Too many spreadsheets? Get organized with these tips

Spreadsheets are a fantastic tool to help you organize data and track various forms of information in the workplace, especially with the use of formulas and reports. However, overusing spreadsheets can be inefficient and hurt your productivity.

They are good for some things, but not necessarily for others. Whether your job has burdened you with mountains of spreadsheets or you just love a good spreadsheet, it might be time to look at ways to manage them.

1. Recognize Spreadsheet Overuse

Illustration of three worksheets side by side

Either you’re here because you’re tired of your workplace’s insistence on using spreadsheets for everything, or you love working with data and wonder if this applies to you. In fact, it is recommended to think about how you use software such as Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets, in order to get the most out of your work.

It is useful to count the number of spreadsheets you use daily or weekly. If this number exceeds six, you can take this as a sign that you may be working at a disadvantage and this may cause problems, such as:

  • Difficulty with time management.
  • Inefficiency with processes.
  • Poor organization of information.
  • Enterprise-wide communication barriers.

Related: Google Sheets Formatting Tips to Create Professional-Looking Spreadsheets

Identifying the extent to which spreadsheets are used to inform your work can open up options for new, more productive ways of working. Let’s look at a few ways to manage this overuse and achieve better long-term results.


2. Streamline data by merging and redesigning spreadsheets

Often the reason for having too many spreadsheets is that they are not used intuitively. You’ll know this is happening if you need to use two separate sheets for a singular task; for example, you have one for annual leave and one for shift coverage.

In this particular case, you can easily combine them into one overall spreadsheet. You can do this by dividing them into different tabs.

Alternatively, you can include both as tables on a single sheet and follow these steps to automatically update the shift variance table with data from the annual leave table:

Screenshot of Excel formula between two tables
  1. In your second table, where you store the line item variances, type the formula =IF(Select Cell, “GAP”, “FULL”)
  2. Where the above formula says Select a cell, enter the cell number containing the annual holiday dates, for example, B2.
  3. When you enter a date in the selected cell, it will automatically fill in the word “GAP” where you type the formula.
  4. If there is no date, it will automatically fill in the word “FULL” where you type the formula.

This formula can be used for anything, regardless of cell value, and can be a useful way to manage similar information between tables.

Related: How to Link Excel Data to Your PowerPoint Presentation

Combining sheets and data items in one place reduces the number of files required for specific tasks and lets you organize your work more efficiently. Check your list of worksheets to see if any of them can be combined, to keep the work clear and easy to follow.

Screenshot of the hyperlink window in Microsoft Excel

Sometimes it is not possible to merge spreadsheets because the data is not directly correlated. However, you may still need to have access to multiple sheets for more complex processes involving multiple tasks.

In these cases, it can be useful to add hyperlinks in your spreadsheet to give you quick access to another. It also serves as a useful reminder of the entire process. For example, if you are entering customer data, you can include a hyperlink to a customer feedback sheet.

Related: Types of Excel tables and charts and when to use them

This can be done easily in Excel and Google Sheets by simultaneously pressing CTRL+K on your keyboard. This will bring up a Hyperlink window, where you can To look for for the file, and Last name the text you want to appear in the cell.

You can even create a tab that includes hyperlinks to all your other spreadsheets, with information on when to use them. This is a great idea if you want to make sure you and your colleagues are all on the same page and working from the same files, rather than outdated files.

4. Consider alternative software

Illustration of person at computer desk with thought bubbles

Spreadsheets can’t do much, and if you’re suffering from overuse, it might just be because you need dedicated software to handle the workload. For example, do you really need a vacation spreadsheet if it’s tracked for you in an HR system?

Often, as a business grows, it outgrows spreadsheets and begins to need software to manage the masses of information. Asana is a fantastic app for project management, and there are plenty of project management software alternatives that can handle manual workflows for you.

Instead of struggling to keep up with ever-increasing business demands, look for alternative ways to store and manage information. It will save you and your colleagues time and automate many tasks that would normally require extra monitoring.

Related: Asana vs. Jira: Which is Better in Agile Methodology?

5. Review your processes and remove duplicates

Illustration of two identical files with X next to them

Overuse of spreadsheets can happen if you’re trying to be organized, but sometimes it can go too far. In these scenarios, you may actually end up micromanaging yourself, or managing your co-workers, when in reality it takes time for important tasks.

Keeping track of information at work is essential for smooth operation, but sometimes you might end up trying to track too much useless stuff. Think about your current processes and determine if you really need a spreadsheet for them.

Likewise, using a spreadsheet to record data that is already stored elsewhere creates unnecessary duplication of work and is very inefficient. Put those corresponding spreadsheets away and work from the source.

Spreadsheets can work against you

With the tips above, you’ll have plenty of ways to clear your spreadsheet folder and start working more efficiently. Follow your instincts to determine which work items deserve dedicated data and which can be handled differently.

If you’re still unsure, pay close attention to how you work out over the next few weeks. You may start to notice where things could be streamlined, and you can create a more efficient and organized digital space.

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