Thursday, September 12, 2013

Organizational Tip #1: Spreadsheets are your Friend

Whether you are using Excel, Calc, or Numbers as your spreadsheet application, a spreadsheet can quickly organize numerous items in your life.  From cleaning house to shopping to exercise routines, there are ways spreadsheets can increase your effectiveness.  Think of things you do more than once, whether they are every week or every year.  These things are most easily organized by a spreadsheet and prevent the need to try and remember all the details like when you bought something, what it costs, who it was for, and more.  Here are a few everyday examples that I hope you can relate to and will :

  1. Each year most of us purchase Holiday gifts for friends and family.  If we tried to remember what was purchased from year to year, we would waste a bunch of time and be lucky to remember everything.  Instead, we can create a spreadsheet and keep track of our purchased items and gift ideas for the upcoming holiday season.  By using the built in feature of tabs that appear at the bottom of each sheet, you can create a workbook of data with a tab for each year we can refer to at any time.
  2. Everyone can get overwhelmed by things they feel need to be cleaned at some point.  To overcome this feeling it is best to break the task into smaller, more reasonable chunks.  Use a spreadsheet to guide you through creating a customized cleaning routine for your living space.  No one wants to clean everything they have all at one time, however, if three weeks go by and you have not touched anything, you will likely be out of clean clothes and your garbage baskets will be overflowing.  Enter the handy spreadsheet.  Create a list of all the tasks down the left in groupings like living areas, bathrooms, outside areas, common areas.  List Week 1-4 headings above the groupings to represent the weeks in a month.  For the column headings list each month from left to right.  Print the sheet and you have a "gentle" reminder list to prevent drop-ins from family and friends from being stressful.
  3. If you own a business are a teacher or anyone who has a set of objects to keep track of, a spreadsheet can be your best friend.  Use the spreadsheet to create a template based on whatever your objects are down the left and then put the date headers at the top of each column as you take inventory to compare over time.
  4. Anyone who exercises knows it can be hard to stay focused over the long term. Using a spreadsheet to track your progress is easy.  Start with the exercises listed down the left and dates across the column headings.  You can add in distances for walking or running, weights, reps, sets, or any other variable you can think of for each exercise.  The spreadsheet shows progress over time that you may not have realized otherwise which will help keep you motivated.
The next two ideas are related to saving yourself money:
  1. Every year car insurance is billed based on the mileages traveled.  Use a spreadsheet to document the mileage and date for each vehicle every six months.  This will help keep the insurance purchased to what you need and prevent you from overpaying.
  2. If you donate, whether it is money, time, driving, or items, you can deduct many of these on your taxes each year.  Keeping a spreadsheet of donations all year will reduce the time to gather the information at the end of the year and will likely be more comprehensive than if you try to gather it all at once.
Whatever your idea is, there is usually a way to organize it in a spreadsheet in a way that will track information and save time and who doesn't want to save time?  Spreadsheets also have built in functions that can compare, average, add, count, and process numbers and information in more ways than I could ever explain here.  I will save some of the most commonly used ones for a later post.  Until then, I encourage you to open up a spreadsheet and practice setting up data in columns, then in rows to see what setup you like better.  We are all visual people and different things work for different people.  Here are some tips to get you started.

The nuts and bolts (In Excel):
  • To change the name of the individual sheets (tabs) in a workbook:
    • Double click on the name of the tab, these are located at the bottom of the page in the left corner.  The first one is usually called "Sheet1".  Once the name is highlighted just start typing and the name will be replaced.  When you have the name you want, press the enter key and the name will save.
  • To move sheets around in a different order:
    • Left click and hold on the sheet you want to move.  Move the mouse to the left or right in the direction you want to move the sheet.  Once the pop up appears where you want to move the sheet, release the mouse.
  • To change the width or height of a column or row:
    • Move the mouse pointer to the header columns or rows (the letters and numbers around the spreadsheet cells).  Go to the line between any two columns or rows until the pointer turns into a double headed arrow.  Left click and slide the column right or the row down to increase the size.  Once you have the size you want let go of the mouse.
  • To automatically adjust the width or height of a column or row:
    • Move the mouse as you would for any column or row as listed above.  Once you have the double headed arrow double click.  This will auto size the column or row for all the columns or rows you have data in.  This means the size will be optimized for the columns or rows even if they are off the viewable screen to you.  This is a nice shortcut when you have a larger spreadsheet!
  • To format cells:
    • Select the cells you want to format by left clicking and holding then dragging the mouse to the right and down until all cells are selected and highlighted.  Let go of the mouse, then right click on the highlighted area and select format.  There are many options so I suggest you try some to see what you like and do not like.  Wrap text comes in handy when you have larger amounts of data in individual cells.  If your spreadsheet contains numbers representing money, changing the Category on the number tab to Currency can be helpful.
As always, I welcome your comments and good luck!

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