3 Tips for Working the Fringe Hours

3 Tips for Working the Fringe Hours

This may hurt. But I am writing it any way. It needs to be said.

If you can’t take yourself seriously enough to carve out time to work on your side business and can’t make your family take your allotted time seriously, it is going to be very hard to make customers take you seriously.

These opening lines are out of character for me. I usually start with some soft pitches before I throw anything too hard. Yet, I am passionate about women (actually anyone) realizing their God-given value and then rising to their potential.

So, I will say it again, a little kinder this time…if you hope to start a side business, then you must create a schedule to work on your business that is doable for you and for your family.

3 tips for using the fringe hours for mompreneurs

Purpose of This Post

The point to this post? To do exactly that! Help you and me find ways to make time to work on our side businesses.

In this post, I look at one of the two ways you have to work.

First option, alone. Either everyone else is asleep or away from the house.

Second option, in a crowd. That means, little people and big people are awake and home. And, as no surprise to you but still very frustrating, everyone (including the pets) is all up in your business while you are trying to work on your business!

This post shares tips for working on your side business during the fringe hours…when you are alone. (Next post, I will share some ideas for working when the family is awake and home, in other words, while working in insanity.)

The Fringe Hours

My friend April uses the term “fringe hours” to describe the frayed edges of the day and night when most people are sleeping…but industrious people are working.

Fringe hours are the early morning hours when you long to be in bed but know this is the time to work alone and uninterrupted. Fringe hours are the quiet moments when the last human in the house heads to bed, except for you. Your tired body tells you to follow, but you know this is the time to work without a crowd.

I have some bad news. As a sidepreneur, you most likely will be working in these fringe hours.

The good news…you get to work alone! No one really wants to join you so you have the house to yourself. Oh, wait! Sometimes you do have a loving baby who decides to keep you company. Or, your teen decides to be talkative for once when he comes home from a friend's house. In that case, listen. :) But most people think you are crazy and that you deserve to be alone in your madness.

Tips for Working the Fringe Hours

As with anything new in life, we must find our own stride. We have to determine what works best for us to continue with this new thing. To find your stride…try strategies for a couple of days or weeks and then tweak so they work for you and your family’s needs.

Remember too that we, along with our family, go through seasons. What works well in the summer may need refining in the fall when school starts back or your youngest starts sleeping through the night regularly or your oldest starts dating or you start homeschooling your kindergarten son in the fall (me!). You get the point?

Life changes. So will your side-biz work schedule.

Tip 1: Start with One or Two Days a Week.

This tip is so important for creating a lasting routine and for building stamina to add more work hours (if more is needed or wanted).

Please don’t utter these words. “Starting next week, I will get up every morning, Monday through Sunday, at 4:00 a.m. to work on my side business,” said the excited, yet delusional woman to her husband.

Those intentions are wonderful yet fallible.

How do I know? Well, I am the queen of statements such as this. “Beginning next week, I will run 10 miles a day, 5 in the morning and 5 miles at night.” Or, “When school is out, I will dust and vacuum every room in the house twice a week.” Or, “When this vacation is over, I will eat only 1200 calories a day until next year’s vacay.”   

Declared anything similar before? Lasted only to the next day?

My point here…start with a manageable goal and go from there. Too many times we approach new endeavors with passion burning so brightly that it is bound to burn out quickly. Instead, start with common sense…a doable plan.

Passion is very important, but it is a feeling and, thus, should not be used to create a work schedule. Feelings change too easily. Lasting plans must be built on habits and choices. So start with forming good habits, in small increments. Think baby steps.

Pick one or two days a week to get up earlier or to stay up later. Choose days that make the most sense to your life. For example, if Tuesday nights are late nights for you because of a class you are taking or your husband’s work schedule or your son’s baseball practice, then do NOT choose Wednesday morning as your early-morning work day.

Set yourself up to succeed, not to fail. Getting up earlier than usual or staying up later than normal is tough enough without you choosing the hardest day of the week to do it.

Once a day or two a week becomes standard, look at adding another day. View this approach as training yourself to work the fringe hours. Baby steps. We would not look at our 5-year old and say, write your name. Instead, we would practice with her (meaning, train her), a letter or two at a time, until she writes her name legibly.

