Friendship Tip: 5-Minute Phone Calls

Do you have any long-distance friends? My friends Clare and Brooke live in California, and I find that we never talk on the phone anymore because, as much as we want to, we just can’t find time to sit down for those long and involved catch-up conversations.

Well, my friend Kendra told me a genius idea that other day. She and her best friend live far apart, so they made a rule that they will talk for five minutes at a time. If the call goes longer, fine; but if they have to hang up (to go to work, comfort a baby, eat dinner), then it’s totally cool. Not every call has to be a deep conversation. They can just ring and say, “I’m getting my haircut today, any advice?” or “What cute things is your baby doing?” and chat quickly and hang up. Now they enjoy these little calls all the time and are in close touch.

Brilliant! Do you still talk to your friends on the phone? Or just text?

P.S. Making friends as an adult.

(Photo from I Love Lucy)

  1. This is such amazing advice, and I plan on putting it into effect in my life immediately! I moved 3,000 miles away a year ago (from Massachusetts to California) and it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep up with my best friends. It seems like since we never have time to talk, every talk we have should last an hour, so I find myself putting off calls because I don’t have enough time! This sounds like an amazing alternative, so we don’t all feel completely disconnected. Awesome advice

  2. Mimi says...

    My son lives 3,000 miles away. He calls me when he walks the dog. The average call is 2-3 minutes. God bless that dog.

  3. Thomas Jhone says...

    Oh I do – quite many actually! Both within Sweden (it´s a loooong country so if you live in opposite parts you don´t see much of eachother) and in other .countries

  4. My long-distance best friend and I always talk during rush hour traffic. I use handsfree and it makes my hour long commute something to look forward to :)

  5. I really love this. I live far from most of my close friends and I get phone anxiety trying to figure out a good time to call and catch up on EVERYTHING.

    I want to call more, and I like the idea of quick chats often rather than long talks nearly never.


    xo, Sheila

  6. Hey Joanna, I’m a current University student starting a positive psychology blog ! If you could leave me any advice/tips, it would be awesome! =)

  7. What an awesome idea! I have tons of friends long distance and finding time to chat is hard. Will definitely try this :)

  8. Love this idea! All of our friends are so spread out now and I think as time goes on and you don’t talk it seems more “work” to call and catch up. This keeps it simple and no one has to feel bad about having to go so soon!

  9. This is one of the best ideas I’ve read in a long time. My best friend Jenny who lives in New York sent me the link to this post. I live in England so we only talk on a monthly basis, if that. Definitely gonna try this! I hope you don’t mind but I wrote about this idea in my blog, I linked your blog of course and said where I got the idea from. I have so many international friends that could use this tip.

  10. This is one of the best ideas I’ve read in a long time. My best friend Jenny who lives in New York sent me the link to this post. I live in England so we only talk on a monthly basis, if that. Definitely gonna try this! I hope you don’t mind but I wrote about this idea in my blog, I linked your blog of course and said where I got the idea from. I have so many international friends that could use this tip.

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  12. Thanks for the post! It has been circulating between my friends and has been met with responses of, “YES!! we need to do this!!!” I guess in the age of emails and texts, phone calls can feel a little intrusive. I will sometimes text prior to calling, “is this a good time to call?” I know I worry that I may be catching my friend at a bad time, which was not a worry prior to cellphones and emails! I think we need to all get over our fears of calling at not quite the perfect time. Because after reading this article, we all agree with it! It spurred a spontaneous phone call with one of my cross country besties, that turned into a two hour catchup, but now we think we can “maintain” with the shorter five minute calls!

  13. This is such amazing advice, and I plan on putting it into effect in my life immediately! I moved 3,000 miles away a year ago (from Massachusetts to California) and it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep up with my best friends. It seems like since we never have time to talk, every talk we have should last an hour, so I find myself putting off calls because I don’t have enough time! This sounds like an amazing alternative, so we don’t all feel completely disconnected. Awesome advice…

  14. Anonymous says...

    The idea of a five minute phone call is wonderful! I always feel revitalized and closer after talking, but don’t call bc of the reasons you talk about.

  15. my bestest and i gchat at least once a week. usually about meaningless stuff, sometimes about much needed advice or venting (that’s usually me) and it really works for us. as she changes jobs i’m not sure she’ll be on chat as much anymore so maybe we’ll have to put in this place thanks for the tip.

