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5 Powerful Excel Functions That Make Work Easier

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5 Powerful Excel Functions That Make Work Easier

If you’ve just started learning how to use Microsoft Excel, you’ll probably have a lot of questions to ask about the functions of the program. Because let’s face it, despite being exceptionally useful, Excel can be a very complicated application. It’s like a hammer when your most frustrating reporting tasks at work resemble nails.

Aside from great Excel features such as flash fill, pivot tables, and conditional formatting, Excel also has a lot of powerful functions that will help save time when creating spreadsheets. Invest some time in learning to use Excel so you can prepare and manage complex reports, as well as perform what-if analysis on data like a pro!

To help you get started, here are 5 important Excel functions you should learn today.

1. The SUM Function

The sum function is the most used function when it comes to computing data on Excel. This function works to sum a group of numbers in a specific set of cells. This means you don’t need to type a long cumbrous formula just to calculate the sum of all the data you need. Because of its popularity, newer versions of Microsoft Excel have a button specifically for this function.

This function is performed by typing the formula on the function bar and highlighting the cells you want summed before clicking “Enter”. You also need to be careful in highlighting cells, as Excel will sum everything you include. If this happens, you can easily click the “Undo” button to reset the values back to its original state.

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SUM function

    The syntax formula for sum function is “=SUM” (number1, number2, etc.).

    In this image, the sum function for the cells C2 through C7 is obtained through the formula “=SUM(C2:C7)”, giving you the result of 33161.

    2. The TEXT Function

    Text function is a useful tool that helps convert a date (or number) into a text string in a particular format. It falls in the category of string formulas that converts numerical values to a string. It is handy when users need to view numeric data in a readable format. Take note that the “TEXT” formula only works to convert numeric values to text. Therefore, its results cannot be calculated.

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    TEXT FUNCTION

      The syntax formula for text function is “=TEXT” (value, format_text).

      • “Value” refers to the particular number you wish to convert to text.
      • “Format_text” defines the format of the conversion.

      In this example, the user uses a text formula to find the abbreviated day for the date “=TEXT (B2, “ddd”)”.

      3. The VLOOKUP Function

      VLookup is powerful Excel function that is often overlooked. Users will find it useful when they need to find specific data on a large table. You can also use VLookup to search for names, phone number, or specific data on your sheet. Instead of manually looking for the names and wasting time scrolling through hundreds of data, the VLookup function makes this process faster and more efficient.

      vlookup

        Image: spreadsheeto.com

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        The VLookup formula is “=VLOOKUP” (lookup_value, table_array, col_index_num, *range_lookup*).

        • “lookup_value” is the data you want to find.
        • “table_array” is the data column where you want to limit your search.
        • “col_index_num” is the column number within the table that you want to return a value from.
        • “range_lookup” is an optional argument that allows you to search for the exact match of your lookup value without sorting the table.

        4. The AVERAGE Function

        The average function is an extremely useful tool for getting the average value in a range of cells. Like the sum function, it is frequently used in computing and analyzing data on spreadsheet. Basically, the average function works to find the “arithmetic mean” for a group of cells. Aside from the average function, Excel also has the median and mode function.

        Average Function

          The syntax formula for the average function is “AVERAGE” (number1, number2, etc.).

          • “Number 1” refers to the first number in the range where you want the average.
          • “Number 2” is the additional reference of the average range. You can get an average of up to a maximum of 255 cells.

          Additional ­­Examples:

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          “=AVERAGE (A2:A10)” – computes the average of numbers in cells A2 through A10.

          “=AVERAGE (B2: B10, 7)” – computes the average of the numbers in cells B2 through B10 and the number 7.

          5. The CONCATENATE Function

          This function is a good time saver when you need to combine data from 2 or more cells. Unlike the merge tool which physically merges two or more cells into a single cell, the concatenate function only combines the contents of the combined cells. In the latest version of Excel ( 2016), the concatenate function has been replaced with concat function and will be incorporated in more future versions of Excel.

          Average Function

            The syntax formula for the concatenate function is “CONCATENATE” (text1, [text2…text_n]),

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            • “Text1, Text2…text_n” are the data you want to combine.

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            Last Updated on September 9, 2021

            10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

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            10 Best Productivity Planners To Get More Done in 2021

            Productivity planners and journals are tools of a trade. There’s an art to productivity. Just like art is very personal to the artist, productivity is very personal to the person. What works for you may not work for me. This is an important distinction if you really want get more done in less time.