For years now, I have ran three to four mornings a week before work (when I was working outside the home) and before the boys get up. But, when I started this routine over 10 years ago, I began with one 5:30 a.m. class. Over time, I grew to look forward to the time of day (such a sweet quietness to the promise of the day) and to the class (to the people there and what it did for me physically and mentally).

Once that class became a weekly norm, I added one more morning. Then, I repeated until I found a balance for me. I also slowly started getting up earlier, by 15 minutes at a time until my clock alarm now is often set for 4:00 a.m. But, this routine of mine took time, and I worked into it...in small increments.

An important note, I am NOT advocating sleep deprivation here (more than what already comes with motherhood and life in general). You must sleep in order to be kind and productive. You MUST consider your season of life in order to strike a balance between side-biz work and sleep. You may only have one or two mornings or nights to devote to your business with your family’s current state and with your desire to be a respectful and respected human being. That is okay! Seasons will change.

Simply and only make a fringe-hours work plan that is good for you now…at this phase of life. It will be tough but should be doable.

Then, give yourself a pat on the back or a smiley face on the calendar when you follow through with your plan! (Remember to celebrate the small successes. They make the biggest differences.)   

Tip 2: Create a fun, yet healthy routine.

Another suggestion for working the fringe hours – give yourself something to look forward to. Yes, the work itself is rewarding, blah, blah, blah. I do agree our work is rewarding because we wouldn’t do our side businesses if we didn’t believe in what we were doing.

But, when that alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m., you need a little more than “the work” to get you out of bed some (okay…a lot of!) mornings. Or, when everyone else is in bed by 10:00, and you are just “starting” your work. You will need a little motivation to stay up.

So creating a routine that is productive work wise and enjoyable on a personal level is a must.

For example, I enjoy a cup (or two) of coffee most mornings. On days that I work in the early a.m. hours, you better believe I do my coffee setup the night before so all I have to do is turn on the machine when I stumble into the kitchen. Five minutes later with a steaming mug of coffee in my hands, my brain is ready to work. (Notice, I don’t have the fancy machine with an automatic turn on. When I make my first million dollars, I’ll splurge.)

I warn you, though, to create a healthy routine from the start. Take it from me. I have an addiction to Mountain Dew, one that I am working to break. I always liked the drink and just drank it socially. But I began to drink it more and more after having my sons. “I was up late last night feeding the baby so I deserve this soda.” Or, when I was still teaching elementary school, “I need to stay up late to grade papers, and it was a tough day so I need this Mountain Dew.”

Before long, my mind and body began to associate early mornings and late nights with a bottle of sugary soda. (No diet drink for this ole girl. Just 1,000 grams of sugar with each sip.)

Breaking a bad habit is much tougher than creating a good habit from the start. So, my suggestion as you develop a plan to work the fringe hours is to begin with habits that are healthy, yet still fun. 

Take a relaxing bath as a part of your late-night work. Check email as you soak or ponder your next moves for your business.

Make healthy drinks or smoothies to help you look forward to getting up early or to help you wind down after working late.

Love to eat alone sometimes? (I hope I am not the only one who likes to digest my food at a leisurely pace.) Plan to eat breakfast all by yourself on early-morning work sessions while you check email or update your site.

In the fall and spring, I love to work on my back porch. It is not a fancy place by any stretch of the imagination (unless scenic to you is a rusted-out grill or a dirt pile scattered with toy dump trucks). Yet, being outside in the perfect temps and hearing the birds chirping make me feel closer to God. My writing flows more smoothly. Working in one of your favorite spots around your home may be just what you need.

No matter what routine you create, remember 2 things. First, create one! Our bodies and minds love knowing what to expect. It is often that knowledge that gets us up earlier or keeps us working an hour or two after others are asleep. 

Second, start out with healthy and fun treats for yourself to make your routine enticing. Let’s face it. It doesn’t take much to make us mommas happy. Time alone to drink coffee or uninterrupted moments to listen to music of our choosing or podcasts we like…these things bring us joy. So choose small, simple things that bring you happiness and that also allow you to work. Incorporate them into your routine.

Tip 3: Reflect on your routine.

