How this woman uses 'fringe moments' to tackle big life goals

Want to lose weight, write a book or improve your finances? What if you capitalized on just a few little gaps of time that you waste, and did something highly productive?
Image: Woman at an outdoor restaurant with her day planner. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.
Instead of multi—tasking, focus on one major goal at a time.Alamy Stock
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By Julie Compton

Do you have 10 minutes to spare? Instead of wasting them on social media, use them to complete tasks that will move your life forward.

It’s what Brianna Wiest, author of “101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think,” calls “fringe moments.”

A senior contributor for "Forbes" who has written five books, Wiest, 26, says fringe moments are small gaps of free time where you can tackle major goals throughout your day.

Wiest says she first learned about the concept from Jessica Turner’s book “Fringe Hours” about how women can make time for what they are passionate about.

Brianna Wiest, author of "101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think."Photo credit: Janelle Putrich

Wiest takes the concept a step further.

“I realize that throughout each day it’s more like we have fringe moments on the ends of hours,” Wiest tells NBC News BETTER.

She continues: “What if you capitalized on just a few little gaps of time that you waste, and in it did something that was highly, highly productive?”

For example, you could send three emails to a potential employer, clear your inbox, write several paragraphs of a novel, or exercise, Wiest says.

What should your fringe work be?

To figure it out how to spend your fringe moments, Wiest recommends reverse engineering your long—term goals — whether it’s writing a book, losing weight, or improving your finances.

“It’s starting with those long-term goals and then breaking it down into: What do I need to do each year to accomplish that? What do I need to do each month to accomplish that? What do I need to do each week to accomplish that? And then you get down to: What do I need to be doing each day? And that’s what’s going to get you to that goal,” says Wiest.

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For example, if your goal is to write a book by the end of the year, determine how many words the book will be. From there, figure out how many words you need to write each month. Then, determine how many words you will need to write each week — and how many you will need to write each day.

For example, if your novel is 70,000 words, you would need to write just over 200 words each day during your fringe moments.

“A year from now you’ll have an entire book from a very small amount of work each day,” Wiest says.

Don't multitask, single task

Another way to make sure you are being productive is to single task, or to focus on only one task at a time, says Wiest.

“I find that somehow by doing just one thing at a time I’m shortening my workload — I’ll get more done that’s of better quality,” Wiest says.

Figure out which projects are most important to you and focus on only those, she says.

Wiest says she typically picks five tasks to tackle each day. She doesn’t begin task 2 until task 1 is complete. If she doesn’t get to task 5 by the end of the day, it becomes task 1 for tomorrow.

Turn off notifications

Wiest says she has notifications turned off on her devices so she doesn’t get distracted while she works.

“I was so anxious about it at first,” she says. “I was like what if I miss something? And that didn’t happen at all. I check in with my email a few times a day, and believe me, there’s nothing that happens that [the sender] cannot wait an hour to hear back from me.”

Incorporate health and family into your fringe moments

Wiest makes sure she prioritizes mental health and family by incorporating them into her fringe moments throughout the day.

She says she spends a few minutes each day writing down affirmations in her journal and spending time outdoors.

“Those are the two things that I really love to do,” says Wiest. “So making 10 or 15 minutes for that each day, I see a big impact on my life.”

She says also incorporates time for loved ones on busy work days.

“It’s making time for my husband and I every single day, whether we’re eating dinner or we can just catch up mid-day to talk or laugh or joke about something, and just make sure we have that time for that connection,” Wiest says.

These small actions might not sound like much, Wiest says, but they can lead to huge outcomes.

“We often don’t need breakthroughs,” says Wiest. “We need to change the minute things we do every day and over time that compounds.”

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