Category Archives: Productivity Tips

Excel Formula Problems? Try These Troubleshooting Tips!

Ribbon with FBWhen you work with formulas in Microsoft Excel, there are sometimes some glitches. Excel is good about letting you know when there is an error and even offering some help. The Error Checking feature on the Formulas tab in the Formula Auditing Group will find errors such as Divide by zero errors or errors in cell references (#VALUE!) where a cell referenced in the formula does not contain a number.

Also in the Formula Auditing group are the Trace Precedents, Trace Dependents, and Remove Arrows buttons. The Trace Precedents button shows arrows that indicate which cells affect the value of the currently selected cell. The Trace Dependents button show arrows that indicate which cells are affected by the value of the currently selected cell. The Remove Arrows button removes the arrows drawn by the Trace Precedents and Trace Dependent buttons. These buttons are very helpful when determining incorrect cell references in formulas.

However, with especially long formulas, it is sometimes necessary to examine small parts of the formula at a time to figure out the problem. You may use your mouse pointer to look at only a certain part of a formula and press F9 to evaluate just that section. Press Esc to go back and keep searching. The Evaluate Formula button on the Formula Auditing group will also allow you to examine small parts of a long formula.

Another common problem in Excel formulas is a circular reference. A circular reference in an Excel formula is one that depends on its own value. The most common type of circular reference occurs when you mistakenly refer in the formula to the cell in which you are building the formula itself. For example, suppose that cell B10 is active when you build this formula,  =A10+B10.   As soon as you enter this formula in cell B10 (assuming the program is in Automatic recalculation mode), Excel displays an Alert dialog box, stating that it cannot calculate the formula due to the circular reference.

Do not forget, too, that by clicking the down arrow at the right end of the formula bar you can expand the size of the formula bar to include more than one line. Use these tips to become an expert in troubleshooting Excel formula problems—something that we all encounter when using Excel’s powerful calculation features!

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Want to Be Successful in College?

graduation-hatHow do you feel on your first day of a new semester? If it is your first semester, you are probably very apprehensive. If you are a returning college student, you may be excited or you may be anxious about meeting new people and facing new challenges. In either situation you are probably a bit nervous and full of questions. Your goal, however, is to be successful.

In an article titled, “Top Ten Tips for College Success,” Dr. Sylvia Rimm discusses the exciting and challenging experience of pursuing a college education and lists her tips for being successful in college. Click here to read her article: Top Ten Tips for College.

I especially like her very first tip: Never miss a class. If you had a job and you decided not to show up for work, how successful do you think you would be at that job? It is important to treat college as a job and assume that it is your responsibility to go to class every day!

As we begin a new semester at Richland College, take a minute to read Dr. Rimm’s tips. Then, make a deal with yourself to follow these tips. Your path to success will be easier with a set of guidelines. Write them down and review them often!

For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

9+ Reasons Why OneNote 2013 Can Help You Become More Successful!

08-11-2014 OneNote LogoTake a “working tip” from Richland College’s POFT 1309 Administrative Office Procedures course on how to increase your productivity and efficiency at the office.

Like so many other things these days, projects at work seem to have many moving parts—some parts need your attention right away, and other tasks come later but are equally as important.

Use the tag feature in OneNote 2013 to help you keep your priorities and tasks in order and to help make sure your project is completed successfully.

OneNote 2013 (the desktop version) comes equipped with a wealth of tags that can make creating notes and tasks, inserting images, locating important web sites, gathering contact information, etc., easy to organize, track, and search as you progress through your project.

There are nine handy OneNote tags described below; however, there are a number of other OneNote tags that can help you with your work load as well. You can also create custom tags for even more specialization.

08-11-2014 One Note Complete

Use OneNote tags to help you plan, organize, and complete those multiple tasks that are so important to the successful completion of your work projects!

If you want to improve your office productivity skills, consider taking one or more courses in the BOSS program at Richland College. Richland College, which is located in northeast Dallas at 12800 Abrams Road, offers both online and on-campus courses. For more information contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

***Get a Free Copy of Microsoft Office Pro Plus 2013***If you are a student in the Dallas County Community College District, you are eligible to download a free version of Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Plus (or 2011 on the Mac) which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook, Publisher, and OneNote.

