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10x your productivity with Mark Proctor

What's the #1 thing that every Excel user should learn to 10x their productivity? Part 3 with Mark Proctor.
10x your productivity - Part 3 with Mark Proctor of Excel Off the Grid
Our next response to the question "How can you become the most productive Excel user on your team?", comes from Mark of Excel Off The Grid. Mark recognized the power of using Excel early on. As an accountant, it has been his primary tool for manipulation, presentation, and analysis of data. In 2016 he launched Excel Off The Grid, with the aim of teaching many of the advanced Excel techniques he had learned and developed over 20 years.

Our 1st question to Mark was, What's the #1 thing that every Excel user should learn to 10x their productivity? He responded:
"The most important thing any Excel user needs to learn is how to structure workbooks and the data within them. Too often people have asked me for help with a formula, only for me to tell them that the problem is not the formula, but that they did not prepare the workbook correctly. Get this first step wrong, and formula gymnastics are required to achieve simple results. Instead, get this step right, and we can use simple formulas to create advanced results.

Data should be made as flat as possible with a column for each field and rows for each record. The most common error I see is having columns for different years or months, instead, this should be a single column with different months for each record. In our mind we think that time goes from left to right, but that isn't how Excel thinks.

Workbooks should be segregated them into 3 sections; data, calculation and presentation. This can be 3 separate tabs, 3 areas of a worksheet, or through Power Query, Power Pivot and Pivot Tables. No matter the technology, the approach should be the same.

Mastering this approach will ensure you are significantly more productive in the long run."
Our 2nd question to Mark was, What's the #1 thing that will make their excel spreadsheets stand out and look professional? He responded:
"The ability to tell the right story from the data is difficult. Selecting the right chart type and the right colors is just the beginning. Knowing what to remove is just as important. By mastering this skill, everything you do will stand out to your recipients.

Unfortunately, being good at Excel does not inherently make us good as data visualisation. Thankfully there are lots of great books and online resources, about how the human brain processes information. If we follow the rules laid out by the experts, we can get a lot of benefit with little effort. "
Our 3rd question to Mark was, What's the most common mistake you see people make in Excel? He responded:
"The most common mistake I see is people not continually learning and developing their skills. We wait until there is a problem, then try to solve it. Instead, let's dig the well before we're thirsty.

With Excel, we don't know what we don't know, so it's much better to invest in ourselves upfront. Learn how to use Power Query, Power Pivot, VBA, Dynamic Arrays, etc. We don't need to be experts in everything, but we should try to reach a level of awareness and competency. Only then can we really select the best tool for the job. "
Whether it's organizing the structure of your workbook or learning new Excel techniques, it's clear Mark places a good deal of emphasis on doing these actions upfront. No doubt this forethought is a big part of Marks success in Excel.

What you need to know in one sheet

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