With the rush of New Year’s motivation past us, it’s common to feel unmotivated or even frustrated. Yet there’s a simple tool that can help energize and drive you forward through 2020: Data.
Personal data—the kind that RescueTime automatically captures—is a wealth of knowledge about how you work, where your time goes, and all the progress you’ve made. It’s also a powerful tool for setting smarter goals for the future.
That’s why once a year, we roll up a year’s worth of data for every single RescueTime user to give you an opportunity to reflect, see the progress you’ve made, and plan for a successful year!
So what can you learn from a year’s worth of data?
Note: RescueTime Lite users are limited to just 3 months of historical data. However, everyone gets a full year of data in this report! Want more in-depth reports throughout the year? Sign up for RescueTime Premium today!
Step 1. Get a baseline of your annual productivity throughout the year
Let’s start with the big picture.
According to my Year In Review report, I logged 2,091 hours in RescueTime last year! (For context, that’s roughly the equivalent of watching every episode of The Office 30.5 times!)
While it’s fun to look at that big number, it’s even more important to learn from it. The high-level breakdown at the top of your report can help you answer some key questions:
- How much of your time was spent on productive vs. distracting tasks?
- What were your longest/most productive/most distracted days?
- How did your productivity change throughout the year?
This is the baseline we’re going to use to start digging further into your trends and productivity history.
Step 2. Dig into your productivity trends across days/months
With an idea of the big picture, let’s look for some larger trends in the underlying factors that influence your productivity:
1. Check your average Productivity Pulse (and trends)
The RescueTime Productivity Pulse is a tool we use to measure how productive you are based on the time you spend on productive vs. distracting apps, websites, and tasks.
It’s a great tool for quickly checking progress and seeing when you’re focused on a daily basis. But when seen on an annual basis, it helps tell a bigger picture.
The Productivity Pulse section of your report tells you your average productivity, the months you were most/least productive as well as how your baseline productivity changes from weekdays to weekends.
2. Use the cluster graph to visualize a year of productive days
Trends give us a good idea of an average day but there are always outliers.
The report’s interactive graph shows every single day you logged time in RescueTime. This is another great way to view your productive vs. distracted days and get a feel for how 2019 was.
What does an average day look like for you?
How long are you working for on days when you’re most distracted?
Are there trends you can find that will help you define a more productive daily schedule?
3. Look for seasonality in your work time and productivity
Lastly, let’s look at your total work time across each month.
Were you pretty much consistent with your work time throughout the year? Or is there a seasonality to your work that you can pull out?
What about major changes like time off or career moves that may have impacted how much you worked?
Step 3. See what apps and tools you used the most (and when!)
More important than how much you worked is how you worked in 2019. The Year In Review report pulls out your total time to see:
- Which apps or categories of tools did you use the most throughout the year? How did these change month-by-month?
- Did you spend more/less time than you thought on things like social media? What about communication tools?
- Were there some unexpected things taking up large portions of your day?
Step 4. Check your 2019 data against your long-term goals
All of this raw data is great for reflection. But it’s also important to look back and see how it stacks up against how you wanted to spend your time in 2019.
Most people set goals at the start of the year and then mostly forget about them. But RescueTime lets you actively track your goal progress all year long.
For example, I have two basic daily goals set that I track:
- Spend less than 30 minutes a day on email
- Spend more than 3 hours on writing a day
Together, these are a powerful barometer for how focused I am on any given day.
Am I spending time on meaningful work (writing)?
Or am I getting caught up in busywork and communication?
If you have a RescueTime Premium account, you can check your goals over an entire year of data. Just change the date picker to yearly and then go to Reports > Goals.
This will show you your total time spent on your goal activities, how many times you hit/missed your daily goal, and how your time spent on those goals has been trending.
If you don’t have a premium account, you can still check in on your goals manually using your Year in Review report.
Look at your top categories. Do these line-up with your goals? Are you spending a good percentage of your day on the right things? How has this changed over time?
This is a great way to get a feel for how focused (or not) you’ve been on meaningful work.
Step 5. Create data-informed goals for 2020
Last up, it’s time to move away from reflection and set some data-informed goals for 2020.
