I think everyone is guilty of this to some extent. Does anyone ever call every time they say they’re going to? Or how many times do we say to a friend, “We have to get together next year, I swear I won’t be as busy”? The truth is, life is happening now and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Friendships take work, but that’s part of what makes them so rewarding. If one or both parties aren’t willing to put in the effort, that friendship won’t stand the test of time, distance, or the crazy schedules we make for ourselves. According to Nurse Bronnie Ware, the fourth most common regret people have as they lay dying, is not staying in touch with their friends over the years. Here are some tips to help you stay close with your friends and avoid facing this regret some day.

Make the Effort

Our lives are broken up into stages, each of which comes with its own set of friends and acquaintances. For example, high school graduation is the end of a chapter. As we work on writing the next chapter, we can either choose to write those friends in, or start over with a whole new set of characters. The same is true when we graduate college, move to a new community, or start a new job. We can’t always count on someone else to make the effort to stay in touch. If it truly matters to you, then make it happen.

Pencil It In

Unless you set aside time in your busy schedule, you’ll never have the time to visit your old friends. Things will keep coming up and you’ll keep drifting further apart. Make it a point to block off dates in your calendar to meet up with your old friends. Even if it’s just once a year, it’s enough to keep your friendship alive and give you something to look forward to on an annual basis.

It’s Never too Late

A common fear people have about reconnecting with old friends is that things will be different between them. The truth is, things will be different because people change over time. However, no matter how much you change, you’ll always share that bond: The thing that brought you together in the first place. No matter how long it’s been since you connected with your friend, take a chance and call them up.

It Doesn’t Have to be a Major Event

The notion that keeping in touch with your friends means elaborate reunions is another reason people fail to keep in touch. It’s overwhelming to plan and host a big reunion with all of your high school or college friends. It could be as simple as meeting for happy hour on a Thursday night or getting your families together for an afternoon in the park. Keeping it informal takes the pressure off and increases the chance of a reunion coming to fruition.

If you’ve fallen out of touch with your friends, the first phone call is going to be the hardest one to make. But once you get in the habit of staying in touch it starts to come more naturally. Keeping in touch with your friends through the year takes effort, but it’s well worth it to preserve your most valuable friendships.