How committed are my projects?

Hey, Pascal here. I’m a developer at Datawrapper and this is my very first Weekly Chart. I took this opportunity to learn more about scatterplots, myself, and how I work.

In the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about focus and motivation. I felt like my ability to stay focused over longer periods of time has gotten worse. Could that be true? What has changed? Do I work differently now? I thought I should investigate!

A repository of my habits

I decided to use my main hobby, programming, and take a look at the changes I made to my projects over the past five years (represented by the number of commits — file changes — on GitLab, the software development platform I like to use). The number of commits isn’t the best way to measure how much work goes into a project (changes can be as small as one letter or as big as thousands of lines of code), but it’s a fun way to analyze my work habits.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on. Every bubble represents a day I worked on a project — the bigger the bubble, the more progress (commits) I made. Much has changed in the past few years:

The pandemic affected my productivity

I worked on fewer projects with greater focus before the pandemic. When I started a project, I kept working on it for weeks and was very productive during that time. The only exception was when I got my first role as a developer — I learned some new things and that brought a bunch of inspiration and ideas with it.

During the pandemic days, I started many new projects but also jumped a lot between them. Soon after my four-week vacation in New Zealand, exploring the beautiful country and rarely coding, the pandemic arrived. I started working from home, which meant no commute, a flexible work schedule, and more time for hobbies. (The pandemic was not the only reason. As I gained more experience and knowledge in programming, I became more aware of little real-life annoyances that could be solved with yet another app.)

2022: Time to wrap things up

Halfway through 2022, when I quit my job and took time off for myself, I used that time to improve and finish up existing projects. Even though I worked on multiple things at once, I feel like I was quite focused on the goals I set for myself and did not get too distracted by shiny new ideas. The ratio of published projects increased over time. The color of each project indicates if it has been published — added to my portfolio and sometimes posted on platforms like Reddit and Hacker News.

Good reasons to commit

I had different reasons to update my projects throughout the years. The longest-running project so far is my portfolio website. I try to update it whenever an existing project changes or a new one joins the rest. For example, the pandemic and the long vacation made me rethink my initial design choices and rebuild the website.

An increase in users also works as a significant motivation booster. When more people started using one of my projects, I returned to it again after a few weeks of inactivity. (Although I’m not completely sure if I was driven by motivation or anxiety due to the rapidly growing stack of bug reports!)

What time of the day am I most productive?

I also took a look at the number of commits throughout the day which told me more about my working habits.

There are no real surprises here, but a few things I found interesting: I’m not a morning person. Only 3% of commits in the last five years happened before noon. I take a break and have dinner around 7 or 8 PM. That’s when I get less work done. And I’m definitely most productive at night. Most of my commits were done around midnight.

Final thoughts

Working through the data made me realize a few things about myself and how I work:

  • While it’s easy to follow every exciting new idea and leave the previous one that’s not quite done, I think you grow a lot more when you face the last 20% (that famously takes 80% of the time). Of course, it’s still a hobby. It should be fun and forcing things rarely is, so I think that balance is key here.
  • I want to publish projects more often because it helps me stay focused and it can be very rewarding to get feedback from other people.
  • I really like coding at night and I’m not going to change that. 🦉

How I got the data and made the charts

All my personal projects are hosted by GitLab. I wrote a small script (which did grow significantly during the making of this chart) to make use of their REST API and obtain the data on all the projects. I removed quite a few projects that only lasted a day or two to make them easier to digest.

To visualize the data, I decided to use a scatterplot, a very versatile type of chart. I arrived at that decision after looking through these examples in the Datawrapper Academy.

This Weekly Chart was a big challenge but also a lot of fun. I didn’t have much experience with data visualization before joining Datawrapper, other than the occasional chart or map on social media. My background in design definitely helped with the visual aspects, but preparing, analyzing and visualizing the data in an interesting way was a big hurdle for me and I learned quite a few things.

That’s it from me for now! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this little exploration. Next week you’ll hear from our senior data visualization developer Elliot!