Advertising
Advertising

10 Common Spreadsheet Mistakes You’re Probably Making

10 Common Spreadsheet Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Spreadsheets are a stable in the business world. If you work anywhere in money, finances, business, or anything similar to those then you likely use a spreadsheet. They’re even used in the military to keep track of supplies. With so many people in so many industries using spreadsheets, you would imagine that people make a lot of errors. Correct! Here are ten common spreadsheet mistakes that you’ve probably made before.

common spreadsheet mistakes

    1. Mistakes in spreadsheet logic

    Spreadsheets are notoriously strict with things like order of operations. If you don’t type your equations and formulas in properly, you will get the wrong math which can wreck an entire spreadsheet. Thankfully there is something you can do about that and it’s simply a matter of using more parenthesis. Put parts of your equations in them in order to get the desired effect.

    common spreadsheet mistakes

      2. Misuse of built-in functions

      A single wrong letter in a function can change its entire meaning. For instance, AVERAGE will ignore all text and false entries. AVERAGEA converts all text and false entries to zero. That one letter can totally change the outlook and values in your spreadsheet. Companies have misused functions and had wrong values in their spreadsheets for years and it caused damage of millions of dollars. If you’re using a function, then double check to make sure you’re using the right ones.

      Advertising

      common spreadsheet mistakes

        3. Not copying all the cells you need

        When you work with spreadsheets, there can be a lot of copying and pasting. It’s a very common problem that people don’t select all the cells they need to copy and paste into the next workbook. If you don’t, you’ll have missing information. That can cause a lot of problems if it isn’t caught. Since spreadsheets can get ridiculously big, this is actually harder than it sounds. If you have 15 years of financial history and you only copy ten years of it, you may not catch that right away.

        common spreadsheet mistakes

          4. Keep your data entry and formula cells separate

          Formula cells and data entry cells should never be anywhere near each other. The reason for this is relatively simple. If you put values in the formula cells that are supposed to be in the data entry cells and vice versa, then you can seriously mess up your books. When you keep them separate, you run little risk of mixing the two up and that keeps your books and your bosses happy.

          Advertising

          common spreadsheet mistakes

            5. Save only when you need to

            This one seems odd but it’s true. You should only save when you need to. This bit of advice flies right in the face of the oft-told advice to save frequently. Here’s why you should only save when necessary. Assuming you hadn’t made a mistake up to the point when you opened a saved spreadsheet, you went through the project with a spreadsheet without a mistake. If you make a mistake and save it for a bunch of times, then your mistake gets saved and you won’t be able to recover your flawless copy later. Thus you should only save when you know what you just did was correct.

            common spreadsheet mistakes

              6. Create new spreadsheets if you want to experiment

              If you want to play around with your spreadsheets, you should make a copy and alter that instead. You should never tinker with your main spreadsheets because you could lose your original copy in the event that you accidentally saved. To avoid what could be a cataclysmic mistake, do yourself a favor and keep copies.

              common spreadsheet mistakes

                7. Give new cells a range name

                Range names can help you keep things organized. You can sort by range name and it helps you find information more quickly. It only makes sense that if you create new cells that you should give them a range name. Not giving new cells a range name can limit how they’re sorted and searched which can make them hard to find. You’d be surprised how many people add new cells to a huge spreadsheet and don’t give them range names. It makes things cluttered and more difficult to work with.

                Advertising

                common spreadsheet mistakes

                  8. Delete range names when you delete all of its cells

                  You should also delete range names when you delete all of its cells and it’s for exactly the same reasons as number seven. When you make major changes to your spreadsheet, you need to update everything around the change in order to ensure proper documentation. Not doing so can cause others to re-enter information that was supposed to be deleted and can also hinder things like searching and sorting.

                  common spreadsheet mistakes

                    9. Check your math

                    This seems like an obvious mistake but it’s absolutely essential. A company named Fidelity once had their books messed up by $2.6 billion over a silly minus sign. You can imagine what effect this had with investors and with the company’s higher ups. One tired night and you tap the minus sign on accident and you can make your company look like it has gained $1.3 billion more than it actually earned. Make sure you check even the most basic arithmetic you perform.

                    Advertising

                    common spreadsheet mistakes

                      10. Have someone double check your work

                      Most of the largest mistakes made in the world of spreadsheets came from people not double checking their work. This mistake is then transferred up the chain of command without anyone else seriously checking everyone else’s work, and it can result in horrible problems. If you work with spreadsheets, then you should find someone to check yours every now and again to make sure the numbers add up. If you’re in charge of people who work on spreadsheets, then you should double check their work more often. An article from 2013 posits that 88% of spreadsheets have an error in them. That’s not a promising number.

                      At the end of the day it comes down to just paying attention. When your eyes stare at tiny numbers in tiny blocks all day long, they’re bound to start missing things. Make sure you take a step away from the computer every now and then and give your eyes and your brain a break. Spreadsheets are great but they’re also very tedious and it’s very easy to make a mistake if you’re not paying attention.

                      Featured photo credit: Sunoray via sunoray.com

                      More by this author

                      10 Benefits of Sleeping Naked You Probably Didn’t Know 12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons 15 Most Effective Cool Down Exercises For Every Workout 10 Things Guys Love That You Didn’t Expect 20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

                      Trending in Technology

                      1 7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively 2 7 Clever Goal Tracker Apps to Make the Most of Your Business in 2019 3 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools (2019 Updated) 4 16 Less Known Gmail Hacks That Will Super Boost Your Productivity 5 Best 5 Language Learning Apps to Easily Master a New Language

                      Read Next

                      Advertising
                      Advertising
                      Advertising

                      Last Updated on February 15, 2019

                      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

                      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

                      Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

                      Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

                      Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

                      So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

                      Joe’s Goals

                      Advertising

                         

                        Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

                        Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

                        Daytum

                          Daytum

                          is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

                          Advertising

                          Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

                          Excel or Numbers

                            If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

                            What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

                            Evernote

                            Advertising

                              I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

                              Evernote is free with a premium version available.

                              Access or Bento

                                If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                                Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

                                Advertising

                                You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                                Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                                All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                                Conclusion

                                I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                                What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

                                Read Next