Day 23, 743: Finding the Right Formula.

Microsoft Excel™ is an amazing tool that is almost essential to life either for home budgeting, office reports, or any number of things. If you’re not using Excel in one form or another, life is harder for you than it needs to be.

I have a rule with Excel, if you start doing anything manually, you’re not using the power of Excel. Even with this rule, I sometimes falter. I’m facing a massive spreadsheet and can only see the mess, not the puzzle that needs solving. If I looked at it like a puzzle, I’d know there’s a tool there somewhere hidden in drop down menus waiting for me use.

This past week, I again faced a 6,000 row mess. I haven’t totally solved the mess yet, but once again I had to face that Excel was teaching me life lessons. Here are a few:

  1. Get Help. There are many ways to get help from the big question mark right in the program to tutorials on the web. A Milleniall colleague reminded me that the first course of action is always to Google the question including How do I fill a blank cell in Excel. Google will come through.
  2. Phone a Friend. If you’re not a patient learner (I’m not) nor like reading instructions (I do), find an Excel Mentor. In the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” when stalled with a big question, one option is always to phone a friend. In my case, I called my brother who calmly talked me through my latest Excel obstacle.

Related Post: We’re Allowed Help

  1. Get Automated. Excel is set up to automate solutions to common problems. This includes Macros, and formulas that can be copied across cells. It’s also called establishing routines and habits. If you automate everyday solutions from keeping your electric toothbrush plugged in to having a set time for blogging, meditating, or even dinner, obstacles just get easier to overcome.
  2. Work on Better Inputs. My Excel mess was a little due to bad data habits practiced daily in my company. The old rule is Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO). Similar to my daily eating habits, the data wasn’t total garbage, but it had enough garbage in it to make clean up a more difficult than necessary. Part of my problem yesterday in solving my Excel problem was that I had had too much caffeinated coffee during the day. My nerves were already jangled. If I had stuck to my half caf, decaf, or green tea (better inputs), perhaps I could have solved the problem on my own a bit better.
  3. Work on Better Outputs. My Excel mess was almost entirely due to horrible exports built into our already horrible system. We’re slowly working on getting better system solutions, but until we do, all I can do is learn the assists built into Excel a bit better. Meanwhile, by calling my brother, he showed me some tricks (aka work arounds) that let me export the data yet another way to reimport it back into Excel so that the data magically half cleaned itself up. That was close to a miracle.

Related Posts: Having One Eye on Excellence Mind The Gaps

Of course, if I ever fully finished an intermediate or advanced course in Excel I might have known half the stuff my patient brother had to teach me. So, I’ve re-enrolled in an advanced course to remind myself of formulas I’ve both forgotten and never knew. I can moan (as I’m apt to do) on how I’m short data personnel, or I can just dig, learn the lessons before me, and just make life easier. Of course, that one lesson I should have learned long ago and obviously haven’t, so this weekend I’m brewing a big pot of green team and digging back into Excel for Wayward Marketing Marvels.  I’m approaching it as developing a super power I don’t yet have so I can become an Avenger. (Yes, I love Marvel and Agents of Shield).


Daily Focus on Gun Sanity:  Sometimes, even with public policy, we need to go Back to the Future. It was all the way back in 1994 when we had a national Assault Weapons Ban as part of the Violent Crime Control & Lawn Enforcement Act.  When confronted with Second Amendment arguments, remember the goal is better Law Enforcement and not 2nd Amendment infringements. The 1994 law was not challenged in courts and met 2nd amendment concerns. It also came out responses to a much earlier elementary school shooting in California in 1989 when 34 children and a teacher were slaughtered. Add Cleveland Elementary to your school shooting vocabulary in case you’ve forgotten in, and remember that current advocates are not asking for anything new, just a return to sane regulations we’ve not only tried, but have found to work.