I don’t really know how to convey my love of organization and efficiency. I love my meeting notebook and am a recent convert to bullet journaling for my personal notebooks (that’s right…I have a work notebook and personal notebook). To-do lists abound…and I love it. So it’s no surprise that I love Excel as a tool for organizing data and generating beautiful charts and data visualizations. It’s my go-to application (and I wouldn’t even consider myself an expert or even an intermediate user!)
But a recent consulting project helped me hone my PivotTable and Table skills and gave me a whole new appreciation for this little wonder…
For folks who may not be that familiar, a pivot table summarizes data that exists in other parts of the workbook or spreadsheet. Depending on what you need, PivotTables can automatically sort, count, total, and/or display the average of a set of data that is organized in a table elsewhere. It can’t do higher-level analyses, but can take a lot of the formula-creating and legwork out of simple data summarization.
PivotTables helped me learn a number of lessons about data collection and analysis.
- I focused my questions and thoughts (more) critically
Although Excel has a “Recommended PivotTables” function that assists folks with building tables that make sense with their data, I opted to create them on my own. I’m a hands-on learner and exploring the different possibilities challenged me to focus on the purpose of the project and what data would have the most meaning. Did a PivotTable work for everything? No. Sometimes I had to create a table with more advanced formulas, but I knew when and how to do that as I explored the capabilities of the application. These also helped me think a little bit harder about my entering data and creating templates for clients (and at work).
- No formulas needed for some fast and real-time data
So for the times that a PivotTable worked, all you had to do was hit “Refresh” and some gorgeous data would populate. No worries about formatting formulas or whether it was the correct cell selected – pure magic! This came in handy when I wanted to see results concerning survey responses.
- I feel more confident in my data analysis skills
Being a beginner is exhilarating. Learning something knew reminds me that I am capable of…well, learning something new. That’s a pretty awesome feeling! I believe that small wins help keep us motivated for the journey ahead. These feelings of pride in learning/teaching myself a new skill will carry me through the next challenge.