Some of you might recall a wave of stress immediately washing over you when you hear “Microsoft Excel” brought up for the first time in a business course, or maybe as a task at work. Most conjure up the image of tedious data input, typing out cell after cell as quickly as you can to be done with the dull job of compiling an organized list, whether it encompasses names of partners or financial information. Spreadsheets can be overwhelming.
While data collection and organization, predictions, and financials might be an element of the business world that some creatives dream of avoiding altogether, software like Microsoft Excel poses surprisingly exciting qualities to make these processes more streamlined. Spreadsheets are the backbone of even the most creative projects, and believe it or not, there are many ways using Excel can benefit your business and creative projects. Knowing how to utilize Excel saves time, and might even enable you to have a little fun with data analytics. In an attempt to minimize some of this Excel anxiety that business owners and entrepreneurs know all too well, here are a few tips to know when working with Microsoft Excel.
NOTE: Each of these tips can also be applied to Google Sheets.
Rapid Organization With The Sort Feature
Contacts, blog posts, links and articles can be sorted by date, topic, or tag. Color coding adds a visual element for even easier reference. If you have an events to plan, or a list of creators to contact, with Excel you can create an ongoing automatic tracking method. The Sort feature allows you to reconstruct data with a few clicks. Want to alphabetize a list of creators to reach out to? Click on the data column you need to sort, click on “Data” in your toolbar, and finally hit the “sort” button. Click the button twice for a reverse alphabetical order. Do you want to analyze data on which of your business’s social media platforms are performing the highest? Use the Sort feature in the “total engagement” column in descending order.
The Autofill Feature for Tedious Lists
Autofill can instantly fill adjacent cells with different types of data such as values, series or formulas. Using the fill handle in your cell of choice, drag your mouse to highlight the cells you want to fill. Imagine you are constructing a spreadsheet to track how your website engagement differs day-to-day over the course of six months; you could write out the date about 130 times, or just select the cells you want to use as a basis (in this instance, write out the first three dates or so and select), highlight using the fill handle, and there you have it, the task of typing out every day’s date has vanished.
Keyboard Shortcuts – The Key to Happiness
Knowing a few basic shortcuts offers a fast fluency that delivers efficiency. Saving time on things like financial calculations or projections when inputting data is key to smooth sailing with your data collection. Here are some easy commands you should definitely know:
- Autosum: command shift T
- This feature produces the sum of numeric values in a continuous range of cells.
- To add a comment to a cell: shift + F2
- To apply the percent format: ctrl + shift + %
- To select an entire row: shift + space
Pivot Table: What it is and How to Use it
Pivot tables present a myriad of uses; they can reorganize data, compare different information, and sum up values in a spreadsheet. To create one, select “insert” followed by “pivot table” to begin playing around with how you view your data. The Report filter allows you to look exclusively at particular rows in your data in order to best pinpoint information.
In the example above, we see that we can count the number of individuals in each house in the data set by dragging the House column to the Row Labels and the Values arena. This gives us the sum of the individuals in each house.
The Trend Function
A more advanced function to utilize in Excel is the Trend function. By inputting the following syntax:
TREND ( known_y’s, [known_x’s], [new_x’s], [const])
You are left with a calculated linear trendline, which enables you to predict future Y (or dependent) values. This is perfect for quickly visualizing the strength and direction of your data, as well as a tool to analyze and predict future data. If a content creator wants to track the growth or (hopefully not) decline of their audience engagement, running the trend function on their personal data can be of great assistance.
Think of Excel as a highly customizable tool and a good friend. Excel is not your enemy, with it you can view publishing calendars and projects through multiple lenses; we can gain new perspectives. Excel can be rather exciting, that is, as long as you have a few tricks up your sleeve to set you up for success!