My Personal Activity Happiness Tracking

They say true happiness is found in doing things that you enjoy the most and least time spent on things you dislike. So, I went on an exercise to see what daily chores or activities I like or dislike and how they rank on my happiness score.

Happiness Score of 10 - I love it!
Happiness Score of 1 - I would rather go back to work (unretire) than do this.

Managing personal finance and investments - (happiness score: 10)
I love to manage and track personal finance including investments. This doesn't mean I am tracking expenses every minute of the day. I do detailed tracking on the weekends with Quicken and excel spreadsheet.

I do track my stocks and watchlist everyday, but that is mainly to keep an eye on my investments and any opportunities that may arise due to world, market, or company specific events. I like to keep my watchlist up-to-date and have all the research done early so when the opportunity comes knocking (i.e. stocks on my watchlist dip), I would be ready to buy them quickly.

Oh and I should include doing taxes here. I love doing my taxes. I get a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment from doing my own taxes. I've never paid anyone to do my taxes, ever! Doing my own taxes allows me to get a better understanding of my finances as well as tax code which helps me become a more efficient tax payer.

I also pay my taxes quarterly since I have income from investments that need to be paid tax on every quarter. In any case, doing taxes does not stress me and I don't mind paying my fair share of taxes as I believe taxes are necessary to support infrastructure and all the public services that help us all.

Watching CNBC - (happiness score: 9.5)
I do this everyday with the exception of weekends and when market is close. I have DVR recording CNBC from early morning program Sqwak till last market program Mad Money. My favorite daily programs to watch are Half-time Fast MoneyClosing Bell, and Fast Money. I also like Cramer's Mad Money, but Cramer can be quite loud at times and can give me a headache though he is quite entertaining.

If I'm pressed for time, I would then watch only the two Fast Money programs. Even though they are tailored towards very active or short-term investors, I find their stock specific reporting and stock market opinions to be quite useful.

I normally multi-task watching CNBC with my eating breakfast/lunch or reading or exercising activities.

CNBC also helps me keep track of time as each program starts and ends at its fixed time, for example Squak is my breakfast time, Half-time Fast Money is my lunch time, Closing Bell is when I exercise or go for a walk, and Mad Money is when I have to start cleaning any mess I made during the day and start prepping to cook dinner. And then for dinner after Mrs. ATM is home we watch American Greed, another one of our favorite CNBC programs.

As you can probably guess, CNBC is pretty much what I watch on cable and probably the only reason I still have cable.

Reading - (happiness score: 9)
I love to read; though, most of my reading is focused on investment related articles and books. My favorite investment websites are Seeking Alpha, CNBC, and I spend several hours a day just reading latest news and articles regarding the stocks I own and also stocks that are on my watchlist. This level of reading helps me stay on top of my investments while alerting me of any new opportunities.

As for books, I recently read "THE SINGLE BEST INVESTMENT" by Lowell Miller. It's probably one of the easiest books to read on the topic of stock market investment and it drills down on the benefits of Dividend Growth investment. This book has become one of my favorites that I would recommend to anyone who is just starting out investing in stocks.

Exercising and going for a walk - (happiness score: 8.5)
Since I left my job and retired, I started to exercise daily which includes 30 minutes to an hour of walking or using elliptical or both.

On a nice day, I love to go for a long walk. I live in a very nice neighborhood with miles of walking and biking trails that go through deeply forested woods, ponds, and green hills.

I also like to exercise daily at home using Elliptical exercise machine. I like to get on the machine at least once a day for 30 minutes, sometimes even twice a day.

Exercising daily has been extremely beneficial to my health and well being. Since I started daily exercising about six months ago, I've lost nearly 20 lbs of weight and feel healthier than ever. Of course, I've also started to have a healthy diet made up of mostly vegetables, nuts, fruits, and lean meat.

Yard work including mowing - (happiness score: 8)

As long as we have owned our house, we've always done our own yard work. As a matter of fact, we both love doing yard work and find it to be very satisfying and enjoyable. I don't know why people hire others to do the yard work when it's so fun to do it yourself and good for your health as well.

Most of our yard work starts in early spring when we fertilize the lawn and get the flower beds ready for planting new flowers. Mrs. ATM is also a vivid grower of organic Tomatoes. Homegrown tomatoes taste like real tomato. We get our flowers and vegetable plants once during late spring and they last us entire summer, some even till October. We don't do any yard work in winter as the grass stops growing and plants either die or go into hibernation.