Work Smarter with Excel Shortcuts

flikr-work-smarterWe all want to find a way to work more efficiently. For me, that involves knowing some ways to shorten my tasks in Excel, since I seem to use that frequently. Here are a couple of keyboard shortcuts that help me out.

The first is using the F9 key with formulas. When creating the formula, you can hit the F9 key and the formula will display actual values instead of the cell references. For example, type numbers in a few cells and use the Sum function button to create a simple Sum formula. Press the F9 key and you will see the actual values it is using in the formula instead of the cell references.

The second shortcut involves formulas, too. When I am debugging a worksheet, I sometimes want to highlight the cells that are referenced in a formula. To do this, I click on the cell with the formula and press Ctrl-[ (that’s Ctrl-open-square-bracket key just to the right of the P key). Excel highlights all the cells referenced by the formula, and moves to the first of the referenced cells.


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,, 972-238-6215.

Customizing Bullets in Word

Word 2013I’m sure most of us have used Word’s bullet feature at some point and, no doubt, selected one of the pre-defined shapes and colors. However, if you want to add a little “zing” to one of your documents, consider using a customized bullet to emphasize your key points.

Let’s suppose I have a document that focuses on Richland College, and that I want to emphasize some important aspects of student life at Richland. The typical user might be tempted to use bullets in the document in the traditional manner:

04-28-2014 Inserted Text with Traditional BulletsHowever, if you want to use a look that ties all aspects of your document together, you may want to consider customizing the bullets. Since the Thunderduck logo has been used as part of the opening in this document, why not repeat this image as a bullet and as part of the focus?

To customize your bullets, simply complete the following steps:

1.  Highlight your bulleted list and click on the Bullet icon to turn the bullets off.

2.  Click the arrow next to the Bullet icon and select Define New Bullet (at the bottom) and choose the middle option Picture. Your screen should be similar to the one pictured below:

04-28-2014 Define New Bullet3.  Select the image file you want to use from the drive and folder where the file is located—the image file will then be uploaded to Word’s bullet library. Click OK to complete the upload process.

4.  Your screen should be showing your document, and you can then select the list of text that you want to have bulleted.

5.  Click the arrow next to the Bullet icon and then click on your custom bullet from the Bullet Library area. Your screen should look similar to the image below.

04-28-2014 New Custom Item in Define New Bullet Area.jpg6.  Your bulleted list should now show the custom bullet for each of your items in the list.

04-28-2014 Inserted Text with Custom Bullets

Take a Microsoft Office 2013 class that can help you improve your technology skills and productivity. You can choose from any number of career-enhancing classes in the BOSS program at Richland College. For more information, please contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean,  972-238-6215.

Word logo image courtesy of Microsoft Corporation







Excel Worksheets: Flexible and Easy to Manipulate

When you open a new Microsoft Excel Workbook file, there should be three worksheets available by default, labeled Sheet1, Sheet2, and Sheet3. As your Excel files become more complicated, it’s important to rename each worksheet to appropriately reflect its respective content. To rename a worksheet, right-click its sheet tab and click Rename. Type in the new name of the worksheet and press the Enter key.

When three worksheets aren’t enough for your task, you can add worksheets. To add a single worksheet, right click on any sheet and choose Insert from the Quick Menu.  At the end of the last sheet in the Workbook file, there is also an Insert Worksheet button.  Here’s one more method:  the Shortcut key to insert a worksheet is SHIFT F11.

It is also easy to change the number of sheets in a new workbook file.  In Excel, click File, Options, and choose the General tab on the left.  Under “When creating new Workbooks” change the number 3 in the Include this many sheets box to the number of sheets you wish to have in each new Excel Workbook file that you create.

If you have a particular worksheet you’d like to move or copy to a different location, select the worksheet(s) you want to move/copy, right click and choose Move or Copy from the Quick Menu.  The following dialog box will appear.

Move or Copy Box

In the box above, the selected sheet is set to copy to the Workbook file named, EX D-Quarterly Tour Expenses.  It will be placed before the sheet named Sheet3.

If you forget to check the Create a copy box, the selected sheet will be moved rather than copied.