            Too many of us dabble in productivity hacks only to move on to the next tool or trend when it didn’t workout for us, missing the lesson of what worked and didn’t work about that tool or trend.

            We put the tool on a pedestal and miss the art. It’s worshipping the paint brush rather than the process and act of painting. We miss the art of our own productivity when the tool overshadows the treasure.

            As an artist, you have many brushes to choose from. You’re looking for a brush that feels best in your hand. You want a brush that doesn’t distract you from your art but partners with you to create the many things you see in your mind to create. Finding a brush like this may take some experimenting, but when you understand that the role of the brush is to bring life to your vision, it’s easier to find the right brush.

            Planners are the same way. You want a productivity journal that supports you in the creation of your vision, not one that bogs you down or steals your energy.

            Let’s dive into the 10 best productivity planners and journals to help you get more done in less time.

            1. The One Thing Planner

            The NY Times best selling book, The One Thing, just released their new planner. If you loved this book, you’ll love this planner.

            As the founder of the world’s largest real estate company Keller Williams Realty, Gary Keller, has mastered the art of focus. The One Thing planner has its roots in industry changing productivity. If you’re out to put a dent in the universe, this may be the planner for you.

            Get the planner here!

            2. The Full Life Planner

            The Full Life Planner is Lifehacks’ ultimate planning system to get results across all your core life aspects including work, health and relationships. This smart planner is 15 years of Lifehack’s best practices and proven success formulas by top performers.

            With the Full Life Planner, you can align your actions to long term milestones every day, week, and month consistently. This will help you to get more done and achieve your goals.

            Get the planner here!

            3. The Freedom Journal

            Creator of one of the most prolific podcasts ever, Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas released his productivity journal in 2016. This hard-cover journal focuses on accomplishing SMART goals in 100 days.

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            From their site:

            “The Freedom Journal is an accountability partner that won’t let you fail. John Lee Dumas has interviewed over 2000 successful Entrepreneurs and has created a unique step-by-step process that will guide you in SETTING and ACCOMPLISHING your #1 goal in 100 days.”

            Get the planner here!

            4. Full Focus Planner

            Michael Hyatt, author of Platform and host of the podcast “This is Your Life”, also has his own planner called the Full Focus Planner.

            From the site:

            “Built for a 90-day achievement cycle, the Full Focus Planner® gives you a quarter of a year’s content so you aren’t overwhelmed by planning (and tracking) 12 months at a time.”

            This productivity planner includes a place for annual goals, a monthly calendar, quarterly planning, the ideal week, daily pages, a place for rituals, weekly preview and quarterly previews. It also comes with a Quickstart lessons to help you master the use of the planner.

            Get the planner here!

            5. Passion Planner

            They call themselves the #pashfam and think of their planner as a “paper life coach”. Their formats include dated, academic and undated in hardbound journals with assorted colors. With over 600,000 users they have a track record for effective planners.

            From the site:

            “An appointment calendar, goal setting guide, journal, sketchbook, gratitude log & personal and work to-do lists all in one notebook.”

            They have a get-one give-one program. For every Passion Planner that is bought they will donate one to a student or someone in need.

            They also provide free PDF downloads of their planners. This is a great way to test drive if their planner is right for you.

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            Get the planner here!

            6. Desire Map Planners

            If you’re looking for a more spiritually oriented planner, Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, created the Desire Map Planners. With Daily planners, Weekly planners and Undated planners you can find the right fit for you.

            Behind this planner is the Desire Map Planner Program including 3 workbooks that not only support you in using the planners but guide you in your thought process about your life and intentions you’re using the planner to help you fulfill.

            Get the planner here!

            7. Franklin Covey Planners

            The grandfather of all planners, Franklin Covey, has the most options when it comes to layouts, binders, and accessories. With over 30 years in the productivity planner business, they not only provide a ton of planner layouts, they also have been teaching productivity and planning from the beginning.

            From the site:

            “Achieve what matters most with innovative, high quality planners and binders tailored to your personal style. Our paper planning system guides you to identify values, create successful habits, and track and achieve your goals.”

            Get the planner here!

            8. Productivity Planner

            From the makers of the best selling journal backed by Tim Ferriss, “The Five Minute Journal”, comes the Productivity Planner.

            Combining the Ivy Lee method which made Charles Schwab millions with the Pomodoro Technique to stay focused in the moment, the Productivity Planner is both intelligent and effective.

            It allows for six months of planning, 5-day daily pages, weekly planning and weekly review, a prioritized task list, Pomodoro time tracking, and extra space for notes.

