Posey's Tips & Tricks

How Microsoft 365 Can Help with Work-Life Balance

A few months ago, I explained why I believe IT pros need to be proactive in reclaiming their work-life balance once the pandemic is over. While I will admit that taking back control of your life can be tough, help is available from a somewhat unlikely source: Microsoft 365.

A relatively new app called MyAnalytics builds on capabilities that Microsoft has been refining for a while in an effort to help you to regain control of your schedule.

The MyAnalytics app is broken down into five separate tabs that collectively paint a picture of how you have been spending your time and what you could be doing better. Admittedly, I'm not usually a big fan of this sort of activity-tracking, but after spending some time with MyAnalytics, I think it has the potential to be legitimately helpful.

When you first open MyAnalytics, its Home tab is displayed by default. This tab displays your work patterns over the last four weeks. It shows how much uninterrupted time you've had to get your work done and the number of quiet days you've had without interruptions from meetings, e-mails, chats and calls outside of working hours. This tab also shows who you collaborate with most often and how much time you spend collaborating.

The thing that really stands out to me about this tab (aside from the fact that it revealed I've had only six quiet days in the last four weeks) is that it provides suggestions as to how you might be able to improve your situation. For example, MyAnalytics pointed out that the amount of work I have been doing during quiet hours has increased by a couple of hours recently. The app therefore suggests booking a focus block as a way to get more done during working hours.

A focus block might best be described as "me time." It's time when you can focus on getting your job done without being interrupted. If you go to the Focus tab, there is actually an option to automatically reserve a block of time each day specifically for focusing on your work. During this time, distractions such as Teams chats are automatically muted.

And speaking of collaboration, the Collaboration tab shows how your collaborative time has been spent. For example, this tab shows the amount of time that you spend in meetings, chats and calls, and the amount of time you spend dealing with e-mail.  Once again, MyAnalytics offers tips for how you can make the most of your collaborative time, and some ways that you might be able to free up your schedule a bit.

The Collaboration tab also provides some rather interesting statistics related to your meeting and e-mail habits. For example, it shows how often you joined meetings on time, attended meetings outside of working hours, scheduled overlapping meetings, or answered e-mails during a meeting. Similarly, this tab also breaks down the number of messages sent, messages read, and chats and calls that you participated in, grouped by time of day.

My personal favorite MyAnalytics tab is the Wellbeing tab. This tab shows how often you are engaging in significant activity outside of working hours. Incidentally, this tab gives you the ability to tell Microsoft 365 what your working hours are. This tab also shows what types of activities you engaged in outside of your quiet hours.

The reason I say that this tab is my favorite is because if your goal is to reclaim your work-life balance, this is the tab that provides the information that is likely to be most helpful to you. If you look at Figure 1, for example, it shows that my quiet hours were lost 22 of the last 28 days. I'm a freelancer, so this sort of thing is normal for me, but if you are trying to prove to your boss that you have no life outside of work, this might be a good place to start. You might follow that up by showing your boss the Collaboration pane as a way of proving that you are regularly working late into the night.

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1: The Wellbeing tab shows how often your quiet hours were disrupted.

The thing that I really like about MyAnalytics is that it is effortless. It provides you with detailed information about how you spend your time, but it does not require you to do anything to get that information. You don't have to enter data or parse event logs, or anything like that. MyAnalytics passively watches your work-related activities and creates actionable insights that are designed to help improve your life.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 19-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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