Reviving Healthy Work Habits: Toggl and Weekly Highlights

As I’ve gotten back into the swing of a more-or-less regular work schedule after the initial launch of SQL Workbooks, I’ve revived some of my favorite work habits and free tools.

Tracking time with Toggl

I’m a big fan of the time-tracking tool Toggl.  Their tools are easy to use, and even the free version is very cool.

Tracking time may seem like a giant pain if you’re used to using terrible tools for it. But Toggl is simple, and it helps keep me sane.

I have a tendency to work a lot. I can really enjoy a long workday. The problem is that if I pull too many long workdays, I burn myself out. I stop walking my dog and skip workouts. I eat crummier food. My mood and health slide downhill.

Tracking my time has two purposes for me:

  • I learn how long things take, on average
  • I can keep myself honest about how many hours I work every week

Like most people, I am horrible at estimating how long things take. I’m even pretty bad at estimating how long I’ve been doing something! Toggl takes the mystery out of all this.

These days, I work pretty weird hours. There’s lots of construction going on within shouting distance of my recording area, so I do video recording mostly after 5 pm or on Sundays. This works fine for me as long as I balance things out at other times, and Toggl helps me do just that.

Next up: I’m going to start experimenting with Toggl’s built in Pomodoro timer this week. (My first week I just spent tracking, to make life simpler.)

Weekly highlights

I once had a manager who asked me to write down a few highlights and lowlights each week. At first this was a bit of a drag, but after a while I grew to love it.

There’s two reasons to do weekly highlights:

  • To build a sense of satisfaction in your work
  • To figure out where you need to invest or ask for help to make thing easier

Oftentimes at the end of the week we are so happy to get to the weekend that we don’t think about what we did well. Writing down highlights helps you recognize your own achievements (which are surprisingly easy to forget).

Lowlights are also useful. At first this feels like, “Where did you fail?” That’s not the point. Instead, it’s helpful to recognize where you had a hard time, because there may be ways to make that easier in the future. When something is a repeat lowlight, that gives you data about where it can be useful to change something.

Extra bonus: If you have any kind of annual review process, looking back at weekly highlights and lowlights is incredibly useful: you’ve got a bunch of data about what you contributed, and also about what you’d like to ask for.

So make yourself a 10 minute calendar reminder to do highlights and lowlights each week.

For me, Friday morning is a MUCH better time to do this than Friday afternoon, because I’m generally in a good mood and not hurried on Friday mornings. I use Google Keep and Google Calendar, so I’ve set myself a recurring weekly reminder for Friday morning in Google Keep.