  16. I LOVE chatting on the phone, but most of my friends don’t…except my best friend, my mom! We chat about 348975437 times a day :)

  17. Ah this is a great idea! Thanks so much. As I have moved countries 3 times in the last 4 years my friends are scattered all over the world. When it has been a while between talking to some of my friends, I tend to put it off even more because I feel like I need to set aside at least 2 hours to get everything in. I like the idea of a few mins at a time, because a little is better than nothing at all.

  18. This a great idea, especially since I am not a phone person. My sister lives in Seattle and I live in Portland and we use gchat everyday to “chat” and stay in touch on a daily basis.

  19. Seriously brilliant!!! I’m so going to do this :) Thanks for the push…

  20. It’s pretty sad that I mainly text or tweet with my friends. But I do still speak on the phone with my best friend. As for friends that live cross-country, we make an effort to talk on Skype or Face Time.

  21. I love this! I tend to avoid long conversations because I’m so protective of rare spare time….my favorites are the short, often funny, everyday phone calls!

  22. I’m not a phone person, but I still try to talk to my friends as much as I can, even though they aren’t long distance we don’t see each other as much as we’d like to. They’ve just become busy with life and they are texting addicts, lol. I don’t have texting, so my only option to talk is by phone. I know I could do better, usually my friend calls me. Talking on the phone can be very awkward though.


  23. Totally agree. With my long-distance friend it’s so nice having a constant check-in via phone calls or BBM, and then every once in awhile having a huge Skype catch up session. It helps the distance seem shorter, and keeps the friendship fresh and not forced.

  24. Great post:)! I was lured in by the Lucy picture. I LOVE LUCY…no really…I LOVE LUCY and I LOVE YOUR BLOG:)!

  25. I think the 5 minute tip is a great idea Jo!

    To say that my best friend and I are long-distance friends is a bit of an understatement…we live in different countries and on complete opposite sides of the world!
    Unfortunately, with international phone calls being a bit expensive for us as students, we don’t get a chance to speak to each other on the phone often.
    We rely on things like WhatsApp (free texting to anywhere in the world!) and e-mail to keep in touch. Sometimes, we message each other on Facebook or do video calls with Skype but most of the time, it’s e-mails for us.

    The best thing about e-mails is that there’s no boundaries for e-mails. You can take as long as you want to write it, you can read it as many times as you want, and you can write as much as you want!
    My friend and I have become master e-mail writers, often writing pages and pages :)
    Sometimes, on very rare occasions, I do get to chat with her or Skype her to see her face but most of the time, e-mails keep our friendship alive.
    For pressing matters, you can’t beat WhatsApp.

    **If anyone out there needs international texts and has an iPhone or Blackberry, check out WhatsApp. It’s free and works pretty well!

    Maybe someday when my friend and I are all grown up and living in the real world, we’ll be able to utilize the 5 minute rule.
    Until then, I think we’ll survive on our insane e-mailing :)

    Great picture choices by the way Jo! Lucy is amazing and that little girl is so sweet <3

    The Ace of Hearts

  26. The five minute phone call is a great idea. I use phone, email, texts probably evenly with friends and family both. In all cases, it really depends on where the parties involved are at the moment, how long they have available, what it’s about, etc. Looking back over all of these relationships, I feel like it has been a great part of what keeps us connected. For example, even a five minute phone call might not work when one or both parties is out of town for some reason, but a quick text exchange can be a day brightener. As well, a quick hello text in the middle of a stressful day is a lovely pick-me-up. I always love my long and newsy e-mails from the two friends I don’t get to see very often and that works for us. Sometimes we use the text to say “have to tell you something but it’s way better on the phone than in print so call me.” I really think all can be positive means of keeping connected and helping relationships thrive.

  27. I have a friend in California who works a lot and is a single mom of 2 little boys. She has less time than me, for sure. But I think we could do 5-minute chats!

  28. I have a group of friends who all have different schedules, so we have group text that we use all day. It helps for everyone to know what’s going on in everyone’s lives and keeps us all feeling connected.

  29. I mostly text and maybe facebook chat.

    I wasn’t big on telephone calls (an introvert :P ), but that was when I could see my friends almost every day.

    Now that we are geographically further away from each other, I’d love to hear their voice and I think this could be the way to go :) .

