Spare Some Time?

What do you do with your spare time? Do you make the most of it and view as a resource or is this something that’s granted and unlimited? Do you value your time to make or save money? Is it productive time or are you just procrastinating, relaxing? Do you do any volunteer work to express yourself or does your day job provide that satisfaction? Are you trying to manage more than capped 24 hours per day? Perhaps that is done at the expense of healthy sleep? Maybe you have invested in yourself and have analysed where you can shave off those valuable seconds, minutes and hours? Is Time = Money or which of two is more important, more valuable to you?

So many questions and each of them will provide numerous answers. As I am approaching my 30th birthday I start to value my time more than before. Now I treat it like any limited resource which is wise not to waste so I am working towards maximizing the value I get from the time I have.

As a teenager, I had an abundance of time – I was always hooked up to telly, spend time outdoors playing with my siblings and neighbor. I had plenty of sleep and never ran out of it. I didn’t mind watching TV commercials every half an hour. With the rise of technology and the Internet access, I got rid of my TV and started to watch movies and TV shows on demand. I started to dislike the commercials as they consumed my time and I gained nothing but desire to buy the stuff I don’t need with the money I don’t have yet.  That was back in early 2000’s when I was still living in Latvia, working five days a week and studying part-time. I still managed to go out 3-4 times a week, Wednesdays were the little Fridays and I remember this as very joyful time of my life. But I was not focusing my energy and attention in any direction to better my future. I let the life run its course.

After my graduation from university I moved to London where the pace is much faster and people equate time with money. I have been in UK for just about six years now and have found a way to make my time useful. There are 168 hours in a seven day week out of which 37.5 hrs are spent at work, 42 hrs (7 x 6 hrs) – sleeping, 10 hours for five day commute to/from work. This leaves me with about 78.5 hours of personal time. For the sake of this exercise I will add the 10 hour commute back to the total as I can make this time useful for me. Hence the updated total is 88.5 hours.

  • 5 hrs. Hourly lunch breaks during work week – eating, running errands, online shopping, banking, talking on the phone, reading etc.
  • 3.5 hrs. ½ hr daily is spent on dinner time cooking from scratch. It is cheaper, more tasty and healthier. While preparing the food, I can catch up on latest news around the world on my iPhone, call my friends/relatives on Skype and unwind from the work day.
  • 12 hrs (or more). That is how much time in a give week was spent on smoking half a pack per day with average length of 10 min/cigarette. Since I no longer smoke I save both the time and the money (other benefits beside).So I will not deduct this from my available hours. Almost at the top of the list as this felt like a must-have activity.  I have kept this listed as a reminder how much better off I am right now.
  • 4 hrs. Cycling 10 miles each way to work, twice a week, if the weather permits, except for winters. It’s a perfect way to kick-start my day, save some money and a great way to stay in shape. As a result I do not have to buy gym membership and spent extra time (on top of commute time) for cardio exercises not to mention time getting to the gym and back home.
  • 2 hrs. Up to four occasional ½ hr workouts at home in the garage (is there anything more important than your health?)
  • 2 hrs. Groceries, personal supplies, other shopping. I visit food store several times a week to get fresh groceries however my visits are brief and I’ve excluded the walking to/from the shop as I do this on my way home from work.
  • 1 hr. Preparing for next week – laundry, ironing shirts etc.
  • 1.5 hrs. Personal care, grooming, pampering J – shower, shave etc.
  • 10 hrs. Reading – little bit on the internet  including copying ‘read later’ materials, but mostly on Kindle on the way home from work.
  • 10 hrs (min). Jenny time – precious time with my dear wife.

Everything listed above are my must-haves and represents a typical work week. During or around holidays this schedule will need to change to accommodate the needs. Same goes for different seasons – I will go out less in the winter and more in the summer. Often I will have the dilemma of whether I should make extra food for tomorrow’s lunch or should I go lazy and think about tomorrow when it’s tomorrow. It happens on occasion, however I much rather prefer to eat home made food.

This leaves me with just about 50 hours (or average of 7 hrs/day) of personal time which I spend the way I like. Have few beers, relaxing, watching good movie(s), visit my brother, sister or friends. Sometimes I discover new music on Soundcloud, procrastinate on Facebook (more than I should), discover new bar etc.

