If you have the choice between performing a task in the same painful manner you always do or taking the time to invent a better way, always opt for the latter. If you can afford to invent in spite of deadlines, resources or the status quo, then do it. Time saved down the road often outweighs the time invested now. If you fail to make a better system, at least you tried and will know better next time. A slap on the hand is totally worth it in the scheme of things.
Monotony and redundancy are not in my vocabulary. I refuse to be bored. Wasting time on repeat tasks is unacceptable. Sick of doing the same thing everyday? Optimize systems that perform repetitive tasks for you.
I worked for Lions Gate Films in 2008. Like most movie studios, they had interns manually entering box office data from Box Office Mojo to fill out research and market decks. It took between three and five hours to profile a small handful of films across international territories. Through Microsoft Excel, I crafted a formula to pull and format all of that data with a single copy and paste. Hours of work hacked down to mere seconds. To my knowledge, that spreadsheet template is still being used three years later.
No tool has earned me more reverence in the workplace than Excel. With over 340 functions and a limitless combination of formulas, Excel is one of the most robust problem-solving weapons in your software arsenal. If the problem is complicated enough and the data set large enough, I guarantee Excel has a solution.
Most people are afraid of it. Spreadsheet formulas are an abstraction of algebra, riddled with nested parenthesis, absolute and relative cell references, and a dictionary full of possible function combinations. I’ve had a cell formula 296 characters long that took me an afternoon to engineer and revise (a single extra parenthesis was breaking the whole thing!). Few people can rationalize the effort or focus that hard. But sometimes, it’s necessary. Engineer the right formula and you can save hours (or days even) on setting your computations straight. In addition to time saved, you can solve your problems with greater accuracy and ease.
Do not be afraid of Excel. Embrace the power. When you have a problem you want to solve, google Excel functions that can help you get where you need to go. I only know a dozen functions off the top of my head; I can search for the rest. Understand the fundamentals of Excel, and there will be no bounds.
People who understand spreadsheets are better situated to rule the world. Trust me: it’s worth learning. I even argue that high school math teachers should cover spreadsheet language as modern arithmetic, but that’s another post entirely.