Analyzing My Reading Activity Using Google Sheets & Tableau

Data analysis and Reading are two of my key interest areas. I used to keep a track of the books that I read on Goodreads and would check the stats page every time I finished a book just to see the graph change. I also took part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge where one decides the number of books they would read in a year.

But, I was not very pleased with the limited data points that Goodreads provided on the stats page – no. of pages and no. of books read in a year. Nor did I find the Reading Challenge very challenging because it only focused on the no. of books – one can easily achieve their target by reading books with lesser no. of pages.

So, I decided to track my reading activity in a Google Sheet and draw insights from that to decide what my personal reading challenge should be. In order to do that I created two sheets and started logging these data points:

Sheet 1 (Metadata of the book)

  • Name of the book
  • Author
  • Genre
  • Category
  • Total number of pages

Sheet 2 (Running account of reading activity)

  • Date
  • Book
  • Page Started At
  • Page Stopped At
  • Time Started At
  • Time Stopped At

Using these data points and a few formulae in Google Sheet, I defined a few metrics and then built a tableau dashboard to properly analyze and visualize my reading activity.

Overview Tab

I first built an Overview tab in tableau to look at the key metrics:

A session is a reading activity. There could be multiple sessions in a day.

A reading streak is the number of continuous days when a reading activity happened.

A reading lull is the number of continuous days when no reading activity happened.

Daily Insights

I then created a visualization for the number of pages I read per day and how long it took to finish each book.

Session Analysis

After looking at the overview tab I realized that a session is the most critical metric to focus on. Reading Speed has some dependence on the genre of the book, Number of Pages Read has a dependence on the books I choose, but a Session is dependent on the user’s interest. If one wants to build a reading habit they should focus on either increasing the number of reading sessions in a day or the time they spent in each session.

With that thought in mind, I decided to analyze the session data a little deeper.

Session Duration between 10 & 11 in the night stands out, while avg reading speed is much better at the start of the week.

Reading Tracker on Tableau

Seeing so many blanks in the daily data in the previous two visualizations, I decided to add a reading tracker.

Reading Challenge on Tableau

It was now time to decide my reading challenge and track that.

Building this tableau dashboard was fun and has helped improve my focus on reading. Since the dashboard uses Google Sheet as the data source I do not have to manually make any edits to it. I just add the few data points that I mentioned at the beginning of the post in the Google sheet and rest everything is taken care of automatically.

Why are certain obvious metrics not shown on the dashboard?

While working on this dashboard there were a number of metrics that I had to discard than there were that I wanted to keep. For e.g., there is very little focus on the number of books read and metrics around it (such as books read per month) as I didn’t find that useful. In one of the books that I was reading, the author says:

Dividing one number by another is mere computation; figuring out what you should divide by what is mathematics.

This holds true for a Data Analyst too. Excel has made it very easy to plot beautiful (and sometimes horrible) charts. But what really matters is that which of those charts or metrics are actionable or make sense for a business scenario.

There definitely is a lot of scope of improvement in this dashboard, and I encourage you to share your ideas on that using the comment form below.

You can view the dashboard in action here:

Reading Analysis 2018

Do you track your reading activity? I would love to know the method you employ for that. And if you liked this article please share it with your friends.

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