You are now on your way to being an Excel Worksheet Manipulation Expert!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

Word Tip: Use the Keyboard to Create a Simple Table

11-11-2013 Word Tip--Use the Keyboard to Create a Simple Word Table Image--153454864Have you ever been typing and found that you needed to put some of your information into a table to display it more attractively? Well, Word has a neat keyboard feature that allows you to do just that.

Although Word’s ability to create tables from the Insert tab or to draw them using the Table Draw feature is wonderful and very easy, your fingers don’t have to leave the keyboard if you use the handy tip described below.

For example, if you want a 2-column table:

Optional/Step 1: Make sure your Show/Hide feature is turned on so you can follow your cursor more easily —located in Paragraph group on the Home tab.

Step 2: Make sure your cursor is at the beginning of your left margin and type the “+” key (no quotes), and then use the Space Bar to space the approximate length of where you want the first column to end and then type another “+” (no quotes).

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 2

Step 3: Use the Space Bar again to space out the length of the second column and type another “+” and press the Enter key and Presto! You have the first row in your table.

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 3

Step 4: Your cursor should appear in the first column, and you are now ready to begin typing your text. Just press Tab key to move to the second column and type in that text.

11-11-2013 Word Tip Step 4

Step 5: After you have typed in your text in the second column, press the Tab key again and a new row will be created automatically

Hint: If you want three or more columns, use the Space Bar and the “+” key to space out the length for the third column, etc., accordingly, but make sure all characters appear on one line.

After you have created your table and if you want make it fancier, just select the table and use one of the Word styles in Table Tools >Design.

If you need to take one or more classes to help you enhance your technology skills and productivity, consider taking one of the Microsoft Office classes or other skills/productivity development classes from the BOSS area at Richland College.

For more information on BOSS software and productivity course offerings, the BOSS degree and certificates contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Essential Skills That Should Be in Every Employee’s Toolkit!

10-21-2013 - Essential Skills That Should Be in Every Employee’s Toolkit!--142327423When we think about jobs and their various requirements, the tendency may be to focus on the specialized skill such as accounting, marketing, IT, nursing, HR, etc., but blogger Sharlyn Lauby suggests that there needs to be a closer look taken of  basic skills. She has put a lot of emphasis on the fact that every employee should have these skills—regardless of the job position.

The list below may sound simple and basic; but according to Lauby, employees and applicants who lack one or more of these items is the reason why job recruiters and employers are becoming more and more frustrated!

So even if you are currently employed or if you are looking for a job, take a look at this list and make sure you are proficient in all of these areas:



Skill Comment


Good Communication Skills Both your verbal and written skills need to be proficient. A review of grammar can help you with the spoken and written word.


Computer Many of the job descriptions have the expectation that you are already competent in widely-used software such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.


Customer Service Companies expect their employees to know how to interact with their customers in a professional, respectful manner.


Diversity Awareness While this item was not a part of Lauby’s original list, the decision was made to include it because we work in environments today that are made up of people from many different backgrounds and cultures.


Empathy There may be a number of times throughout your career when you will need to “put yourself in the other person’s position” to understand your customers or co-workers better, and having empathy will help you tremendously in the communication process.


Learning This may appear to be a “no brainer,” but you should be prepared to be a lifelong learner. Whether you take formal classes or workplace training, new knowledge is the order of the day.


Math Unless your job requires a higher order of math, you should be familiar with business math concepts such as percentages, decimals, etc., These concepts can help you apply, interpret, and understand some of those spreadsheet functions better. Remember, most decisions are data driven today.


Organization Getting your work completed accurately and on time requires you to manage your time and tasks in an systematic fashion. Use time management software tools to help you organize your work life.


Problem-Solving When confronted with a problem, it is very important for you to (1) understand the problem, (2) develop a workable plan for solving the problem, (3) carry out the plan, and (4) evaluate the plan—did it work? Don’t expect others to solve all of your problems. You will be expected to find logical solutions to issues.


Research and Information Gathering If you need more information in order to get a task completed or to solve a problem, you must be ready to research the area and look for workable solutions. Employers don’t have much time for people who throw their hands up every time they are confronted with a new situation.


