I’ve been reading Thomas Friedman’s book Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, and it has got me thinking a lot about what it means to be living in the so-called “information age.” Technology is part of nearly every single aspect of our lives, and becoming more all-encompassing every single day. Everyone is managing the incorporation of advanced technologies as part of our everyday lives in different ways. Some people - especially those young enough to have grown up with technology (I’m looking at you, 90’s babies!) - seem to just pick it up, run with it, use it, even improve upon it without any apparent hesitation or fear. Then there are others (of all ages and backgrounds) who look at technology and everything seems to go haywire. But no matter who we are or what we do, learning and using technology is baked into the fabric of the world we live in, and we all need to find the ways that we can make it work for us - and not just work us over.
Excel is one of those technologies that is expected to be used in nearly any job sector and function, similar to how Microsoft Word and PowerPoint are ubiquitous across nearly all roles in all businesses, government agencies, and non-profits - large or small. But what is the right level of comfort and use for these programs? You don’t need to be a best-selling author to use Word, and you don’t need to be a graphic designer to use PowerPoint. Similarly, you don’t need to be a data nerd or a techie to use Excel. In fact, a lot of data nerds and techies use even more complex tools and programming for their work. Excel (and it’s equivalent in Google Sheets) is actually the best program for people who are not technology or data experts to use for so many useful and vital parts of their work.
So how can you tell if you need more Excel in your life? Here are a few tell-tale signs that you should be learning and using Excel more or in a different way to add value to your work and life:
- You want to de-clutter
- You are looking for more time
- You want to move up at work
- You need to keep track of a lot of things
You want to de-clutter
Digital clutter and information overload got you down? Collecting information and resources digitally is part of everyday life for most people in the information age. But with the amount of information that is available and constantly being updated, it can become overwhelming to collect so much digital data, and it can actually block our brains from being able to use technology for the benefits it can provide. If you find yourself not learning existing technologies and trying out new ones because of a block like this, that is actually a big red clue pointing to the need for more Excel in your life. Excel is the ultimate organizer and recaller of information. Budget software like Quicken can handle everything about your money, Event planning software can keep event information as organized as possible, and the calculator on your computer can do a wide range of complex mathematical functions. But NONE of these programs can do all of these things at once, because they are designed to do one thing and do it in a standardized way. Excel can do all of these things (really anything you can imagine), and it can actually do it better than a lot of programs focusing on one thing only. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with your digital clutter and information overload, Excel is your new best friend. It is designed to force you to be clear about your data and to make sure it is “clean” (usable for gathering insights), searchable, and accessible.
You are looking for more time
Using technology in all parts of our lives came with the promise to do things more efficiently and save us time - so then why do so many people feel like they are busier than ever and would love to get a few extra hours into each day? Like in a story about magic or superpowers, technology has the potential to be used for good (time-savings) but can also be used for evil (time sucking). Which way you use it is all up to you. If you are a person looking to gain a little more time back in your life, then learning and using Excel can go a long way towards that! Excel is built to automate anything that you would do over and over again, day after day or week after week. If you find yourself doing a ton of manual work in Excel that is taking up your time, then you are missing out on a huge opportunity to automate your processes and save time - so you actually need more Excel in your life to learn how to make things happen automatically. It can be really hard to do, but putting in more time upfront to learn a bit more will save you innumerable hours in the future!
You want to move up at work
This could mean that you want more responsibility in your current role, or you want a promotion, or you want to switch jobs entirely and move up the ladder or move to a job that will make you happier. For any of these things, I can guarantee that getting more Excel in your life can help in multiple ways. First, as was just mentioned, time-savings. With more time you can get more accomplished, and automating processes in Excel lets you focus long-term on what you are best at in your job. Second, nearly every job now works with Excel in some way, and the better you can do it, the better your prospects for job advancement. People are seriously impressed with and envious of Excel skills, and you can be the one that they look to for answers and good work with Excel. Third, Excel is a driver of insights - when you know how to use it to organize your data into information, then you are primed to learn insights and knowledge from that information. The ability to gain insights from data and information is at the top of the list of amazing qualities for so many employers and in so many roles. Plus, you get the added bonus of feeling more confident about any decisions you are making, since they will have the data and information to back them up. Finally (but really there are still so many more reasons), knowing how to use Excel is like a gateway towards knowing how to use all sorts of technologies and systems. The methods and mindsets needed to learn Excel are the same that you’ll need for learning nearly any technology, and because Excel covers so much ground, it is the perfect classroom for getting into the technology space.
You need to keep track of a lot of things
From both a personal or professional lens, there is always more information that we can and should keep track of and know about ourselves and our work. From number of steps to calorie intake to heart rate to money spent to volunteer hours to productivity rates to anything that you can imagine wanting to know more about. If you have a lot to keep track of, then you need more Excel in your life! Many organizations use “trackers” of some sort, and though not all of them are as good as they could be, their intentions are in the right place - it is helpful to know what is going on in your life and work so that you can use that information to make things even better. The more comfortable you are using Excel to track data, and the more knowledgeable you are about how Excel can help you format and present that data, the more you will be able to quickly and easily keep track of anything in your work or life.