  30. It’s a very nice idea and I’m glad it works for you. I should make more of an effort to keep in touch with long distrance friends. I’m not much of a phone talker so I’ll have to think of something else.

  31. I loathe the phone.

    One of my grandmother’s is consistently cutting calls to 10-15 minutes while the other makes a 30 minute event of each one. I, shamefully, only call the quick-call-grandma anymore and feel heller guilty for it.

    I wonder if I could use the 5 minute rule on grandmothers?

  32. this is so sweet joanna! i live in italy and i put money on skype to call my friends on their phones. it’s great to just be able to call them as if i were home, and since it’s expensive we stick to 5 minute calls that i cherish!

  33. My far-flung friends and I usually use Skype for long talks and we send frequent Facebook messages for quick updates and the everyday details.

  34. What a great idea! I mostly only have long-distance friends, so thank you!

  35. Great idea! With three little ones (all under age 5), I rarely talk on the phone anymore…but this post has inspired me! Maybe next time I’m about ready to send a text, I’ll squeeze in a quick phone call instead. ;)

  36. Oh, gee. My best friend and I “talk” all the time, but both of us are avid texters/emailers/gchatters. Definitely not phone types (long-distance bills) or skypers (no excuse here.. bad internet?) I wonder if it’s a generational thing, but I never talk on my phone unless it’s really an emergency!! Or if I’m talking to a grandparent.

    I kind of like this idea though, to relearn the usefulness of the phone.. it’s too bad my best friend is now on the other side of the world on exchange.. haha.

  37. my best friend and i text regularly (3-4 times/day), but we do still try and carve out time to talk on the phone! there’s something about having an actual voice conversation that feels more personal. also, sometimes we do the 5 min phone call under the guise of “this is too long to text!” :)

  38. Thanks for the tip! I am meeting one of my best friends for the last time today before she moves across the country, and we are already bad at keeping in touch while living only a few hours away from each other. So this was perfect timing :)

  39. I love this idea! I have a friend who I love dearly, because we have awesome conversations…but they all go for at least an hour. I definitely put off calling her, just because I don’t know if I have time. Will have to start doing this!

  40. That’s a great idea. Sadly I hardly ever talk to my long-distance friends anymore for that same reason so I love a 5-minute rule. The question is: How do you tell your friend about this rule without offending them? Maybe link to this blog post? ;)

  41. I do this! My closest friend since kindergarten now lives in Colorado and I’m in Massachusetts. We love quick phone calls. She always has the chance to make me laugh and we always end up talking about random stuff. A lot of times we talk more than once a week, but we never go over a week without a quick call. I actually prefer to call her over texting her now because we are so comfortable talking on the phone and it seems so much more personal and real. It doesn’t even feel like she’s that far away.

  42. my husband is able to accomplish this with his guy friends all over the world, why haven’t we women figured it out?! I never get to talk to my girls because I rarely have an hour completely free to devote to it. It’s crazy too, because when we lived close and could get together every few weeks, I never felt guilty about a five minute phone call!

    This is perfect – emailing all my long distance girl friends this post ASAP.

  43. Living in Belgium, with most of my best girl friends living in California, being in touch has been SO hard – the nine hour time difference is brutal! My one dear friend and I have gotten in a routine using Skype…. she calls me from her laptop while she’s having coffee, doing her makeup in the morning and getting dressed for work. 7am in California is 4pm here. We chat for 15-20 minutes and then off she goes to work. I’m so grateful that we’ve managed to work out this little routine.

  44. Lovely idea! My colleague told me the other day about a great thing she does. Every day, her and her best friend send each other the 5 ‘headlines of the day’ – 5 fun, or interesting or random things that happened on the day, summarised into headlines. It’ s quick, it’s fun and it helps them stay in touch.

  45. I love this – and your husband’s article. I moved to NYC from SF almost 6 months ago and had a really hard time understanding what I needed and wanted for my social network in a new city. Turns out I’m just as close with my long distance friends than I ever was and didn’t “lose” anything by moving away – phone calls, skype and group texts are a must, and are often pretty hilarious.

  46. Neat that you brought this up! I’ve found it’s a tricky balance of time, but prefer talking on the phone to catch up with friends and family (who are mostly still back East in New England + New York). I think it frames what we are going through (tiny or big) in a much more comforting and connected manner. And because I’m not a huge fan of frequent texting, I’ll stick with the phone, when an email needs more attention or when I can’t see them in person. The only problem that arises is that- because I run my own business- it’s hard to find the time to set aside to talk- especially with the three hour time difference. But we manage… most of the time!

