Spreadsheets

Everybody is constantly using spreadsheets in my industry. This is a fact of life - if your system is good enough not to be spreadsheet based, then the interesting work moves up and out of that. If your system isn't quite good enough, then you use spreadsheets to patch the flaws.

The thing to remember is that all but the most short-lived spreadsheets are going to have to do work of communication tools. Your report has to be read, your control has to be traceable back to source, your analysis has to be vetted.

Most people forget this.

So try to look at your sheets as if they have specific jobs to do. Make them sensible, but make it so if you took a guess at how it works you're right.

Guidelines like this should be your MO, not exceptions:

  • Repeat and Link, rather than linking off-page
  • Show your units of measurement
  • Use a cover sheet
  • Use titles and headings
  • Build up formulas from cells
  • Mark out assumptions

Build your habits.

Productivity and Humanity

Why a blog about productivity and humanity?

Because there's no point in being productive in and of itself. Productivity only makes sense in the context of what you want to accomplish as a human being, and that exists in the broader context of the human condition as shaped by the human beings you have to live with.

Productivity, in the abstract, can tend towards the completely inhuman. It gets to denigrating others' contributions, to delegate subhuman work to others because it allows for more convenient, more pristine solutions for yourself. Productivity needs to come from a place of care and respect for others.

Another side of this is that it's okay to care about your work, and the people you work with. It's okay to try to make the world a better place by designing software or processes that get people home to their families on time, and that save them from tedious, monotonous work.

Read this first

So if you're here, you're trying to read what I wrote. That is great! But if you wanted to use your time really well, for the betterment of your life, I would recommend you read these instead:

(in order of importance)

  1. Examine and try to internalize the concept of cognitive bias. Then think for a while about how hard, recursive, impossible it is to internalize cognitive biases.

  2. Listen to the first 7 episodes of Back 2 Work, a podcast by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.

  3. Read the first third of the Compass of Zen by Seung Sahn.

  4. Read Getting Things Done, David Allen's philosophy of life by way of personal productivity.