Use the time you find to do the things you love.
by Jessica N. Turner
You know the kind of week where you feel like a hamster stuck on a wheel that is spinning too fast? In mid-September, I had one of those weeks. We had new furniture delivered, and were in the process of rearranging the whole house. My dad was visiting from out of town, and I was speaking at a conference the following week. On top of that, I had my regular responsibilities of working full time, mothering two young children, being a wife, and managing household tasks like laundry and dinner — all while I was six months pregnant. It. Was. Crazy.
So one night, when I thought I was at my wit’s end, I ignored the dirty dinner dishes and did the only thing that seemed to make sense. I made a Christmas wreath. Yes, three months before Christmas with my house in chaos and my to-do list a mile long, I made a wreath.
Making that wreath was like a balm for my weary, stressed-out soul. I crafted the night away. And as minutes turned to hours, I relaxed. The tasks on my to-do list seemed less overwhelming. The next morning, I woke up refreshed, ready to tackle my litany of projects.
My wreath-making story is just one of hundreds I could share to demonstrate a time when I prioritized time for myself. No, the dishes didn’t get done that night. But they did the next morning — and my family survived.
As women, we are good at juggling a lot. But all too often, the one thing we don’t make time for in our busy days is ourselves.
This lifestyle has got to change. You not only can but you must make time to do things that matter to you, no matter how busy life gets. It may seem as if there aren’t enough hours in a day — particularly if you are juggling a lot of responsibilities — but I promise you, it’s possible.
God created His people with unique gifts and passions to be used for both others and ourselves. Yet, too often, women focus only on using those gifts to serve others, often to the point of emptiness. This is not a healthy or responsible way to live. Busyness should not dictate our level of self-care.
The best way to overcome this lack of self-care is to live intentionally, and make time by leveraging the fringe hours in a day. Fringe hours are pockets of time in your schedule that often go underused, or wasted altogether. So much beauty can be found in these small chunks of time, and using them wisely makes us happier, more fulfilled women.
In Proverbs 31, the bulk of the text focuses on the way the woman manages her home, work, and life in general. However, verse 18 says, “Her lamp does not go out at night.” Some interpret that text to mean that she never stops working, even into the night. But what if in those fringe hours of her day, with her work completed, she uses the quiet time to do something she enjoys, like sewing, excercising, dreaming up business plans, or praying? And because she spends time doing those things in her fringe hours, she is more fulfilled emotionally, which in turn makes her more productive, resourceful, and helpful during the day. I know I have certainly found this to be true in my own life.
Oftentimes, women buy into the lie that taking time for themselves is selfish. But it is not. Practicing self-care is critical for our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. By investing in themselves, women are able to live more fulfilled lives.
A good starting point for finding fringe hours is to track your time for a week to really see where the hours are going. Tracking your time helps you see where it’s being spent — and where it’s being wasted. It’s similar to analyzing your budget, only instead of recording your financial expenditures, you’re recording your use of time.
Tracking your time for a week is different from merely keeping a calendar of events and activities, because during this exercise you write down literally everything you do, not just the major events and plans you have scheduled. You’ll list time spent on chores, work, errands, story time with the kids, and so on. The more specific you get in your documenting of your day, the easier it will be to analyze where fringe hours can be found.
At the end of the week, take some time to journal about the process. Really look at the time you have tracked and ask yourself these questions as you review your days:
- Where did I spend my time?
- What items are nonnegotiables (work, taking kids to school)?
- What time was wasted?
- What activities could be streamlined in my schedule? (For instance, does doing laundry every day make sense, or would it be better to do it as a marathon on one day?)
- Am I doing too much? Do I need to be better at saying no?
- Did I do anything just because I would have felt guilty not to do it?
- Would it be helpful to ask for or hire help for any of the things I spent time on during the week?
- Did I take time for myself? If so, how much time?
- Overall, how did I feel this week? Happy? Tired? Stressed?
- How did these emotions impact me and my activities?
Once you complete this exercise, you will be able to better see where your time goes. You may immediately see where you have pockets of time you can better leverage for your own passions and self-care.
Typically, you’ll find fringe hours in the mornings, during times of waiting, on a lunch hour, and in the evenings. Weekends also offer fringe hours for many people. As you begin to practice self-care in these small increments, you will likely begin to carve out larger chunks of time for yourself as a regular part of your lifestyle.
Even on my busiest days, I do something that I love, just for me. In the Bible we see Jesus taking time to be alone and refuel. We see this especially after times of busyness, such as when He fed five thousand people. Our commitments should not overrun our lives to the point that we don’t take care of ourselves. Quiet time to invest in ourselves and be restored is incredibly important.
Making time to cultivate my passions — in the midst of a busy life caring for my family and career — has become a lifestyle for me. These times are not always extended, but they are intentional, which is what makes them especially valuable. For instance, some time ago I received a new devotional, and instead of putting it on my nightstand, I put it in my car. Every day I find two to three minutes to read it while sitting in my car. Sometimes this means I will arrive for an appointment five minutes early and rather than going right in, I grab the book to read the day’s devotional. Other times, I will arrive at my kids’ school a few minutes before I normally pick them up, and I’ll read before going in to get them.
Reading that devotional doesn’t take much time, but it moves my spirit in an uplifting way. Since starting that habit, I have had many experiences that were more positive because I had taken that quiet time for myself. I saw the world differently because of what I’d read. Or in a situation where I may have reacted negatively in the past, I now approach it with a more positive perspective.
For some women, identifying what they want to do can be challenging, particularly if they have gone years without intentionally investing in themselves. If that is true for you, consider these four ideas for identifying your passions:
LOOK BACK TO YOUR CHILDHOOD
Your childhood was likely your first foray into passionate living. Consider what got you excited. Was it reading a great story or running outside? Those activities would likely still invigorate you today.
MAKE A LIST
Sometimes all it takes to get the wheels turning is to see something on paper. Write down any hobbies that might be of interest to you.
THINK ABOUT WHO INSPIRES YOU
People who are inspiring often evoke emotions in us that aren’t right on the surface. We just need to pay attention to the people who bring out those feelings in us.
CREATE AN INSPIRATION BOARD
Whether you go to Pinterest or use a good old-fashioned bulletin board or notebook, consider creating a board or book of things that inspire you. This act of collecting inspirational pieces can be an eye-opening process.
Once you have identified where you can find time for you, the fun begins! Now you have to take action: read a book, craft, go for a run — do something that fuels you. It might feel unnatural at first, or you might find little feelings of doubt or shame creeping in, but don’t let those thoughts distract you from the goal of ultimately living a more fulfilling, happier lifestyle.
Without question, pursuing a lifestyle that includes leveraging fringe hours will lead to a more fruitful life, full of the pleasure found in the expression of our God-given passions. Moreover, when we make room in our days to include activities that inspire us in indescribable ways, we feel more alive and joyful. You are invited to take that step toward living this kind of life. •
Jessica N. Turner is the author of The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. She blogs atThe Mom Creative, and she and her husband, Matthew, live with their young children in Nashville, Tenn.
This article originally appeared in HomeLife magazine (March 2015). For more articles like this, subscribe toHomeLife.