  47. Yessssss…thanks for kickstarting this back into my life, it’s well needed!

  48. i can’t remember the last time i talk to my best friend on the phone. this is a great idea

  49. I find that I never talk on the phone anymore. I remember my tween/teenage days when I’d sit on the phone for hours with friends.
    There’s this great iPhone app called Voxer. It’s like a walkie talkie, you can leave a quick, or long, message for a friend and they can get back to you when it’s convenient. I’m loving it!

  50. I usually end up “scheduling” long distance phone calls with friends about once a month so that we can really take the time to catch up. But this is such a great idea!

  51. Absolutely brilliant idea!

  52. I live in AZ, my best friend lives in PA. We talk on the phone about once a week but between phone calls we create an agenda by text an email; a bullet point list of things we want to talk about on the next phone call. It helps us to remember all the things we wanted to talk about, keeps things efficient and builds excitement for the next call.

  53. I usually gather up laundry that needs folding or I weed in the yard…..Isn’t it terrible that even when we CAN sit and talk, we still feel like we have to be DOING something? I think postcards are good too. Just for small catch ups and there is nothing nicer than mail from a dear friend.

  54. Becca says...

    I have a baby and a husband and a job and still manage to talk to most of my long distance friends several times a month for at least half an hour. You can’t really tell a story in 5 minutes. I also BBM everyone constantly.

  55. I have lived as an expat for 7 years now and I think nothing beats a phonecall. Even just to say hello-to hear a friend’s voice is great.

  56. This is such a great tip. My best friend and I are long distance and will procrastinate those hour-long phone calls so much that an hour-long phone call is necessary to catch up on all that’s been missed!

  57. ALL my best friends are spread out around the country, so i run into this issue with some of them too! the one who is in florida, we email every single day so while it’s not talking on the phone it still keeps us super close and up to date on what’s going on in each others lives. i tried to start that with my friend in L.A. but she is the worst emailer lol! so this 5 minute phone convo idea might be better for us! thanks for sharing :)

  58. I love this idea. SO many of my friends are spread out across the country and it’s hard to keep in touch. Especially when the “catch-up” phone calls take up so much time!

    Thanks for the tip,

    Something Ivory

  59. cute idea, and smart because sometimes thinking of calling one of my girlfriends is intimidating (like kind of exhausting), because you feel like you need to catch up on so much and maybe you dont have the time. especially living in israel, skype is my new best friend and the time difference from here to texas makes it semi-difficult for us to talk for hours, so its usually avoided, but you’re right! a 5-10 minute call is enough just to say hi & whats up! love this idea!!!

    fly far blog

  60. my best friend lives on the other side of the country, but we email each other all day long and then generally chat on the phone a few times a week. we make a point to visit one another every year and i can’t imagine not having her in my life!

  61. my best friend is in alaska this summer working on a whale watching boat- so we try to talk at least twice a month.. ON THE PHONE!

    haha its so nice hearing her voice and the inflection… it makes the distance all the more bearable (:

  62. I love this post – because my friends and I no longer all live in the same city, its so tough to always be in touch. It was hard to chat on the phone too because we’d always be on the way to work, about to eat dinner, etc. But, we finally made the decision, just answer the phone, say what you can and just be understanding that it won’t always be a heart to heart. Of course there are times when you just need to sit in the parking lot of the grocery store and listen, and that’s fine. Otherwise we just know that we are calling to tell a funny story, send a birthday hug or relive memories. 5 minutes is better than nothing at all, and it can mean so much just to hear a dear friends voice.

  63. with my closest friends, i’ll give them a five/ten minute ring every once in a while, send a text or send snail mail letting them i’m just thinking about them. when it’s unexpected, it’s so much better!

  64. I have many long distance friends, and there is no substitute for words between friends in my opinion…no matter what words the are! Sometimes you just need to put “ears” on each other. There’s a lot of info transmitted between breaths! :-)

  65. Great Idea! It’s so important to keep in touch with your friends even if it’s just to say hi.

  66. i need to do this!!!

  67. I go to college in Massachusetts, whereas my three best friends go to school back home in Virginia and Colorado. I love talking with them on the phone versus texting because you can actually catch up, and there’s still something nice about hour-long conversations on the phone.

