Business Tips | Data Strategy | Tips & Tricks

The life of a data analyst can be a hectic one. Pulling data, analyzing metrics, compiling reports, looking for insights, preparing presentations… it seems never ending. Some days there is barely have time for a restroom break, much less to do something that you actually enjoy. Fortunately, we live in the future, and the future is full of dynamic, automated dashboards.

When you make the switch from traditional reporting to a BI solution like iDashboards, you may find yourself bogged down with that once elusive luxury: free time. At first, said free time can feel like a burden (after all, no analyst likes to feel unproductive), but with a bit of creativity and inspiration, that free time can become time well spent. While we’d never advocate for you to slack off at work (*cough cough*), we’ve put together a list of 10 things that are a far better use of your time than pulling data reports the old fashioned way.

1. Take a Lap

Timed Save from Pulling Reports

Between work obligations and familial responsibilities, workouts have pretty much been limited to arm curls with the remote at 9:00 at night. Use the time you save with dashboards to get up and move. Take a lap around the office, climb the stairs a few times, walk around the block, or put the dusty office treadmill to use. Research shows that just 15 minutes of walking a day can improve your mood, reduce blood pressure, relieve back pain, tighten your abdominal muscles, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Talk about a good use of your time!

2. Build a Fortress

Save time pulling reports

When you implement dashboards, you’ll quickly discover that you’re not just bogged down with time, but also with extra paper. Thanks to the ability to link multiple sources to a single platform, and for that platform to make correlations and insights for you, you may never have to pull another report again. Put that paper to use and build an office fortress. With low defensive walls and barricades, you can keep your workspace safe and ensure that Carol from Accounting never steals your stapler again.

3. Organize Your Desktop

Organize Your Reports

You may believe in the whole “organized mess” theory, but the truth is that a desk bogged down with paperwork, writing utensils, trash, and other materials is distracting. Don’t believe us? The neuroscientists at Princeton University found that people with physical clutter in their work environments suffered from decreased performance and increased stress. Use the time you save with dashboards to clear out the clutter, organize files, and find a home for supplies. In doing so, you may discover that you have even MORE free time, thanks to the time you save by being more productive.

Read next: Reporting Sucks. Let’s Make It Better.

4. Meditate

Reports Take Too Much Time

Close your eyes, breathe in through your nose, and out through your mouth, and then dispel the notion that meditation is hippie mumbo jumbo. Research shows that mediation reduces stress and increases blood flow, boosts creativity and productivity in the workplace, and preps the brain for skill development. You can mediate anywhere, but if you want to do it in private, just show your boss the research to encourage him or her to designate an office mediation space. If you’ve never mediated before, now is the time to start.

5. Write a Handwritten Note

Write a Handwritten Note

Many people believe that handwritten notes are a relic of the past, but research suggests that such a belief may be detrimental to our personal development. According to psychologists, children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but also, they may be better innovators and more adept at retaining information. Moreover, when children were asked to produce a letter by hand, they showed an increased activity in three areas of their brains, whereas children who reproduced a letter via computer showed no such activity.

As an adult data analyst, you may not need to retain letters such as “a,” “b,” and “c,” but you do need to be able to retain mass amounts of complex information. Writing a note by hand every once in a while may help you do just that. When the researchers studied older students, they found that those who took notes by hand were better at processing a lecture’s content and reframing it, a process that eventually leads to better understanding and memory encoding.

Then there are the calming effects of writing handwritten notes that cannot be denied. According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere act of penning a letter, story, or note unleashes creativity not easily accessed via any other means. The same study also related handwriting to mediation, finding that handwriting forces us to slow down and enjoy the present.

6. Send an Email to Your Future Self

Send an Email to Your Future Self

Once you’re done writing your handwritten note to a friend or loved one, visit FutureMe and write an email to yourself. Ask some questions you’d like your future self to know the answers to, share some of your dreams and goals, or just let your future self know how proud you are of your current self. Hey, it’s you – you’re allowed to brag! The app will sent your email to your inbox in a year, five years, or even ten years from now.

7. Read for Fun

Read for Fun

We know, reading for fun… what even is that? Carve out some of that time you used to spend staring at screens and go analog. You can finally finish the last Harry Potter, start that new Dave Eggers, or revisit old favorites. Heck, you can even join a book club like you’ve been meaning to do, as now you actually have time to actually dissect a book and find hidden meanings. Bonus points: be fully extra and design a dashboard drawing parallels between different genres, time periods, and/or different works by the same author.

8. Plan an Evening Out

Plan an Evening Out

If you’re one of those workaholics that rarely has time to dress up for a night out, much less plan one, dashboards may be just what you need to save your relationship. Take some time to plan a date night in the city, or do one better and plan a weekend away. Not only will your partner be thoroughly impressed, but also, you may see a boost in your health as well. A night in which you can have fun and let loose may be just what you need to destress and unwind.

9. Look for a Pet to Adopt

Look for a pet to adopt

If you don’t have a significant other to spoil, or if you’re looking for one more family member to share your love with, spend your free time searching for a new furry friend. At iDashboards, we love our cats, dogs, horses, parakeets, and other non-human family members, so we understand just how great of an impact a new pet can have on your life. For instance, did you know that owning a dog can improve your overall physical and mental health, and that individuals who own cats experience a decrease in blood pressure, a boost in immunity, and greater feelings of love and trust? If those sound like positive benefits to you, visit your local Humane Society to find your new furry companion.

10. Analyze the Data

Analyze the Data

The whole point of using dashboards is to identify key insights and understand how all of the data you collect relates to the bigger picture. When you gather and organize data the old-fashioned way—you know, with spreadsheets, charts, and graphs—it’s easy to go cross-eyed and miss what would otherwise be obvious insights. However, when you let dashboards do the hard work of organizing, cleaning, and compiling data, you can look at the big picture, actually appreciate it, and arrive at key insights that can improve your organization. Check out our recent post to learn about some of the theories of data analysis, and how best to find the patterns within your data.

Free time happens to be one of the greatest side effects of dashboards, and because it’s a side effect many analysts aren’t sure what to do with, we’ve decided to put together this post to be a sort of symptom guide. If you aren’t sure what to do with your newfound freedom, give one of the above ten tasks a try. You might discover that free time is one side effect you cannot live without.

Ready to find some free time? Try iDashboards free for 30 days and see how you can cut the stress out of data reporting!

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Jenna Ryberg Human Resources Director @iDashboards

An iDashboards employee since 2009, Jenna Ryberg has extensive experience within accounting and HR, and has been the driving force behind the iDashboards Conferences.


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