👋 Goodbye 2020! Hello 12 glorious months of new opportunities!
While most of us start the New Year by looking forward and setting effective goals for the future, it’s also a perfect time to look back and reflect on the past.
Self-reflection is a powerful tool.
Psychologists have found that seeing clear progress boosts motivation, productivity, and even happiness. This means that progress will keep you going long after your New Year’s resolutions have faded away.Progress will keep you going long after your New Year's resolutions have faded away. Click To Tweet
The problem is that having a clear way to track your progress isn’t always easy. With the pull of busywork, ‘urgent’ tasks, and shifting priorities, it’s hard to take a second to look back at what you’ve actually accomplished.
That’s where RescueTime helps.
Every year, we roll up hundreds of millions of hours of data into a custom report for every RescueTime user. And our 2020 edition is ready for you today!
Want to learn what to do with all this awesome data? Check out our freshly updated Guide to Running a Personal Annual Review.
What’s inside your 2020 RescueTime Year in Review?
How do you look back through all the ups, downs, and complexities of a full year and get a true picture of what actually got done?
Let’s start by breaking down what you’ll see in your 2020 Year in Review.
1. See a breakdown of every single day you logged data in 2020
There’s a saying that if newspapers were only published once every 50 years, you’d see a lot more positive stories in them. In other words, seeing the bigger picture of how you spend your time helps you look past all the smaller, annoying day-to-day issues you face.
That’s why your 2020 Year in Review starts with a broad overview of how you spent every single day of the year.
To go even deeper, you can view this data by total hours, productive time, or distracting time. You’ll also see your most (and least) productive day of the year as well as what day you worked the most on.
While it’s fun to look at these big numbers, the bigger question is what does it show you?
Can you pick out holidays or product launch weeks when you put in extra hours?
What about larger trends like seasonal changes? Or even how the pandemic impacted your working time as it wore on?
A calendar view like this lets you put your entire year into perspective, both the good and the bad. Sometimes, it just feels good knowing you spent hundreds or even thousands of hours on productive work!
2. Pick out trends and deeper insights on how you work
Looking at data from individual days can be a bit overwhelming. What’s more powerful (and potentially more important) is how your working style changed and evolved throughout the year.
The RescueTime Year in Review can show you these trends and insights in a few different ways:
First, look at your overall “Productivity Pulse” for 2020
The Productivity Pulse is our way of calculating how much of your day is spent on productive tasks (versus everything else).
Your Pulse can change wildly on a day-to-day basis depending on your meeting schedule, workload, or any other number of factors. However, looking at it over a full year gives you a good baseline of your productivity.
Next, visualize your productivity by day
Averages are good for setting expectations. However, there are always outliers to look out for.
Your Year in Review includes an interactive chart of every day you used your devices in 2020. Hover over any data point and you’ll see the date, total time, and productivity pulse.
This is fun to look at, but also can help answer a few key questions:
- 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. Track how long you actually spent on the apps and tools that matter most
‘Productivity’ can be a misleading term. Especially when you’re look at a full year of data.
Email and designing new features in Figma could both be considered productive work. But which would you rather spend more of your time on?
Your Year in Review shows you exactly how much time you spend in the apps and tools that are most important to you as well as how that time changed throughout the year.
For example, I can see that while I spent the majority of my time on writing and designing (great!) that time dropped significantly from late summer to the end of the year (not so good).
This is also a great place to see what got in the way of your priorities. Again, in my case, while my writing time went down, my communication time was pretty much steady for the full year.
You can see a chart like this for each of your top categories for the year. While each tells its own story, together they can give you more context about where your time went and how your work habits are changing.
How to use your RescueTime data to build better habits for 2021
Going through a Year in Review like this can be a fun exercise (or a terrifying one depending on your situation!)
It shows you just how much progress you made, where your time went, and how you were able to focus on your priorities.
However, it can also highlight a ton of opportunities to change your work habits for the better.
Here are just a few of the ways you can use insights from your Year in Review to change your habits going into 2021:
1. See the impact of overwork (and change your schedule to counter it)
This one comes from our amazing designer, Francesca:
“This year had some pretty serious distraction times–March was especially bad, and September and October.”
“I know why I was distracted during those times, but it does seem like the times I got away from my computer for a while, I was able to lessen distraction. I took a week off in early November, and it seems to have had a good effect.”
2. Build habits that promote long-term productivity
2020 was a year full of uncertainty and stress. And most of us will probably see that reflected in our Year in Review.
However, while it can be hard to see moments where your productivity and focus slipped, these are also great opportunities to set better goals for the new year.
For me, the second wave of pandemic lockdowns in Montreal (where I live) took a big hit on my ability to focus at work. I can see this most clearly in my time spent writing and designing.
Instead of feeling badly about this, however, I want to learn from it and set goals that I can hit no matter what else is happening in the world around me.
This means that my goal for 2021 is to spend 40% of my available time each day on what we call Focus Work. These are tasks that require long periods of deep focus to complete like writing, designing, or coding.
Choosing a percentage rather than a total time goal helps build better habits in a couple of ways.
First, it’s more realistic.
According to my Year in Review, my average workday is around 5 hours of device time.
This means, I should aim for around just over 2 hours of writing each day (5 hours x 40%). This might not sound like much to some people, but it works for my schedule and studies show that setting smaller goals helps you stay committed and build stronger habits.
Next, using a percentage accounts for the variable nature of our workdays.
If you have a meeting-packed day and are trying to do 3 or 4 hours of designing or coding, you’re setting yourself up for failure. But a percentage keeps you accountable for doing something important each and every day.
Finally, this is just a starting point. If you hit your goal–no matter how small it is–great! You’ll feel accomplished and motivated to keep going.
3. Have a data-driven conversation with your boss or coworkers
Your data can help you change your habits. But it can also help you change your workload, priorities, schedule, and even workplace culture.
For example, show your boss how scope creep on your last big project caused your overall productivity to drop. Or how asking for daily updates means you spend more time on communication apps than coding or designing.
When presented in the right way, data can help disrupt the most deep-seated beliefs.
Use data to make 2021 your best year yet!
If you’re not familiar with looking at personal data, your 2020 Year in Review is a great place to dig in and get started. And while it might be hard to see moments in the year where things didn’t go as planned, it’s important not to focus on the negatives.
Data tells a story. It shows how the last year impacted how you work and what you got done. But it also shows you where you can go from here.