    Maybe by talking on the phone for only 5 min. our phone conversations could become more frequent.

    Thanks for the tip!

  68. I totally need to implement this.


  69. My friend and I did the same thing with e-mails. We used to send each other these 5 page catch up e-mails but it would take us months between each. Then she got a smart phone and we suddenly had this VOIP texting app at our disposal. Now we send each other texts frequently, even if it is just to say, how about a 5 minute skype convo right now?

    I also take 20 min blocks where I sit at my computer and just force myself to send/respond to a message from 4-5 people. That way I take only a couple of minutes onyl for each and especially when it comes to the part where I talk about myself, I admit I sometimes cut and paste, but it is better than thinking you will write a great long message but never actually getting around to it.

  70. I love this! Sadly, no one ever talks on the phone in my age range (20-25) everyone wants to text :( I don’t even think people really know how to talk on the phone anymore.

    Nowadays I know recently dating couples who’ve never actually spoken on the phone (INSANITY) the best part of a new relationship is those up-all-night conversations or getting butterflies waiting for a call. & the best way to stay super close is to hear a person’s voice – it gives u so much more

  71. I used to talk to my friends on the phone constantly. Now the only person I talk to is my mom!!! We’re such texters & emailers, we keep in pretty good touch. But this is a good idea!!

  72. I just moved away from my best friend, and we do this all the time. Usually we just call each other when we’re driving somewhere, then hang up when we get where we’re going. It works really well!

  73. For the last two years I’ve been talking to a good friend of mine on the phone every week. We live about an hour away but we just can never seem to get together. I usually call Monday on my way home from work. We talk about 30 minutes, the length of my commute, and she can usually hear when I’ve gotten home and we close up our conversation. Sometimes if we’re really busy it might just be a quick hello but it’s not a big deal cause we’ll catch up the following week!

  74. I can’t remember the last time I actually spoke to a friend on the phone.. it’s always text or tweet these days.. and the occasional meet up in person! x

  75. This is great! I moved from Texas a few years ago and my best buds are still there… And we all hate the phone! This is such a good idea to keep in touch without burning our ears off!


  76. i love this idea! my group of best friends and i are scattered all across the midwest (I’m in Chicago, they’re all around southern michigan) and we rarely talk to each other on the phone – especially in the summer when we are all busy with work and summer classes, etc, so we mostly just text. But i love the idea of being able to hear their voices and checking in on them in a more personal way :)

  77. My cousin and I do this but our cap is four minutes – I read an article years ago that said four minutes of contact a day with a person you love can extend your life (or lower your cholesterol – something healthy.) We speak a lot more frequently in the decade since we made this rule and I have implemented it with other friendships, too. Especially helpful for friends in other time zones!

  78. Recently I read the Laurie Colwin novel A Big Storm Knocked It Over. Two of the characters are best friends who call each other for five-minute conversations all day at work — their traditional sign off is “Well, I have to go. Talk to you a million more times today.”

    I thought it was so endearing and adorable! (The whole novel is amazing, about motherhood and depression and working in New York.)

  79. i love this idea!

    i have a friend that we used to catch up via voice mail messages. both our phones allowed a pretty good amount of time before beeping again. we would catch them up with our day or whatever silly thing we were doing and then hang up. if she ever called during dinner it was comforting to know that i didnt feel the need to answer and i really looked forward to checking my messages.

  80. i live 5 minutes from my best friend, but i realize we can go for days upon days without any contact. And she isn’t a small talk person. the “hey, how are you?” texts make her feel awkward. So i try to send her something funny once a day. that normally starts a short text conversation.

  81. Oh I do – quite many actually! Both within Sweden (it´s a loooong country so if you live in opposite parts you don´t see much of eachother) and in other countries.

    Usually I mix emails with occasional phone calls – like me they are mothers (and some dads) which makes it easier to read and reply when they have time. Plus I like to read emails over and over. But it´s nice to talk too! :-)

  82. Awww… I call my best friend (who got married at Christmas) when I’m driving back from visiting my parents for a weekend…. Its a 2and a half hour drive and we generally chat for half of that…. We discuss the usual gossipy things and find out about the latest shoe purchases – all v.important.

    You just have to make the time to talk and keep up the contact with the friends who mean a lot to you!

  83. I haaaaaaaaaate talking on the phone! I much prefer texts or skype, if texts won’t cut it.