Another important area of time allocation is self improvement. You need to keep the grey matter moving so I read magazines, books and online, do some networking and learn from other people’s experiences. A year ago I started working towards a professional qualification in accounting – the outcome is that I will be Part-Qualified in a year’s time and 1-2 years after – (fully) ACCA Qualified. To get there I have to pass 14 exams (1-3 basic, 4-9 skills, 10-14 hard core 😀 ) and I have done five already. This means that twice a year I have to sacrifice some of my precious 50 hours of personal time to raise my worth and become more competitive in future. So that takes upwards of 15 hours each week (about 6 weeks of self study comes to about 90 hours of study time) 4-5 out of 12 months.

Other than that I am also looking for ways to make myself more skilled, by jumping in unknown areas, such as blogging, learning a new language or getting more eloquent the one you already know, sign up for MOOCs (massive open online courses, i.e. Coursera) etc. As with everything you do, there is a learning curve so the actual time spent on each task will only go down as I will become more efficient in each discipline:

  • I will learn to type faster (I’m pretty close to touch type already)
  • Learn new and creative recipes to cook tasty food
  • Find better ways to commute to work (plan your bed time and wake time, check the public transport timetable)
  • Don’t waste time & money to grab breakfast on your way to work (have it ready/prepared and waiting at office, i.e. milk + cereal)
  • Learn how to make the most of technology and to your advantage. Find the way to optimize each operation without sacrificing the quality
  • Learn to manage your tasks & time. Get clear what’s urgent and/or important and act according to this order.
  • Invest in proper tools – you don’t want to buy something just to have it malfunction at early stage of its useful life. Then you have aggravation, time wasted on sourcing replacement and cluttered household.
  • If you need something to get done more than once and it’s not super high-tech stuff – instead of outsourcing, get the know-how online and do it yourself. For example it takes about one minute to take out extra links from the wrist watch vs 20 min to get it to repair shop. iPhone back glass cracked? Order one from Amazon and get it replaced in few minutes instead of getting to your Apple store, finding someone who’s free and then wait another 5 minutes. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not repairing my own shoes and dry cleaning my own suits. I don’t own such equipment.

I believe there is a room for improvement and as I get older my priorities will change and, more importantly, I will have to do more with less time on my hands. So it’s vital to be efficient in all areas.


Head Full of Ideas and Stories To Tell

Just a quick FYI to my future self.

A few days have passed since I created the site and I am still in the process of planning my time to tackle all my day to day stuff and squeeze some extra time to write the blog. I know it will be worth it as I will gain experience in essay writing skills, learn how to better plan my life and how to apply the knowledge I have gained.  September is coming up and I will be resuming my accountancy self-studies (ACCA) and be focusing on other areas

A quick list of ideas I feel confident to write about or at least find worth sharing:

    • Benefit of speaking multiple languages
    • Single child in the family vs having multiple siblings
    • Moving to another country
    • Everything you need to know about diamond rings, how it all started and where to get one
    • Proposing girlfriend
    • Surviving long distance relationship
    • Shirt guide (for men)
    • Other practical hacks for life etc.

Smoking Damage: Read This Before You Take Another Puff

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

– Mark Twain

I have been smoker for the last 10 years with occasional short breaks and up until recently I was smoking one pack every other day. Pretty average smoker, I would say. 

It all started back in high school where some classmates asked me to join them for a ciggie or two during the school and little did I know by the time I had moved to the university I was full-time smoker. Smoking helped me to bond with many peers and more senior students and it was kind of social thing, I had made lots of smoking buddies, we had something in common. Well, at least that is how I felt about it back then. I took this nasty habit further into my 20’s and this coincided with the time when smoking was no longer cool, nor socially acceptable. It started bothering me more and more. I noticed that it’s not just a bad habit but in fact I was addicted to nicotine without realizing I am trapped.

I was just over 25 years old when I decided it’s time to man up and take care of my health by researching nutrition, healthier lifestyle, artificial food ingredients (Aspartame, MSG, partially and fully hydrogenated oils etc.); I started paying more attention to the benefit of exercises, and how it affects longevity and quality of life. However, one thing was missing for the complete package – I was a regular smoker during the week and heavy smoker during parties/weekends when I went out. I often felt miserable the next day and morally hung over as I realized that I spent too much money and smoked too many cigarettes. Very irresponsible, I know. Not to mention, I had to make regular breaks from works every few hours as I had to get my fix and that felt like priority.

