How to do a personal year end review with RescueTime

It’s the end of the year, you’ve got a bunch of RescueTime logs in front of you. How do you make sense of them? What can you learn?

We’re big believers in the power of reflection, and doing a personal year end review is a great way to see how you spent your time last year. To get you started, here are a few pointers for how to run and get the most out of your own year end review using RescueTime.

Note: A lot of the features we’re going to be looking at are only available to RescueTime Premium users. You can try RescueTime Premium for free for 14 days by signing up here.

Start by looking at your annual dashboard

Let’s start our year end review with an overview of what the year looked like. Start with your dashboard, which looks like this:

Just use the datepicker to choose ‘2017’ and you’ll see a rollup of your time for the year.

Please note that the annual reports can take a while to load.

The annual dashboard will show you a whole lot of things, including:

  • Time by week
  • Overall productivity pulse
  • Your top categories
  • Your goals

This is a good place to get an overall sense of how you spent your time this year.

What stands out?

Did you spend more/less time on your goals?

Break down your time using time filters

The annual dashboard is a good place to start, but to get more for your year end review, you’ll want to dig deeper into the specifics. There are a number of ways you can filter your report to find deeper insights.

Show just your working hours

Want to look specifically at how you spent your time during normal working hours? You can use a time filter to narrow your view to specific hours of the day.

There are several default time filters that align with “standard” working hours, and you can create your own to get the exact view you want.

Tip: If you’re prone to working long hours like me it’s really interesting to also check the off hours and see how much work bleeds over into your personal time.

Filter to a specific quarter

It may make sense to zoom in a little bit and look at how your time changed seasonally.

Did you start a new job in the Fall? Do you want to look at how you started the year so you can plan for a better 2018? On the ‘Year’ tab of the datepicker, you can select a specific quarter of the year to look at. You can also bounce between quarters to get a sense of how your time changed as the year progressed.

Find your top activities for the year

Probably the easiest thing to pull out of your reports is a list of your top activities for the year.

Use the ‘Reports’ navigation options to choose ‘Productivity’, ‘Applications & Websites’, or ‘Categories’ to get a ranked list.

How to find your longest / most productive / most whatever day

Want to know when you were at your best this year? You can find your top weeks for any particular metric by using the ‘by week’ view of any report for the full year. It’s pretty fun to go through your year and see when you spent the most time in your favorite activities.

If you want to know the top days, instead of weeks, you can do the same process, but you will have to use the quarterly reports instead of the full annual view.

Go into your quarterly view and scan through each one to find the day that stands above the rest for the metric you’re interested in.

Use the percentage and pulse views to see your time in a different way

There’s a little-used feature in the reports that really comes in handy when doing reflections over log periods of time. On any of the ‘by day’ / ‘by week’ reports, you can toggle between different views of your data. By default, you’ll see a stacked bar chart showing the amount of time logged on different activities for each time period. If you tend to log different amounts of time each day, it can make it hard to see patterns. In the top right of the chart there is a toggle where you can switch to a percentage view. That should make it easier to see if your distribution of time is changing. On the productivity reports, there’s a third toggle to show the productivity pulse.

Look at what an ‘average day’ looks like

Let’s zoom in for a second and look at how we spent an average day this year. Each report has a ‘time of day’ view that shows an aggregate rollup of all time for that activity for each hour of the day.

For me, I can use this to see that 4pm is the time when I tend to do the most productive work.

Check in on your goal progress

Goals are fun to look at in the yearly or quarterly views because you get to see some impressively big numbers of things you were working towards.

All goal reports calculate the total amount of time you spent working to meet your goal in the time period of the report you’re viewing, so you can see how your daily effort stacks up over the year.

Setting small goals and sticking to them is an effective way to make changes. This year, I set a small goal of writing for a half hour a day. Doesn’t seem like much, but realizing that I’ve written 197 hours so far in 2017 feels amazing!

See what percentages of your overall time taken up by different activities

Sometimes it’s more useful and more fun to think about your time on different activities in relation to the total time you logged. The 550 hours I spent so far this year in communication & scheduling sounds like a big number, but it’s a little more meaningful to know that it’s 36% of my overall time during work hours!

There are two ways to find the percentage of time an activity took up

Look at the table beneath the graph on any of the main reports (Productivity, Applications & Websites, Categories). You should see the percentage right next to the total time.

You can also browse to the detail report for that activity, and you should see the percentage next to the totals on the left side of the graph.

Bonus: URL tricks to uncover things you can’t get in the standard reports.

RescueTime’s reports try to balance simplicity with flexibility. They do a pretty good job, but there are some cases where you might want to get a slightly different view of your data than the navigation offers.

If you’ve ever paid attention to the urls in the reports, you can see that they follow a predictable pattern that you can manipulate to get some different views of your time.

The report urls generally look something like:

Rescuetime year end review link

To break that down by segment:[THING-YOU-CARE-ABOUT]/by/[HOW-IS-IT-GROUPED]/for/the/[TIME-PERIOD]/of/[DATE]

You can find some values to play around with on our API documentation page.

For a quick example, you can get a month-over-month view of 2017 by changing /by/week/for/the/year to /by/month/for/the/year

Bonus Bonus: Use the API for the most control

If you are more comfortable with spreadsheets, or even advanced stats software like R, you can pull data from your reports using our API. Here is the documentation.

With so much of our time spent on digital devices, it’s pretty incredible to be able to look back at how we spent the past year.

I hope this short guide helped you better understand how you can use RescueTime to build an end of year review for yourself and help plan for a productive 2018!

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Robby Macdonell

CEO at RescueTime


  1. Thank you for writing this. I have use RT in the past for my yearly reviews, but was not aware of many of the advanced reports that you demonstrate here. Hope to gain more insights this year-end around. 🙂

  2. Dear Robby;

    I am a student taking five online courses from the same website. Since RescueTime compiles/logs time based on which website I’m on. How would I be able to track the time that I will spend on the four separate courses that I’m taking from the same website?

    Please click on this website.
    1- If I click on tabs/courses within a website (such as the one above) will that be consolidated as a separate website or is it still the same website?
    2- If I wanted to time things in my life that are not web-based (like “exercise”, “music”, “painting”); could I use this software to incorporate them in my time management, and keep a log by the minutely, week, month and year?
    3- Do you have compatible app for iPhone to track my progress seamlessly?

    I’ll fill in my information in the email box.

    1. Sorry for the late response, Bem!

      1. With RescueTime premium, you can log time for individual pages on a website, and these can be viewed and categorized differently than the main website. So you can get *some* visibility into things on a per class level, but it might be a little clunky. If your classes involve multiple pages within a single section of the website, there’s not really an elegant way to group multiple pages together as a single activity.
      2. RescueTime premium has offline time tracking, so you could track things that happen away from the computer. See for more information
      3. We are working on an iOS application.

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