3 hints for Excel excellence

Excel is the go-to tool for business calculations. Simple or complex, weeks of work or merely minutes, you’ll use Excel eventually. As with any tool, knowing a few tricks can transform the output from a clunky mess to a useful, beautiful creation.

  • Learn before you hack
  • Make it pretty
  • Document everything

These three hints apply to lots of life’s endeavors,
but let’s talk about how they apply to Excel.

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Convert images to data with Plot Digitizer

You’re scouring the internet for data to prove your point…
After hours of searching, you finally found it!
One problem – it’s a chart in a pdf…

Charts are better than nothing, but you really want to have the numbers in Excel or Matlab so you can do analysis and get big insights (or at least make a nicer-looking chart).

The answer is Plot Digitizer

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6 must-know shortcuts for faster PowerPoint

I spend lots of time making PowerPoint slides. To get my life back, I learned to make them very quickly.

Shortcuts, macros, and toolbars all speed up the brainless parts of slide-making. Here’s the 5 that everyone should know and use… They’ll get you 80% of the way there with minimal effort. If you want more, just ask. I’ve got a million of these!

The Tao of keyboard shortucts

Before I tell you my secrets, I want to to appreciate them! Here is the basic philosophy for getting the most out of shortcuts:

They don’t work if you don’t use them – learning them without using them is a waste!
Learning them is an investment – and it pays huge dividends in time saved later on.
Don’t touch your mouse – think as it of a game, practice makes you faster.

Bonus: on-lookers will be impressed and terrified by your skills, and you’ll and save your wrists by becoming a key-ninja (mixed metaphor with the whole Tao thing, I know)

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Question-Data-Action: Structure your work-plan

As I’ve transformed into a consultant over the last year I’ve started structuring everything… The trick always finding the right structure. Here’s a great one!

I recently worked with a colleague who uses a work-planning structure that breaks big, wide-open questions into actionable next-steps. The Question-Data-Action framework is thorough, thought provoking, and easy to communicate with 4 simple steps:

  1. Define key questions
  2. Refine to sub-questions
  3. Determine what data is needed
  4. Identify actions to get the data

Each step gets you closer to an actionable workplan that will make your life easier and help you communicate timing and deliverables with clients and colleagues.

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Mantras for Motivation

In my struggle to do more, be better, and kick ass I try a menagerie of techniques, experiments, etc. Most recently, I’ve developed a set of mantra that seem to give me that extra push to get things done, and done well. I keep these three phrases in mind all day and let them spur me to action.

DELIVER

The idea that you should always deliver on what you say you will is a strong one. I want to be known as “someone who delivers.” This keeps my head in the game long-term thinking about not just actions right now, but how they will translate to tangibles later on. Deliver at work, Deliver in relationships, Deliver financially. DELIVER.

More Action!

This one comes from my friend Naomi. In this crazy world, it’s all too common to work or play to the exclusion of sleeping. When things start to drag, when my pen slumps and my eyelids get heavy, I think to myself, “More Action!” Its a great way to get going, and keep moving fast. “More Action!” at the gym. “More Action!” when programming. “More Action!” when you want just 5 more minutes before you get out of bed… “More Action!!”

Push It.

Here’s one from my buddy Jon. We tease Jon because, “he pushes it.” However, pushing it is a valuable quality. Whenever I want to quit, take a break, slow down for just a sec’ because its more comfortable… I think “push it.” This means working for 10 extra minutes when I’m stuck on a problem, or running for one extra mile when my lungs and legs burn, or knocking one more thing off of my to-do list before going to bed. I hope working just outside my comfort zone will make me stronger. Push it.

These three are short and simple enough to keep with me mentally all day long. If it were just about that though, I’m sure I’d forget eventually. Hence, I put up sticky-notes with these mantra. I put them on my monitor at work, my microwave at home, my dashboard, my laptop, you name it. Seeing them all the time reminds me to do More Action so I can continue to Push It and eventually DELIVER.

Steve Pavlina

Recently, I’ve been reading motivational articles by Steve Pavlina. This guy is pretty remarkable (he finished two undergrad degrees in just three semesters!). Now he spouts wisdom about getting what you want out of life. I epically like some of his concepts outlined in these articles:

Overwhelming Force
Cultivating Burning Desire
The Power of Clarity

He makes some very good points about how setting goals and then making very strong and directed actions to accomplish those goals. From reading his stuff I’m getting a big surge of can-do attitude and am eager to try to tackle some goals I’ve been putting off for a while!

Don’t Look at Ads!

I fell like this should be known to everyone by now, but every once in a while I see an otherwise clever person looking at internet ads! I hate to tell you guys… that’s sooooo 2005.

In fact, I haven’t seen an internet ad in years. Who do I thank? Adblock Plus. This is a Firefox plugin, so if you’re using Firefox (which you should be)… you can be ad-free just moments after clicking here (to get Adblock) and then here (to get the set of filters).