When you map out your schedule, you likely block it out into main events. Meeting here, project here, dinner here.
You forget the minutes on the fringe of those hours. In some cases, you forget the hours altogether. But just because you aren’t utilizing them doesn’t mean they don’t matter.
In fact, what you do in your fringe hours determines as much of the outcomes of your life as what you do during your ‘on’ hours. This is because often, it is the micro-habits in our lives that create a bigger impact than the tasks we are conscious of. Small habits are easier to regularly engage in because we take them less seriously. Over time, it creates a much bigger impact than we can imagine.
A great way to think about this is the classic question: would you rather have $1,000,000 in your bank account right now or a penny that doubles in value for 31 days? Most people choose the million, but the penny actually results in a $10.7 million gain by the end of the month. The little things add up.
If you wrote 200 words a day every day, by this time next year, you’d have a 73,000-word book.
If you walked for 30 minutes every day, by this time next year, you’d have (by a conservative measure) a 27,375 calorie deficit. If you kept all other aspects of your life consistent, this would equate to an approximate 7.82-pound weight loss.
If you sent two query emails every day, either to a potential client, business lead, or job recruiter, by this time next year, you’ll have logged 730 separate requests.
If you took 30 minutes each day to meditate, you’d have been in a state of increased calm for 182 hours.
If you take one minute each day to think of three things you’re grateful for, and you will have found 1,095 things to be thankful for each year.
Now, let’s think about it the opposite way — the time we are currently wasting:
On average, we spend 3 hours and 35 minutes each day scrolling, and one hour and 50 minutes each day worrying. Together, that means we are spending around 2,000 hours a year scrolling and worrying.
It’s not about trying to capitalize and profit off of every single moment of every single day. It is, however, about realizing that you have more time than you think you do and that you do not need large swaths of uninterrupted time to really accomplish something big.
Why you should take one hour for “fringe work” every day
Take a period of time each day —let’s say one hour—to complete your “fringe work,” or the type of work that often gets left last on the to-do list.
Fringe work does not need to consist of the exact same things every day, but it’s most effective when it does. Here’s an example of some micro-tasks you could do during your “fringe work” hour.
- Clean out your inbox.
- Work on one small aspect of your personal website.
- Check your bank account.
- Write a few hundred words or a few sentences of a book or paper.
- Stretch or walk.
To determine what’s best, use reverse engineering. Start with the end goals in your life, first. Do you want to feel calmer? More in control? Cleaner? More productive? Build a business? Be more responsive? Spend more time with family, or connecting to people? These end goals can help you determine what your fringe hour should be made up of.
One, five & 30 minutes
You probably are aware of how you spend a 30-minute gap of your day, whether you’re working, procrastinating, commuting, or relaxing.
You probably at least somewhat know how you spend five minutes here and there.
However, it’s likely that you’re totally blind to how you spend single moments, and it’s there that the fringe work really adds up. To become more conscious of this, get an app that tracks how many times you open your social media accounts each day. You will probably feel shocked to learn that in the 130 times you opened Instagram, you could have been doing something far more productive.
Another way to ensure that you’re utilizing your time more efficiently is to single-task. If something is a priority in your life, make it a priority. Turn off push notifications on your phone, close out of your email, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door, even just for a few minutes. Focus completely on the tasks at hand, without trying to co-manage and juggle other things as well.
You’ll be shocked to learn how quickly you can actually accomplish your tasks for the day when you are only doing just that, and not trying to add in five to 10 other things, as well.
It’s still important to take leisure time
Just because you can capitalize on every single moment of your day doesn’t mean you should.
In fact, fringe hours remind us of why leisure time — time to truly do whatever you want—are so important, and so often unattainable, when we are mismanaging the rest of our day.
You are allowed to spend time doing absolutely nothing, and in fact, it is imperative for your mental and emotional health that you do so. However, keep in mind that the hours you spend cooking or eating with your family, talking to your spouse, laughing, and enjoying a spare afternoon… those add up to. And they add up to something a lot greater than a big savings account, a novel, a new business… they add up to the quality of your life.