Start by reviewing the data you’ve already collected, which can include:
- Your baseline productivity throughout the year (and how it changed month-by-month)
- Your productivity trends across months or weeks
- The apps and tools you used the most
- Your biggest distractions
- Your goal trends across the year
Now, choose a few places to make data-informed goals. Here are a few examples:
1. Increase your baseline productivity
One of the best data-driven goals you can set is to increase your baseline productivity. In other words, make yourself more productive.
There’s a number of ways you can set and track this goal.
First, use your average productivity pulse to measure the % of time you spend on productive tasks. Check the breakdown of your days and get a feel for what an average productive day looks like.
For example, in my case, I spend ~5.75 hours on my device with a productivity pulse of 62.
Next, you can do a little rough math to figure out how much total time you’re spending on productive tasks on average. So in my case, my average productive time is ~3.5 hours a day.
Here’s the equation I used to figure that out:
[Average daily time] X [Productivity pulse as a percentage] = Average productive time
Now, I have a number to work off of. So I’m going to go ahead and create a RescueTime Goal of 4 hours of productive time a day (half an hour more than I’m currently doing on an average day).
This feels both doable and accurate. Now, I have something to work towards on a daily basis that’s not too far off my average!
2. Decrease the percentage of your time spent on communication/social media/anything else
Getting more specific, you can look to decrease the time you spend on distracting or non-productive tools. While you could track total distracting time, it’s good to dig deep and call out the actual time-wasters you’re worried about.
Use your Year In Review report data to inform what makes your list. However, a good place to start is with:
- Traditional “distractions” like time spent on social media, entertainment, news, etc…
- Non-core tasks that take away from meaningful work like emails, meetings, admin, etc…
Again, you can set specific goals now to address your issues and choose realistic targets.
In my case, I might choose Communication & Scheduling, which is currently 13% of my time or about 45 minutes a day.
Here’s that equation again for figuring this out:
5.75 hours [Total time] X 0.13 [% spent on communication] = ~0.75 hours or 45 minutes a day
A smart data-driven goal here would be to aim for something like 30 minutes of total communication time a day.
Here’s what that looks like as a RescueTime Goal:
3. Get more consistent with your monthly productivity
If you’re anything like me, you probably had some big changes in your monthly productivity throughout the year.
There are always things that get in the way. However, consistency is one of the most powerful tools for being more productive.
Again, you can set a data-driven goal for monthly productivity. Using our Productivity Pulse for tracking progress, I’m going to set a reminder in my calendar to check my Monthly Dashboard at the end of each month and see if I’m keeping up with my productivity goals.
4. Give yourself more time off!
Of course, your goals can’t all be about doing more.
Productivity means taking time off, relaxing, and avoiding burnout. Looking at my daily breakdown in my Year in Review report, one thing I’ve noticed is that there are too many 9+ hour days for my liking.
Even though these aren’t the norm, I’m going to set a RescueTime Alert to notify me when I go over 8 hours of total device time in a day.
This won’t block me out of apps or do anything drastic. It’s simply a consistent reminder to notice when I’m putting in extra time.
5. Check-in on your progress more often
Nothing keeps you on track like regularly checking your progress.
The Weekly Reports we send out are good high-level reminders of how you’re spending your time. However, lots of people we’ve spoken to schedule regular check-ins to go through their RescueTime data, adjust their goals, and continue to improve.
This doesn’t have to be too often—weekly if you’re trying to make rapid changes and maybe monthly if you just want to check in and make sure your productivity system is working as planned!
Lastly, have a little fun with your data
If you’re not familiar with using personal data it can seem overwhelming at first. But data can also be incredibly fun.
Unlike journals or other tools, data doesn’t lie to you.
Your numbers give you an accurate and personal picture of how you’re spending your time so you can decide if you’re happy with how things are going. And if you’re not, data is the perfect tool to help guide you as you change your habits!
Want to get the most out of your personal data? Start your free trial of RescueTime Premium and get access to distraction blocking, real-time Alerts, unlimited and more in-depth reporting, and more!