I would say, it probably costs us around $500 a year to take care of our yard and lawn, both front and back.

New Plants: $300
Lawn Fertilizer and Seeds: $150
Lawn Mower Gas, oil & spark-plug (once a year): $50
Labor: Free

A professional landscaping service can cost easily few hundred dollars a month just to maintain the lawn. Therefore, we are saving quite a bit of money by taking care of our yard ourselves.

Playing and fixing Commodore computers (happiness score: 7.5)

Well Commodore 64 computer has been my passion since I was a kid. I got my first Commodore when I was in 9th grade. My first computer was actually a Sinclair ZX Spectrun 48K, I got it when I was in 7th grade. Being a child of 80s, I was fortunate enough that I had my own personal computer and I pretty much grew up playing computer games and programming on these classic computers of the 80s.

Repairing one of my Commodore 64 floppy drives.
Commodre 64 is by far my favorite computer of all times. It was far superior than Apple IIe or any other personal computers in the market at the time. It had one of the best graphics and sound for a computer in the 80s.

As a hobby, I like to rescue and repair these old commodore 64 computers. I have a nice collection of them that I maintain and often play games on.

I love playing classic games like Pacman, Yar's Revenge, original Donkey Kong, and Defender.

As of now, my collection of old computers and consoles include:

7 Commodore 64/64Cs
1 Amiga 500
1 Atari 2600 (1977 original machine)
1 Nintendo Classic (1982 original machine)
100s of games including original floppies and game cartridges.

If you didn't grow up in the 80s, you probably would not understand my obsession with these old computers. In my opinion, the 80s was the best decade when it comes to innovation in home computers, video games, and availability of some of the best pop music around: Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, A-HA just to name a few. Oh, I miss 80s so much *sigh*.

Cooking - (happiness score: 7)

I like cooking and most days, I make dinner. My cooking style is a mix of Japanese and Indian vegetarian type of cooking. Though we keep our cooking to low sodium and less fat type of dishes. You will be amazed how good some of the food tastes when you eliminate salt from it, you actually get to taste the real food.

BTW, salt is known to cause many health issues from blood pressure to auto-immune disease. According to FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), a person should limit their sodium intake to less than 2300mg per day. Did you know that a single meal at a Fast Food restaurant can provide an entire day's sodium requirement?

The only part I don't like about home cooking is the prep work and later cleaning, though the benefits out weight in a big way. I like to cook and eat healthy food at home and yes, I'm a reformed Fast Food eater!

Practicing Tetris for World Championship - (happiness score: 6)

Yes, you read it right. There is a Tetris World Championship and it takes place each year in October in my home town of Portland OR. I started playing Tetris vigorously late last year on my 1982 classic Nintendo machine; however, I lost interest in a few weeks. Besides, it was probably not good for my eyes to stare at the old TV for hours watching Tetris blocks falling.

It got to the point where if I closed my eyes, I could see Tetris blocks. So, I stopped playing for a while and decided to take a break from it.

I will resume my Tetris practice soon as I still have my eyes on the championship or at minimum entry in the tournament.

Blogging - (happiness score: 5)

Well I am kind'a neutral on blogging. It was quite interesting at first, but then it became a chore. Mainly because it takes so much time and energy to write something fun and useful. I don't make any money out of it, it's mainly a personal hobby or exercise for the mind and allows me to share some of my investment learning or ideas and a few wacky articles like this one for fun.

For now, I have limited blogging to once/twice a month activity. I look at it as mainly a writing exercise. Will see how it goes in a few months and whether I would continue blogging or not. It would really depend on what else is going-on in my life that is more interesting than blogging.

Doing Laundry (happiness score: 4)

I don't enjoy doing laundry, it's just too cumbersome and requires too many steps and due-diligence. For example you have to sort all the clothes first by color and type and then wash them separately in the machine. You have to pick the correct water temperature and wash cycle or clothes can be ruined. Then once washed, you have to take them out and put them in the dryer and wait for another hour or so to be done and then fold them and hang them or put in the drawers. Then start all over again with another set of clothes.

