Here is a question I see quite a bit on the Excel forums of the world. It goes a bit like this;
“I am looking to improve my Excel skills, is there a good book you could recommend or any hints which are particularly helpful?”
It is a curious question as I have been asked it many times in my work too. “How do I get fantastic Excel skills?” I get the impression people want me to deliver that magic bullet, a trinket of information which upon leaving my mouth and entering their ear canal will enable them to obtain an Excel mastery in a short timeframe which will have their colleagues going W.O.W!!!
It is a pretty simple equation though - improving your Excel skills is a lot like improving anything in life, if you want to be good at something you have to practice. If you want to be great at something, you have to practice a lot! I have derived this message and seen faces drop. It is not the magic bullet people were hoping for. Sure courses and books help but they only open the door a crack. It is your job to kick wide the door open and create a knowledge base which far outstrips the books and courses of the world.
This does raise yet another question, what constitutes practice? Well I think the best form of practice is to use the modern day encyclopaedia on the matter, which are the Excel forums of the world. In my opinion the best exponents of Excel and its language VBA, are out there day in day out handing out the good oil on Excel. So don’t invest in a book, jump on one of these forums and start reading the problems and look at how they are solved. Read a problem and without looking at the solution try and solve the problem. After solving it, look at the answer(s) of the person(s) who solved the problem and compare your answer to theirs. If there are differences, take on the learnings and move to another problem. When you get confident, start to answer questions you think you can answer.
Don’t be intimidated if someone comes after you and answers the question in a different way. Take some learnings from the other answer if there are any and move on. I once had someone post after me time and time again and it kind of annoyed me at first but after a few months I realised I was starting to code like this person and then I realised this person had done me a wonderful service. I actually wanted this person to post after me. I now post after people with this very life lesson in mind.
Pick a person or group of people on these forums and follow them. Watch how they construct their posts and try to take learnings from these people. Get on Excel based newsletters so all of the latest learnings are being sent to you.
In my own experience I have found this simple saying important – whenever I finish a formula or writing some VBA code I ask the following of myself;
“How can this be written more efficiently”.
If you are constantly asking this question, your Excel and programming skills can only improve. Remember knowledge builds on knowledge and what seemed difficult at one point becomes the routine as you move to a more knowledgeable place. To stay sharp always ask the above question and practice, practice, practice always challenging yourself to learn new things. The learning never ends and I learn more every single day.
Good luck on the journey, I will see you on the following forums;