If you have ever created your own excel spreadsheet or your own excel forms, you know how scary this blank canvas can be. The possibilities seem endless, you are not sure how you want it to look, and you probably have a time limit on how quickly you need to complete the spreadsheet so that it can start to serve its purpose. Luckily, I have realized a process that I use that helps me to get started. In this article, I would like to share this process with you so that you can move quickly from beginning to end and get back to more exciting, or at least more important, work.
The main thing to remember is that you are making this excel spreadsheet to serve a purpose. Usually, the purpose of excel forms is to collect and organize data so the best thing you can do is to simply start entering the data into your new spreadsheet. As you begin to enter data, you will naturally realize what columns you want and what order you want them in.
Horizontal or Vertical
While you are entering your data, it is a good idea to decide whether to display it horizontally or vertically. What I mean by that is you can either go horizontal by putting your headings at the top of the sheet, running from left to right; or you can go vertical by putting them on the left side running from top to bottom. My suggestion is horizontal simply because once you have a large amount of data to look through, it will be easier to scroll up and down to find the record you are looking for, than left to right. Also, if you don’t have too many fields for each record, you can see all of the information for one record at a glance, without any scrolling at all.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
What I mean by this is that you should worry about picking the right colors and borders after you have finished inputting the data. Although that means you may not have the most visually appealing spreadsheet at first, it has its benefits. Namely, if you start formatting your excel spreadsheet before all of your data has been collected, you will most likely have to re-format it every time you paste or import data from another source.
Let your spreadsheet do the hard work
Formulas are your best friend when filling out an excel spreadsheet. Between totaling columns, performing calculations, and helping to format your data, formulas can quickly finish tasks that would take infinitely longer using a calculator. The other benefit to using formulas instead of performing the calculations by hand and entering them into the excel spreadsheet is that six months to a year from now, when you return to this sheet to look for a number, you not only find the number that you were looking for, but you can see how that number was calculated. My suggestion in regards to formulas is that you should use them as often as possible, seriously. If you are able to only have one column of numbers that are entered by hand, and the rest of your number columns use formulas that calculate values based on the first column, then you are doing a great job and can mostly guarantee an error-free excel spreadsheet.