It's just too much work! I just don't have the patience to go through all the steps in the right order. If it was just one load and one type and one machine that could do it all then I could handle it, I think. But the current laundry system is too much for me to handle.

Just last night, Mrs. ATM asked me to put the dirty towels in the washer as I had spilled some water on the kitchen floor and used the towels to clean the floor. So I went upstairs and put the dirty towels in the dryer (instead of a washer) that had clean clothes in it. I guess I couldn't tell the difference between the washer and the dryer.

Anyhow, Mrs. ATM has taken the charge for handling our laundry as usual and I've self-declared myself as incompetent when it comes to doing laundry.

Doing Dishes - (happiness score: 3)

Okay now we are getting into my least favorite things to do.

I don't like doing dishes, but nowadays I do it anyway, especially since I'm retired and have no good excuse such as I'm tired, or I had a bad or hard day at work. After having fun all day, the least I should do is dishes. So, I do them but it doesn't have to be something I enjoy.

We do have a dish washer but still there is work involved in getting clean dishes out and dirty dishes back in the dishwasher. The hardest part of dish washing is organizing all the dirty dishes in the cramped space of a dishwasher.

What I want is a dishwasher that is built into the kitchen sink. So all you have to do is close the sliding shutter over your sink with dishes piled-in and hit start on the dishwasher. When the dishes are done, the dishwasher automatically moves the entire dish rack to the clean side while making space for the new dirty dishes in the sink. That's what I want, if you know a company that makes such a dishwasher, let me know I will buy its shares in addition to the dishwasher.

You may think I'm spoiled, well I actually have done more than my share of dishes when I was a student in college. I worked as a part-time student-help or dish washer in the college cafeteria during my first two years of college. So, maybe I got burned-out doing dishes back in school :)

Fixing computer network and printer issues - (happiness score: 2)

We have a network printer and every now and then it starts to act up and would not work. This seems to happen far more often when Mrs. ATM is trying to print something and hence I get called in to fix the issue since I am the home IT.

Being an engineer doesn't help much with printers and network problems because none of the network and printer issues make sense to me. It's like black magic, one moment it would be working and the next it won't print or the printer would just disappear from the network. Only after I clean-up the print spool, reinstall drivers, it would work. I absolutely hate printers.

Organizing my closet - (happiness score: 1)

Okay, this is my least favorite of activities and why I have never done it.

For years, Mrs. ATM has been asking me to organize my closet as it is getting out of control. How would a closet get out of control, you may ask?

Well, I just have too many clothes even though I haven't bought any new clothes in a while. I guess, I never throw away old clothes that I love so much. Mrs. ATM wants to donate some of my old clothes that I don't wear to GoodWill. I'm all about donating my clothes that I don't wear, it's just that I don't enjoy the process of deciding which clothes to keep and which ones to give away as I always find a reason or some attachment to my old clothes.

I have a feeling this year it could be different as I'm retired now and don't have any good excuse to not do this one dreadful activity, so I may have to bite the bullet, take a plunge, and organize and clean my closet sometime this summer :(

Last Word

It does help to know what you like to do vs. don't like to do. By spending more time doing things you like, you can increase your happiness score. I should say that we all have to do chores that we may not like from time-to-time but if there is a way out of those chores or to make those chores complete by themselves (magically or with someone else's help) then you should take that route.

Also, simplifying life can make many of those boring chores less painful or intense, for example less clothes mean less laundry, smaller house means less cleaning and up keeping, small yard means less yard work unless you really enjoy it (like I do), anyway you got the point. So simplification in life is a good thing and can help you spend less time on activities you don't like and more time on things that you enjoy the most.

What daily chores or activities you like or dislike?

Disclaimer: I am not a lazy person, it's just that I don't like doing certain chores and if there is a way out, I go for it. As Ferris Bueller (my hero) once said: Life is too short, if you don't stop and smell the roses, it can pass pretty fast. 


  1. Very interesting exercise and post Mr. ATM. I'm with you on the finances, reading, exercise, and laundry! I didn't see grocery shopping on your list :) It would be about a 3 on my list.

    Nice yard and WOW the Commodore 64, very cool to see. Pacman and Defender were my favs.

    1. Thanks Amy. Yes, I like grocery shopping (it would be around 7 on my score) but mainly because of all the samples I get to eat :)


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