I like to play in sandboxes. Well, not directly in the sand. You know, a figurative sandbox to play around in, to try things out and see what results you get. And if it doesn’t work like you thought it might work, well then, you just run your hand through the sand and try something else. Or you go find someone you think would know how to make it work.
I’m a curious admin. And when it comes to doing things better, I’m all for it.
I love playing in the sandbox to figure out how to use more of the features of Word and Excel, for example.
There’s a colleague at work that will often ask me if I know how to do something in Excel. Like showing him how to rearrange the columns to rows or rows to columns (Paste / Transpose). That one I knew so I could quickly show him how to do that. Or how to extract text from one cell and place it in another cell (Data / Text to Columns). He sent me the Excel file and asked if I knew how to do that. I didn’t know right off the bat, but I figured it out and shared the how-to steps with him.
That colleague and I have settled into a working relationship of knowing that we can bug each other to ask “Do you know how to…?” There’s some comfort in that, knowing there is no judgment on one’s lack of software knowledge; just that someone needs a bit of help to figure something out.
But sometimes, I just like being in the sandbox myself. Working through the thought-process and the steps on my own helps solidify the knowledge I gain.
I played in the sandbox one day because I knew there had to be an easier way to automate the spreadsheet I created. If the person who is on first call (for a construction project) is not available that day, then his/her delegate was on first call instead. I had been manually inserting the delegate’s name each time, but there had to be a better way.
So I sat in the sandbox, playing around with formulas, and I finally figured it out. If Archie is normally first call, but Archie is not available that day, then Archie has to show in cell H1 and Archie’s delegate, Norman, has to show in cell A1. Now my spreadsheet auto-adjusts for that particular scenario—woohoo! The 30 minutes or so that I spent playing in my sandbox paid off. Another sandbox break helped me figure out a macro to auto-change the view of that same spreadsheet. And another few sandbox minutes resulted in a button representing that macro on my Quick Access toolbar.
You know, sometimes all it takes is a bit of pre-work—playing in the sandbox—to make a process more efficient.