It’s been quiet around here for the past few months. Why? I’ve been writing an Excel book. Actually, I wrote an Excel book with Mr Excel, Bill Jelen. It was turned in to the publisher on 1JUL14. And what does any self-respecting guerrilla analyst/author do to celebrate? Have a cigar!
Guerrilla Data Analysis is an update of the book that Mr Excel wrote back in 2002. The book contains a series of sections ranging from a quarter-page to 20+ pages in length, and offers Excel tips for people who need to get stuff done.
As I wrote, I kept in mind the many people who don’t have “Analyst” in their job title, but they’re de facto analysts. They have significant levels of data or complex calculations in Excel spreadsheets as part of their every day responsibilities. They are:
- The Office Manager who’s keeping track of everyone’s hours, bonuses, salaries and vacations, then feeding all the data into a payroll system.
- The Executive Director of a small nonprofit who needs to report on the organization’s effectiveness.
- The Small Business Owner who can’t get anything useful from the canned reports downloaded from her accounting system.
- The Tree Removal Expert who needs a tool for making realistic bids on projects.
If that sounds like you (or someone you know), my friend, you’re a Guerrilla Data Analyst: thrown into the turmoil and needing to make something happen.
Guerrilla Data Analysis covers key functions and features of Excel in a practical way, and goes into depth on pivot tables, advanced filter, sorting and tables. We also look at some things that will help users get more from Excel: better layout and development, use of helper columns, and multiple ways to compare lists.
The book isn’t due until Spring 2015, but it’s written! It’s going through copy-editing right now.
THE BOOK-WRITING EXPERIENCE
… was slow! There were days when a solid 10-hour effort resulted in 1 new page. The worst was after I’d gotten on a roll … the productivity was feeling good … and then …
The example that I created only works for 3 of 5 related ideas.
Several times I deleted hours of work and started all over again with the creation of a new spreadsheet with an entirely different example–an example with the required mileage built into it.
HAVING A COACH MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Helena Bouchez was my coach through this adventure. She’s been through the book-writing process several times and can now count Guerrilla Data Analysis as a result and a success. Here are some of the more significant things she offered.
Words Of Wisdom & Motivation From Helena Bouchez
- “You don’t have the time you think you do. Writing a book is a slow process.”
- She said this when the first deadline was 3 months away and I was just hanging out.
- “You know what? People who write books become hermits. And that’s why a lot of books never get written or finished. Not everyone is ready to be a hermit.”
- I don’t know how Mr Excel writes so much, puts out so much content and travels the world. He must be beyond human. For me, I did have to cut back social activity and make a lot of tough decisions to skip some things in order to write.
- Create a calendar and block out the times that you KNOW you can write.
- This created a visual perspective of the reality. The concept of an entire month seems like infinite time. But it did help to print out a calendar and look at all of the existing appointments, time needed for working with clients. What about sleep? A month no longer looked infinite. It actually looked quite small, and I saw the urgency.
- One strategy that I created: every Friday was dedicated only to writing Guerrilla Data Analysis. Also, the 4 days before a deadline were off limits to anything else.
- The trick to this was being completely honest. Over-optimism would have been disastrous. If a day looked like there was only 1 hour for writing, then it was just 1 hour. The actual writing session might turn into more, but the planning had to be conservative.
- After the next deadline, take 2 days away from anything Excel. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out.
- Taking a break is nice, but it’s also hard to get going after 2 days of being away. Helena nixed my plan to stay on the horse and gallop straight through to the final deadline. No no. Burning out early could ruin the long-term strategy.
- “I’m not gonna let you fail!”
- And she didn’t.
None of that sounds profound or magical, but that’s what makes her a good coach. She doesn’t coach through feel goody quotes or amateur psychotherapy. She knows the game and her client; I know the technique, and we both want to win. RESULTS RESULTS RESULTS.
THE CONCLUSION … FOR NOW
I thank Bill Jelen for the opportunity to be a co-author and revise Guerrilla Data Analysis. It’s been an opportunity to share knowledge with Excel users who are unwitting analysts expected to make something happen with a tool that can be intimidating. Hopefully Guerrilla Data Analysis will make the Excel beast not seem so ornery.
Thanks to Helena Bouchez for being a real-deal coach who gets the best out of her clients.
Much thanks to the people who’ve read this blog over the past few years, commented, shared, disagreed, and have otherwise been supportive. You all have helped shape this blog into a space for topics that deal with being a guerrilla analyst with Excel as our primary tool.