Once you establish a doable routine, stay reflective. There will come a time when you start to dread getting up or will be angry that everyone is in bed while you toil away.

When those bad days or nights start to outnumber the times you look forward to working uninterrupted, stop to consider why your feelings have changed.

Are you overtired (meaning beyond the normal level of exhaustion that most mothers experience every moment of motherhood)? 

Has something changed in your family’s schedule that now makes it almost impossible for you to get up earlier or to stay up later?

Do you have goals set (written down!) so you have something to shoot for? Otherwise, working in the fringe hours will soon grow pointless to your mind.

Are you sick? Have family members been sick lately?

Have you had a recent disappointment with your business or with another aspect of your life?

Have you worked nonstop for a few weeks with no “official” days off?

Has your child started waking at night (when he had been sleeping all night)?

Did you teenager start driving, causing you to stay up later waiting on her to get home?

I could continue this line of questioning, but you get the gist. The point is to ask yourself these questions…to be reflective on why you are suddenly lacking the motivation and excitement for your business. Once you have pinpointed the issue, do something about it.

Remember, our seasons of life change, which requires us to rework our fringe-hours work schedule. You may need to lessen a day or night for a time period so you can be loving and productive. Or, the opposite can happen. You realize that adding another early-morning session is doable now.

And sometimes it is as simple as needing a day or two “officially” off.

To be an official day off, you must declare it BEFORE the day starts. Otherwise, you walk around feeling guilty for not working on your side business. Or, you constantly run the numbers in your head to try and squeeze in the work time during another part of the day. This guilt and strain lead to frustration with yourself and with your family. Hence, not a day off! After all, you got no mental break, which you desperately needed!

On the other hand, a pre-determined day off brings rejuvenation. It is planned and, thus, a part of your schedule. Not a guilt or burden. Ahhhh…a welcomed sigh.

Lastly, you may be putting off a dreaded task. Thus, when the alarm sounds or others head to bed, you feel angry and doubtful. My best advice here, take the bull by the horns. (That is what my mom says!) Do the task so it doesn’t affect time that you should be working on other things. For me, anything dealing with design—website, logo, etc.—is my dreaded chore. I find myself in a rotten mood and avoiding work when these things need to be addressed.

To Recap

While creating and growing a side business, it is (highly!) likely that you will work in the fringe hours, at least for a season of your life. The fringe hours are the times earlier than your family gets up or later than your gang goes to bed. They are the frayed edges of the day.

To be productive, schedule the early-morning hours and the late-night sessions. As with anything we care about, we have to make our side business a priority. This means intentionally carving out time to work...putting it on your schedule.

There are a few tricks, though, for regularly making time to work. First, train yourself. Start with just a day or two. Get good with that and then add another early morning or late night until finding what is best for you and your family.

Remember, sleep is important too. You must try to strike a balance between getting enough rest to be healthy, kind, and productive while still carving out a few hours to work with no distractions. (Ashley Ryals, a mompreneur and owner of Homegrown Huntsville, says that you must find your own perfect imbalance.) It will be trial and error and may even take a few months to find your perfect imbalance.

Second, find fun and healthy ways to entice yourself to get up earlier or stay up later. The work itself is important, but you often need more. A bubble bath, a cup of coffee, or your favorite music playing in the background may be just the motivation you need to work when you don’t feel like working.

Third, continually reflect on your fringe-hours routine. If you lose motivation (for an extended period of time), start asking questions about why. What changes have occurred, or what disappointments have you experienced that may be making your routine difficult or joyless? The fix may be as simple as a few official days off. Or, you may need to alter you routine for your current phase of life or to tackle a dreaded project.

As with most of my posts, this one is written from experience…both successful and unsuccessful. I have developed some very productive routines over the years. But, I also have blown some up. Sky high!

I am starting to see patterns and to understand why these disasters happen or why some routines last for a long time in my life. I have attempted to share with you what I have learned about myself over the years as a way to save you some heartache…to help you be more productive in the fringe hours. Otherwise, there is no point in being up and working when everyone else is sleeping!

Good luck! I am cheering for ya! And, please let me know if I have missed an effective strategy. Would love to hear about it in the Comments section or in an email!

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