Teamwork You’ve got to be able to work with others! In today’s world most jobs require us to spend time working with others on projects—both real world and virtual. Having a respect for others, being able to communicate your thoughts effectively, and having a sense of empathy all play a part in successful, productive team outcomes.

For more information on the BOSS program and how BOSS courses can help you with your career and enhance your skills, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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Merging Cells in Excel

When centering headings on an Excel worksheet, most of us use a feature called Merge and Center.  Merging and Centering cells in Excel is easy. Just select the cells that you want to merge and click the Merge and Center button in the Alignment group on the Home tab (in Excel 2007, 2010, or 2013).

However, have you ever wanted to merge the cells in several rows, but not wanted to merge all of those cells into one gigantic cell? Did you select the cells in the first row, merge them, move on to the second row and so on?  This method works; but fortunately, there is a much simpler way to go about it. The answer is a seldom-used feature called Merge Across.

If you click the down arrow to the right of the Merge and Center command, you will see a command called Merge Across.  To use this feature, select all of the cells that you want to merge across but not down. Click the arrow to the right of Merge and Center and select Merge Across. Your cells will be nicely merged across, but each row will still be separate from those above and below them. If you wish to also center the data in the merged cells, simply click the Center button in the Alignment group on the Home tab.

You may have wondered what would happen if you clicked the Merge Across command.  Now you know!


For more information on the Business Office Systems and Support department, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

7 No-Nos That Can Help You Improve Your Productivity!

09-30-2013 - Postit Notes--174361729I am sure we are all accustomed to reading about the “dos” that can help with tasks and productivity, but Jill Harness “flips the coin” in her infographic article and provides us with an excellent list of “don’ts” to keep in mind for becoming more productive.

If you want to improve your daily productivity, here are some habits you should definitely avoid, or break if you are currently guilty of any of these no-nos:



Bad Work Habit



Checking Your E-mail Constantly Unless you are expecting an urgent message that must be acted upon immediately, set a schedule for checking your messages during the day e.g., 9 a.m., then again just before noon, and 45 minutes before you leave for the day.


Keeping A Cluttered Desk Not only is this habit counterproductive, it is one that can lead to confusion, missing information, and time wasted. You will be viewed as inefficient! Remember the saying, “time is money, and money is time.” Take the time to organize your work area so all related items are filed or placed in close proximity.


Not Paying Attention to Ergonomics Have you ever wondered why you are prone to headaches or backaches Monday through Friday, but for some reason, they mysteriously disappear on the weekends? Take a look at your workstation. If it is too cushy, you may not be getting the proper support; but as Jill Harness cautions, don’t be tempted to go to the other extreme and have a chair that is “overly-adequate” in terms of lumbar support. You should also check other ergonomic elements such as lighting and the keyboard. Get your eyes examined at least once a year also.


Trying to Multitask And we thought we could be jugglers and keep several tasks in the air! While most of us can actually “walk and chew gum at the same time,” it isn’t efficient, accurate, or productive to multitask (2 or more simultaneous tasks). According to Harness, research shows we actually reduce our IQs by 10 points when we attempt to multitask.  Use your brain cells effectively.



Setting Numerous Online Notifications By setting multiple notifications to your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop; you will almost certainly guarantee frustration, confusion, and opportunities for mistakes. Develop a workable plan and stick to it regarding how you want to reminded (due dates/times) of important items.


Allowing Others to Constantly Interrupt You If you are known as the person who is always ready to engage in conversation—related and nonrelated—then you’ve set yourself up for making mistakes, being nonproductive, and always running behind schedule. Remember, you are not there to socialize 24/7. Nicely, but firmly, let your coworkers know that your office is not a “drop-in” center.


Creating a “Mission Impossible” List of To-Dos Go ahead and create lists that require you to leap tall buildings in a single bound—dream of becoming that SuperPerson! Seriously, set realistic timeframes needed to complete tasks, and use strategies for getting the resources needed to get the job done.  To be sure, there will be those unexpected times when something does take longer; but as time goes by, your previous experience and knowledge will prove invaluable towards helping you gauge the time needed to get your tasks done successfully and efficiently.

For more information on the BOSS program and how BOSS courses can help you with your career and enhance your skills, contact Becky Jones, Associate Dean, 972-238-6215.

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