and add your own,


  • Make a date. Particularly when dealing with time zone issues, setting up a specific time to talk helps tremendously. If it's someone you talk to a lot, schedule a day and time when you can talk every week. For one-off chit-chats, use IM, texts, or email to find a time that works.
  • Write a pre-email. If you've got obligatory job and vacation updates to get out of the way, do it over email. That way, your phone call can focus more on the sort of goofy chit-chat and gossip you'd have if you were talking in person.
  • Make it fun. Sometimes, if you have a lot of catching up to do, a phone date with a friend can go for hours. To make it worth your while, turn it into a virtual happy hour: Pour yourself a glass of wine, have you friend mix up a cocktail, and sip while you dish.
  • Squeeze it in. If you don't have time for a marathon phone call, try calling friends and family when you have downtime here and there — if you're walking home from the subway or waiting for the cable guy to show up. This can also help the time zone issue: If you're coming home late and you live on the East Coast, your West Coast friends are just finishing dinner.
  • Double up. If your parents are on the other end of the phone but in the same room, why not talk to them both at once? Have them get on speaker phone so you don't have to repeat yourself.

Have your own tips? I'd love to hear them, so please share in the comments.


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