Some of you may remember a wave of stress that immediately washed over you when you first heard “Microsoft Excel” mentioned in a business class, or perhaps as a task at work. Most conjure up the image of tedious data entry, typing cell after cell as quickly as possible to do away with the tedious work of compiling an organized list, whether it encompasses partner names or financial information. Spreadsheets can be overwhelming.
While collecting and organizing data, forecasting, and finance can be a part of the business world that some creatives dream of avoiding altogether, software like Microsoft Excel has surprisingly good qualities for streamlining these processes. Spreadsheets are the backbone of most creative projects, and believe it or not, using Excel can benefit your business and creative projects in so many ways. Knowing how to use Excel saves time and can even allow you to have a little fun with data analysis. To minimize some of that Excel-related anxiety that business owners and entrepreneurs know all too well, here are some tips to know when working with Microsoft Excel.
NOTE: Each of these tips can also be applied to Google Sheets.
Quick organization with the sort function
Contacts, blog posts, links and articles can be sorted by date, subject or tag. Color coding adds a visual element for even easier reference. If you have an event to plan, or a list of creators to contact, with Excel you can create a continuous automatic follow-up method. The Sort function makes it possible to reconstitute the data in a few clicks. Do you want to alphabetize a list of creators to contact? Click on the column of data you need to sort, click on “Data” in your toolbar, and finally click on the “sort” button. Double-click the button for reverse alphabetical order. Do you want to analyze data on which of your company’s social media platforms perform best? Use the Sort function in the “Total Commitment” 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 cell fill handle of your choice, drag your mouse to highlight the cells you want to fill. Imagine you’re building a spreadsheet to track how your website engagement differs from day to day over the course of six months; you can write the date about 130 times, or just select the cells you want to use as a base (in this case, write the first three dates or so and select), highlight using the fill handle, and that’s it , the task of typing the date of each day is gone.
Keyboard Shortcuts – The Key to Happiness
Knowing a few basic shortcuts provides a quick fluency that delivers efficiency. Saving time on things like financial calculations or projections when entering data is essential for smooth navigation with your data collection. Here are some simple commands you absolutely need to know:
- Autosum: T Command Offset
- This function produces the sum of numeric values in a continuous range of cells.
- To add a comment to a cell: Shift + F2
- To apply the percentage format: ctrl + shift + %
- To select an entire line: Shift + Space
Pivot table: what is it and how to use it?
Pivot tables have a myriad of uses; they can rearrange data, compare different information, and summarize values in a spreadsheet. To create one, select “insert” followed by “pivot table” to start playing around with how you display your data. The Report filter allows you to look exclusively at particular rows in your data to better identify information.
In the example above, we see that we can count the number of individuals in each house in the dataset by dragging the House column to the Row Labels and Values arena. This gives us the sum of the individuals in each house.
The trend function
A more advanced function to use in Excel is the Trend function. By entering the following syntax:
TREND ( y_known, [known_x’s], [new_x’s], [const])
You are left with a calculated linear trendline, which allows you to predict future Y (or dependent) values. It’s perfect for quickly visualizing the strength and direction of your data, as well as a tool for analyzing and predicting future data. If a content creator wants to track the growth or (hopefully not) decline of their audience’s engagement, running the trending feature on their personal data can be a big help.
Think of Excel as a highly customizable tool and a good friend. Excel is not your enemy, with it you can view release schedules and projects through multiple lenses; we can gain new perspectives. Excel can be pretty exciting, as long as you have a few tricks up your sleeve to set yourself up for success!