Some of my ex-girlfriends were smokers too which made it more difficult to give up (well, you have nothing to give up by quitting, no sacrifice is made) not to mentioned I did not get any kick in my butt to do something about my health. Fast forward few years and my new non-smoking girlfriend (and future wife) helped me clear my head and give it another go as there was no way it would work out between us and deep down I knew that I would not love myself if I continued smoking. Let’s face it – most smokers secretly want to give up smoking, they just don’t know how. If you are a smoker and are looking for ways to improve your quality of life, get more money, look better, gain confidence – quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do!

Firstly, I was trying to come up with all the alleged pros for smoking – it helps concentrate and fights boredom, gets my hands busy, makes me look older, cooler etc.  – all of these are debunked in external materials I will mention further below. Then the cons – bad breath, yellow teeth & nails, pale skin, bad mood, lethargic body, over £50K spent during your lifetime, Emphysema (irreversible lung disease), clogged arteries and consequent risk of heart attack, reduced quality and length of life, numerous cancers. The list can go on but you get the point. It was evident that quitting smoking (including any tobacco and nicotine containing products) has so much to gain and nothing to lose. It is all in your head!

I came across Joel Spitzer who has been helping people to quit smoking for the last forty years by going cold turkey whilst understanding how nicotine addiction works. He also has large online community on and he has provided countless free materials, real life stories (including sad ones where people have waited too long). He has big YouTube channel where each video breaks down specific aspects of smoking (withdrawal, relapses, cravings, Nicotine Replacement Therapy and why it does not work, etc.). He offers consolidated version of these materials as a free PDF eBook. Very practical and easy to use.

I spent days going through his site and it made me realize what I’ve been doing to myself for these many years. As a result, I still smoked however I no longer enjoyed the process. Some time had passed and I decided to give it another go and so I started one-week’s challenge. Halfway through the process I came across Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking. I read the book which took me a day or two to read however, for those who do not wish to read the book, I would simply suggest getting a one hour video that illustrates the same principles. I am happy to announce that I am a non-smoker now and have never been happier. Apparently this method works so well that over 90%, who have seen/read it, have never taken another cigarette and have embraced healthy, nicotine-free life. Here is a small 1 min clip from Jay Leno’s interview with Ashton Kutcher from November 2006.

It worked for me, as it did for tens of thousands other people, including these celebrities: Ashton Kutcher, Richard Branson, Anthony Hopkins, Michael McIntyre, Jason Mraz, David Blaine and many others.

What about you? Are you a smoker, non-smoker or an ex-smoker? If so, how was your personal journey and how are you enjoying yourself?


P.S. I am in no way affiliated to WhyQuit.Com or Easyway however I am utmost grateful to the respectful authors for their contribution and their mission.

P.P.S. ‘Bonus material’ – a poem I wrote a while ago but it is still relevant.

Time To Say Goodbye

Don’t know where should I start
But for sure it’s time for us to part
Maybe you are not ready for this yet
But you must had suspicion, I bet

We were together for 10 years-seems like forever
I now realize, it wasn’t real, I must have had fever
Insomnia, bad breath etc- I had the whole package
I don’t think I’m ready for this type of marriage

Sure, I’d made many friends just by knowing you
But now I’ve got new hobbies, more healthy than co2
I can appreciate what it’s like to feel free
This is unconditionally me, eye-opened, ready to see

Don’t try to win me back, it’s over
I don’t need this mind f**king terror
Sing to someone else your lullaby
Farewell, adieu and goodbye!

Yours truly, nicotine free,
Rafael Lee

Hello and Welcome!

It is bank holiday weekend here in London, day one and it is raining. This means I have time to sit down and choose the name for my blog and domain, make sure it is available.

Since I see this blog as an opportunity to express myself but not limited to just that and hope to have this platform throughout my adult life and improve on that I had to follow certain approach in choosing the name.

  1. Part of the selection process was to grade the domain using the Domometer website that tells if my desired name is a good one and how would it rate among all others on the Internet.
  2. Do some experimenting with Google Adwords to see what keywords people are using when looking for a particular connect and based on that I could check the availability of different domain names on NameStation’s bulk domain search, Unfortunately most of the domain names I had in mind were already taken, so I had to get a bit creative.
  3. Once I picked a good match, I registered it (GoDaddy) and made the WordPress account and all I have to do now is domain mapping which I will arrange in near future.

 Notting Hill Carnival is tomorrow and the day after but I have some other things to focus on – the whole blogging idea is new to me and I hope to learn the ropes in due course. 

Looking forward to revisit this post years from now when the perspective will be different, I will be more experienced, and my English will be much improved.