Sunday, April 10, 2011

Excel: A Writer's Best Friend (Guest Post by Sylvia Rosen)

         Just use it

The class I disliked the most in high school was Introduction to Computing. Learning how to make spreadsheets, charts and graphs never appealed to me. I remember sitting in my sophomore class thinking, “I will never need to know how to use Excel.” At the age of 16, I already knew I wanted to be a writer, and I didn’t think using Excel formulas would bring me closer to my dream.

How incredibly wrong I was.

I stuck to my dream of becoming a writer; however, I quickly realized that I needed a tool to keep my writing assignments on track. Ironically, the tool that I turned to was Microsoft Excel.

Excel is a great program for writers to use for three reasons: motivation, tracking and record keeping.

On a typical day, I’m writing 5 different posts on a variety of topics, ranging from office equipment such as monitors to construction equipment such as forklifts. I often feel burnt out and unmotivated at times because every piece requires a high level of creativity. Excel helps me deal with this occasional block.

Excel is a great motivational tool because it can display your progress as you complete your writing assignments. For example, I’ve set up my spreadsheet to include a column where I record whether or not I’ve completed an assignment. So if I see that I have a 300-word post due by the beginning of the next week, chances are I’ll bang that post out right before lunch on a Friday afternoon.

A daily planner can’t motivate a writer in this way; it would be ridiculous to write down the entire post assignment in a small section in your planner. After looking at the notes, you’d probably feel more overwhelmed than motivated. Furthermore, you’d probably schedule writing that post for the following Monday.

By tracking your assignments in Excel, you can change your viewing to see what lies ahead for the following week. Seeing your daily (and future) writing tasks in an organized display will motivate you to cross assignments off your list.

Each individual post I write requires a specific word count, format, and link allowance. When working on 5 posts at a time, I can easily lose track of the information. And in these cases, post-its and daily planners won’t cut it – but spreadsheets do.

The type of columns your tracking spreadsheet should have includes:
  • Blog name and URL
  • Word count
  • Due date – the most important piece of data to take note of.
  • Date written – tracking this will give you a good idea of your writing pace.
  • Date live – this is important to know so you can remember to promote your article via social networks.
Keeping track of your writing assignments is crucial. Unless you don’t care about your reputation, it’s important that you stay organized and deliver what was asked on time.

Record Keeping
Excel spreadsheets can help writers keep records of contact information in a clean format so they can easily find the information later. It’s also important to keep records of past interactions because you might want to contact a specific blogger again. Finding contact information in a spreadsheet will be a lot easier than finding the information in your notes or address book.

For instance, Excel features such as the Find and Filters tools will help you sort through your data. If you can only remember the site name, and not the blogger, it will be difficult to find their email address in an address book. However, in Excel, all you need to do is type in the information you know and the data will highlight itself. This saves time and stress.

Programs like Microsoft Word and Notepad are a writer’s essential tools. However, programs like Microsoft Excel and OpenOffice are essential tools in managing assignment data. To be a great writer, you need both.

Bio: Sylvia Rosen is an online writer with a background in newspaper journalism. She enjoys writing articles and guest posts on the latest business trends, home services and technology equipment.

1 comment:

  1. Great way to be better organized! I use Google docs' spreadsheet option, instead of Excel.



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