Spare time

This is a list of interests I want to consider pursuing. I wrote it when I began to study for my last set of exams and my mind filled with things I'd rather be doing instead. Some of these interests are just me reacting to having no spare time for a few months, but others are decent goals and projects. Temporarily losing my spare time made me value it more.


I wrote this post so that I could compare what I thought was important when I was busy to when I wasn't. Writing the list allowed me to move on without forgetting. Here's a break down of each item:

  1. "Run 10k in 50 minutes" - This is easier than I imagined. When I wrote the list I could barely run 2k without stopping, but intended to go for a weekly run whilst studying. I've struggled to stay energetic and healthy during previous exam phases, so now I have a rule that I must do some mild exercise even if I think I can't spare the time. I find running really lowers my stress levels, and increasing my heart rate and working up a sweat lets me sleep better and concentrate for longer. After a few weeks of minimal running, I could run 5k easily. If I kept at it, 10k in 50 mins would be easy. But point 2...

  2. "Be Insanity strong" - As in, do the Insanity workout programme. Again. I thought about it and decided to do P90x instead. Week 1 is going great.

  3. "Read the bible habitually" - When I was 17 I found out about Jesus and became a Christian. In the months and years after that I'd regularly read my bible almost every day and pray a lot. I wanted to understand, so I set a goal of 5 chapters each day.

    I read through the new testament repeatedly and read most of the old testament during this time. I knew the scriptures well enough that a lot of sermons became boring and obvious - I'd already studied the bible passage being used. During this time I remember being aware that the way I thought was different to how it would have been otherwise. My perspectives were long-term and less me focused. I thought about what I was reading instead of the days' headlines or social chatter. I remember enjoying the benefits and thinking that I should keep this habit. The reasons why I think Christianity is so wonderful are well summarised in this sermon.

    It's now 10 years later, and whilst my convictions are strong, my knowledge of the bible is sadly pretty fuzzy. My thinking is clouded by the perspectives contained in the media I consume and the conversations I'm part of. I strongly suspect I would be acting and thinking differently if I read my bible more, but I don't know what those differences would be. Trouble is, it's often not obvious what the immediate benefits of reading the bible are, you have to work for it a bit. Praying for help is effective. The books in the bible were written to last through the ages and across all cultures, so it's not surprising that they're not as easy to read as something written for an English speaker in a hurry. I should stop being in a hurry, and stop prioritising only quantifiable goals.

  4. "Think more" - On a similar note to 3, but less supernatural. If I spent less time consuming content and a little more looking around me or walking, I reckon I'd be more self-aware and make better decisions. This would probably lead to a happier, more satisfying life.

  5. "Pray more" - I don't know why, but the creator of the universe wants me to talk and share my life with him. He cares about me. This makes no sense to me, at all. If I was God, I would not go out of my way to consider the views and concerns of a very flawed human. But when I pray, my prayers are very often answered. I should ask him about this.

  6. "Amazon seller?" - Amazon have this "Fulfilled by Amazon" service, which means you don't even need to hold the stock you want to sell. If I choose the right products, import them cheaply from China and reselling  them on Amazon at a profit, I end up quids in for minimal effort and manageable risk. Sounds intriguing.

  7. "Blog about interesting data" - Here I am, blogging. I should stick to the main topic and get technical. I was inspired by this blog in particular.

  8. "Finish Coursera" - The data science specialization is great! It's in R, and I want to focus on Python, but I'd still like to do it. I need to consider the opportunity cost of the time committed, though.

  9. "Read for fun, history, fiction" - When I started my job, in April 2014, I was half way through Savage Continent, which is an eye-opening and eye-watering history of Europe in the years after World War 2. I see Europe through different eyes because of it. However I only got half way though, and since April '14 I never felt I had the free time or energy to pick it back up. This should change. When I was a researcher, and when I was a student, I had so much more opportunity to develop my own pursuits. Since entering the corporate world, I find myself fighting a war of attrition to exert my personality onto my lifestyle.

    Read for fiction... I'm unconvinced. What do you have at the end of it? What can you do with it? Maybe I've just been reading the wrong authors, but I'm going to leave this for now. Sure, you could gain an appreciation of a different time or place, but that appreciation comes via the fictional characters and events, its secondary. What about abstract constructs, perspectives, morals... things that history books are ill-suited for? Great fiction would be essential for exploring these. But for now, I'll prioritise point 3.

  10. "Do a photography project" - This I would love to do, but probably won't. It would be a luxury, and the opportunity cost would be too great right now. I'd like to shoot a series of black and white portraits, and turn them into large prints. I think good portrait photography is uniquely impactful and moving, choosing B&W removes distractions and leaves a subjects humanity more exposed.

  11. "Have a list of business/product ideas" - There's no excuse for this one, anyone can have several good ideas. It's turning them into reality that takes skill. Need to have the ideas first, though.

  12. "Do a law MOOC" - i.e Study particular areas of law, in my own time and at my own pace. I studied a tiny bit of law during the ACA, and realised employment law or contract law could be really useful. (Same for the tax system - another surprise). We only had a brief introduction though, so if I could find the time I'd like to know more.

  13. "Do an InfoSec or Network Security MOOC" - Its super interesting, but not likely to be a good use of time.

  14. "Learn to fight - Krav Maga / MMA" - Ever since watching The Bourne Identity I've wanted to learn Krav Maga, and Georges St-Pierre made me want to train for MMA. For now though, I'll do P90x. I can reconsider in 90 days.

  15. "Get out of London" - My contract ends in April 2017, next summer will be a crossroads. I hate the commute, I hate being constantly rushed. Living in other cities has been a lot more pleasant.