Is Microsoft Excel easy to learn?

Is Microsoft Excel easy to learn?

It’s a great question, and my first blog topic for Your Excel Coach.

Honestly, the real answer is “maybe yes” and “maybe no”.

The unpleasant truth after my teaching thousands of adults how to use Excel is this:  If you’re not into numbers, learning Excel can be difficult.  It will take you months of practice to feel a small growing confidence in using Excel.

Two Types of People trying to learn Microsoft Excel

In the classroom, I estimate I have taught at the very least, 2000 adults how to learn Excel.  So my next comments are based on my classroom observations.  There are two major groups of people trying to learn Excel.

  1. People who clearly enjoy using words more than numbers.
  2. People who like numbers.

Perhaps that’s too simplistic an analysis, but I think it’s accurate.

When “Words” People Learn Microsoft Excel

You know who you are.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this phrase in the business world or at non-profits:

I don’t do math.  I’m a “words” person.

Some people are just amazingly good with words.  In the computer world they spend most of their time using Microsoft Word or Microsoft PowerPoint.  They happily spend an hour putting all the bells and whistles on a PowerPoint presentation of their department budget.  But they spend less than ten minutes looking at the Microsoft spreadsheet a staff worker is presenting at the budget meeting.

Have I been too harsh?  Are you a “Words” person who doesn’t know Excel?  Ask yourself if the behaviors listed below sound like you.

  1. I didn’t have time to learn Excel before.  But now I’m a new manager and I have financial responsibilities.  I need to learn how to use Excel to manage my budget.
  2. I use Microsoft Excel for data sorting.  I keep our database of customers in Excel.  But now my manager wants that database to keep track of money.  I need to learn Excel.
  3. I’m studying for my MBA and I’m intimidated with Excel spreadsheets.  I need some help in getting over my spreadsheet fears so I can get my MBA.
  4. And more…

Here’s my classic story on when I finally realized in the classroom that words people can have a deathly fright of spreadsheets for one major reason:  formulas

I was teaching a new 3 hour class at RushUniversity one day called PowerExcel.  It was actually a precursor to my ebook, The World’s Shortest Excel Book.

A bright, young lady was in my class.  She had taken my Excel, PowerPoint, and Word Intro series.  9 hours of Excel training, 9 hours of PowerPoint, 9 hours of Word.  She had been a terrific student, quick to learn software interfaces, artistic, good with words.

I needed a volunteer to create a simple Excel formula based on a problem I had described.  It was an easy formula.  I asked for a volunteer.  Nobody raised their hand.  I asked the young lady if she could give me the formula.

She was quiet for a moment, then I could see the panic in her eyes.  Nobody had ever asked her to do a formula, in any setting.

I knew I had made a mistake.  In less than 10 seconds I altered the question, took the focus away from her, and spared her the embarassment of not knowing how to do formulas.

This incredibly bright young woman who loved software had a fear of numbers, and formulas.

Are you a “words” person who feels uncomfortable with Excel, spreadsheets, numbers, and formulas?  I know you’re good at your work.  Perhaps you’re a terrific writer using Microsoft Word.  Or perhaps you are very artistic with PowerPoint (I’m envious, I’m horrible at art, decent at photography).  Or maybe you’re a manager that makes thousand dollar decisions every day.

But you are a “words” person who needs help learning Microsoft Excel.  Perhaps this is your website.  I want to be Your Excel Coach.

When Numbers People Learn Microsoft Excel

I’m sure you think I’m talking about accountants.  Accountants like numbers, surely they pick up Excel easily.  Most practicing accountants or financial analysts working today learned how to use spreadsheets when they were teenagers in high school or college.

Actually, there’s a segment of the population who like numbers but probably wouldn’t do well as an accountant.  I am one of those persons.

In graduate school I wasn’t very good in my accounting courses, but I was pretty darn good in financial analysis.

I think 10-20% of the adult population like numbers and playing with them.  My Dad was an immigrant from Germany who worked as a blue collar worker all his life.  But his ability with math was astounding.  He seemingly could crunch numbers in his head and then give you an answer.  My Dad would have been very good at Excel.

Who are the “numbers” people in the world?  The adults who find a need to learn Excel, who didn’t learn it in high school or college?  Some of them are doctors, bookkeepers, carpenters, scientists, fundraisers, some managers, etc.

Perhaps you are the “numbers” person who never got around to learning Excel at any level.  I believe about 80% of the adults learning Excel are really “words” persons.  Perhaps you are a “words” person.  Your Excel Coach can help you.

Is Microsoft Excel easy to learn?

Now you know the answer.  it all depends on whether you are a “words” person or a “numbers” person.

Whoever you are, I hope you return to this website.  I’m Your Excel Coach if you need one.


Comments

Is Microsoft Excel easy to learn? — 5 Comments

  1. That was a great read and interesting. I think I am a ‘words’ person. I am taking an online class. My first online class. I found out I will be doing Excel Projects. I freaked out. I have no Excel experience. I want to pass this class but more importantly I want to be super comfortable and confident about using Excel.

    • If you are good with math, artistic, or just plain good with software, you can learn Excel.

      Be very careful inheriting other people’s spreadsheets. Easily one third of all spreadsheets have errors. The question is how bad are the errors.

      Good luck.

      Richard

  2. I’m a writer, and have been a numberphobe my entire life! I’m struggling with Excel, and found myself instantly pegged as a ‘words’ person. Formulas, insofar as Excel is concerned, are massively complicated. When my assessment calls for me to ‘create a formula that averages the numbers in each row of cells’, I’m wringing my hands with uncertainty. How the heck am I supposed to know how to make up a formula, when I’m a beginner in the world of Excel and even worse in the world of math and logic?!?! I avoid doing the assignments, because I simply don’t understand them. My instructor is very patient, but she doesn’t seem to grasp my handicap as the author of this post does. No, I am the furthest thing from a numbers person, and I fear that I won’t be successful in this class due to that. When numbers are involved, my brain bleeds and then implodes.

    • Jeana,

      I sent an email to you.

      We can arrange a time for me to chat with you regarding Excel formulas, for free 🙂

      Richard

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