By Alison Sherwood
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Jessica N. Turner’s days are full. With three young children, a husband, a full-time job and a successful blog, it’s easy to see what keeps her busy. But despite her workload and daily responsibilities, she spends at least two hours a day scrapbooking, reading, crafting or otherwise taking time for herself.
How does she fit it all in? By making wise use of what she calls her “fringe hours,” or pockets of time that often go unused or frittered away throughout the day.
The Oshkosh, Wis., native and University of Wisconsin graduate opens a magazine on her bathroom counter while she blow dries her hair, stashes note cards in her purse to write messages to friends in spare minutes and keeps a book in her car to read during the two- or three-minute wait in the school pickup line. She takes a lunch break every day and wakes up at 5 a.m. to write, scrapbook or pray before the rest of her house rises.
Turner even wrote a book in her fringe hours.
In “The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You,” Turner makes the case that every woman can and should spend time daily doing something personally fulfilling.
“So many women need this permission slip that taking care of themselves is not only OK, but it’s right and necessary and good to do,” she said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The book reads like a coaching session, with Turner prompting you to stop, evaluate your schedule and answer questions every few pages.
She weaves together personal anecdotes (including faith-based wisdom; the book is from Christian publisher Revell, a division of Baker), stories from dozens of interviews and research she conducted via an online survey of more than 2,000 women.
One of the survey’s biggest findings: “So many women weren’t making time for themselves because of feelings of guilt,” Turner said.
Sarah Kooiman of Waukesha, Wis., was one of those survey respondents who let guilt keep her from pursuing her hobbies and taking care of herself. Kooiman is married with three young kids and works around 50 hours a week between two jobs. To say she’s busy, “that would be an understatement,” she said.
“There’s constant pressure to be more and do more for everybody. Serving others and working hard are good things, but they lose that goodness when they’re at the expense of your own health and well-being,” Kooiman said.
Feeling guilty that she was spending less time with her kids when she started her second job, Kooiman stopped making time to exercise.
After reading “The Fringe Hours,” she gave herself permission to prioritize her health. Realizing she had fringe hours a few nights a week after her waitressing shift, she started heading to the gym rather than doing housework or “messing around on Facebook.”
She asked for her husband’s help with folding laundry and wiping the counters, which he started doing while watching TV after the kids went to bed.
“It started to pay dividends right away,” she said. “I started feeling much better, much healthier. I have more energy and have a better outlook on all of it.”
Taking advantage of fringe hours isn’t about simply adding activities to a packed schedule. Turner is open about the things she chooses to let go of in order to pursue her hobbies.
“My house is not Pinterest-perfect,” she said.
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“I personally don’t care too much about things like scrubbing baseboards or organizing closets. I’m comfortable with good enough is good enough.”
Turner also has learned to graciously say “no” to things that aren’t a priority, even if it’s something she’d like to do. She recently turned down an offer to read in her son’s classroom because her day was already packed.
“Though I wanted to say yes, I knew that it would cause a lot of additional stress and juggling within the day,” she said. “I don’t know that the mom I was three or four years ago would have been able to say no as quickly, but I have learned that so often I’ll regret saying yes and over-yessing myself, but I never regret saying no.”
“Overwhelmed” used to be Rebecca Young’s regular state.
“I would get to the end of the day and think, ‘Where did it go? What did I do all day?’ It was filled from top to bottom,” she said.
The Cedarburg, Wis., mom worked full time and kept a perfectly organized schedule. But “just because it’s organized doesn’t mean that it’s balanced,” she said.
Young tried tracking her time, a practice that Turner advocates in “The Fringe Hours.”
“It was a big eye-opener,” Young said.
She found she spent a lot of time in the morning doing little tasks that she could move to other fringe hours of the day in order to free up her mornings for running, reading or even meditating. She started carrying her to-do list with her so when she has a spare minute she knows what she needs to get done in order to preserve that morning time.
“Part of maximizing your fringe hours is being prepared,” Turner said.
Tracking your time also can uncover areas where precious fringe hours are wasted on activities that are not fulfilling. Turner’s research showed social media as the most common culprit in robbing women’s free time.
Turner suggests deleting apps, silencing smartphone notifications and setting clear boundaries for social media usage if it causes you to frivolously spend your time.
“When you get to the end of your life and you talk about what your passions are, you’re probably not going to list Facebook,” she said.
If filling every pocket of free time sounds like another thing to stress about, Turner says that’s not the point.
“Fringe hours don’t necessarily have to be spent doing something,” she said. “They’re all about just taking care of yourself and what you need for yourself.”
Sometimes that may mean stepping outside for a few breaths of air, sitting quietly at your kitchen table or getting an extra hour of sleep.