            From the site:

            “Do you often find yourself busy, while more important tasks get procrastinated on? The Productivity Planner helps you prioritize and accomplish the vital few tasks that make your day satisfying. Quality over quantity. Combined with the Pomodoro Technique to help you avoid distractions, the Productivity Planner assists you to get better work done in less time.”

            Get the planner here!

            9. Self Journal

            Endorsed by Daymond John of Shark Tank, the Self Journal takes a 13 week approach and combines Monthly, Weekly and Daily planning to help you stay focused on the things that really matter.

            Self Journal includes additional tools to help you produce with their Weekly Action Pad, Project Action Pad, the Sidekick pocket journal to capture your ideas on the go and their SmartMarks bookmarks that act as a notepad while you’re reading.

            Get the planner here!

            10. Google Calendar

            You may already use Google Calendar for appointments, but with a couple tweaks you can use it as a productivity planner.

            Productivity assumes we have time to do the work we intend to do. So blocking time on your Google Calendar and designating it as “busy” will prevent others from filling up those spaces on your calendar. Actually using those blocks of time as you intended is up to you.

            If you use a booking tool like Schedule Once or Calendly, you can integrate it with your Google Calendar. For maximum productivity and rhythm, I recommend creating a consistent “available” block of time each day for these kinds of appointments.

            Google Calendar is free, web based and to the point. If you’re a bottom line person and easily hold your priorities in your head, this may be a good solution for you.

            Get the planner here!

            Bonus Advice: Integrate the 4 Building Blocks of Productivity

            Just as important to productivity planners as the tool are the principles that we create inside of. There are 4 building blocks of productivity, that when embraced, accelerate your energy and results.

            The four building blocks of productivity are desire, strategy, focus and rhythm. When you get these right, having a productivity planner or journal provides the structure to keep you on track.

            Block #1: Desire

            Somehow in the pursuit of all our goals, we accumulate ideas and To-Do’s we’re not actually passionate about and don’t really want to pursue. They sneak their way in and steal our focus from the things that really matter.

            Underneath powerful productivity is desire. Not many little desires, but the overarching mother of desires. The desire you feel in your gut, the desire that comes from your soul, not your logic, is what you need to tap into if you want to level up your productivity.

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            A productivity planner is just a distraction if you’re not clear on what it’s all for. With desire, however, your productivity planner provides the guide rails to accomplish your intentions.

            Block #2: Strategy

            Once you’re clear on your overarching desire, you need to organize your steps to get there. Let’s call this “strategy”. Strategy is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. You must first turn over all the pieces to see patterns, colors, connections and find borders.

            In business and life, we often start trying to put our “puzzle” together without turning over all the pieces. We put many items on our To-Do lists and clog our planners with things that aren’t important to the bigger picture of our puzzle.

            Strategy is about taking the time to brain dump all the things in your head related to your goal and then looking for patterns and priorities. As you turn over these puzzle pieces, you’ll begin to see the more important tasks that take care of the less important tasks or make the less important tasks irrelevant.

            In the best selling book, The One Thing, the focusing question they teach is:

            “What’s the One thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else is easier or unnecessary?”

            This is the heart of strategy and organizing what hits your planner and what doesn’t.

            Block #3: Focus

            With your priorities identified, now you can focus on the One Thing that makes everything else easier or unnecessary. This is where your productivity planners and journals help you hold the line.

            Because you’ve already turned over the puzzle pieces, you aren’t distracted by new shiny objects. If new ideas come along, and they will, you will better see how and where they fit in the big picture of your desire and strategy, allowing you to go back and focus on your One Thing.

            Block #4: Rhythm

            The final building block of productivity is rhythm. There is a rhythm in life and work that works best for you. When you find this rhythm, time stands still, productivity is easy and your experience of work is joyful.

            Some call this flow. As you hone your self-awareness about your ideal rhythm you will find yourself riding flow more often and owning your productivity.

            Without these four building blocks of productivity, you’re like a painter with a paintbrush and no idea how to use it to create what’s in your heart to create. But harness these four building blocks and find yourself getting more done in less time.

            The Bottom Line

            Your life is your art. Everyday you have a chance to create something amazing. By understanding and using the four building blocks of productivity, you will set yourself up for success no matter which planner, or “paintbrush”, you choose to use.

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            As you experiment with different planners you will narrow which one is best for you and accelerate your path to putting a dent in the universe.

            More Tools to Boost Your Productivity

            Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

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