Author Archive: Paul

6 Simple Lifestyle Changes That Will Make You More Productive

Have you been spending a lot of time in office while getting little work done?

As a popular saying goes – be productive, not busy.

One of the biggest factors when it comes to being productive is lack of distractions. The more distractions you have, the less productive you’re going to be,

So while it may be fun to continuously chit chat with your colleagues or waste a ton of time watching cat videos on Instagram, at the end of the day, these are just distractions.

Another major thing that can impact our productivity is the physical well being. If you are plagued with frequent back pain or headaches, you’re less likely to be productive.

In this article, I am mentioned six super simple, yet highly effective, ways to increase your productivity.

And don’t worry! These wouldn’t take a lot of time and effort. These are simple tweaks you can do right away (even as you read this article).

Drink More Water

Yes, it’s a simple trick that will help you get healthier and a lot more productive.

Your body is made up of 60% of water, and when you don’t drink enough water, you tend to deprive your body of this important element.

And there is a reason why the lack of water can make you less productive. Most of your joints have water in it. When you don’t drink water, it tends to make this less efficient, and in some cases, it pains too. Same goes with your brain, where a lot of it is water. When you deprive it of ample water, you make it less efficient.

A simple trick of drinking more water can easily make you feel better and help in being more productive.

Stand and Work

There was a very popular phrase that has caught on in the past few years – sitting is the new smoking.

Sitting and working is fine, but when you sit and work for long hours and sit in awkward positions, it messes up your body.

Common issues that arise from these include back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, fatigue, etc.

It’s a good idea to sometimes stand and work. There are many standing desks and laptop stands available on the market that will allow you to do this.

Also, instead of using badly made chairs, get yourself a comfortable ergonomic office chair. These would ensure that the time your sitting and working, you’re not hurting yourself.

Work in Batches without Distraction

While you may think that you’re working for a long time, in reality, you’re distracted most of the time.

A buzzing phone or a million open tabs in a browser are likely the reason,

A simple way to get a lot more work done in less time is to work in batches of 25 or 30 minutes. During these batches, avoid checking your phone or talking to anyone else. Use these minutes to just work.

You’ll be amazed how much work you can get done when you avoid these distractions. The idea is to work in batches and then take short breaks. During these breaks, you can check your email or social media.

This technique is called Pomodoro and you can easily find a smartphone app or a web-based app to time your work.

Plan Ahead

A simple habit of making a plan of what you need to get done the next day can help you increase your productivity.

The logic is simple – when you wake up the next morning knowing what to work on, you don’t waste time wondering what needs to be done. There is something magical about planning a day before and waking up with a clear mind.

Take Micro Breaks

I am sure this is not the first time you’re hearing about this. But yet, somehow most of us don’t apy any heed to it.

Micro breaks allow you to relax your mind and recharge your body. Just like you need to stop and catch your breath when you’re running, you need to stop and give yourself some breathing time when working.

Take a short 2-5 minute break every half an hour. Take a short walk, drink water, stare away and relax your eyes, or do whatever that works for you.

These short breaks are magical as they recharge your mind and body and helps you get back to work with more concentration.

Walk After Dinner

This is possibly the most difficult habit to inculcate among all the ones mentioned in this article.

WHO recommends walking at least 10,000 steps a day, and I am sure most of us hardly do half (or even less than that).

If you have a sedentary lifestyle, walking after dinner (or whatever time works for you), can be one of the best things you do for your health.

Walking is an exercise that helps your entire body and also keeps your weight in check. It also makes your knees strong, which you would really be thankful for in the old age.

And of course, you need to measure how many steps you take. Get yourself a good pair of walking shoes and, if possible, a good fitness band that will count your daily activity and number of steps. Note how active you’re and then try and increase that activity.

While this is something you do out of office, it has a great impact when you’re in office. It helps you keep healthy and improves concentration.

These are six simple habits that you can adopt right away and see the benefits.

9 Common Mistakes to Avoid when Creating Executive Dashboards

Mistakes While Creating Executive Dashboards

Recently, I got a chance to work on creating an executive dashboard.

By an executive dashboard, I mean a dashboard that is used by executives to get relevant data in one place and make a decision based on the dashboard results.

Since it was data intensive, I used Excel to create it and then used specific views from it and presented it using PowerPoint. I have learned over the years that executives react favorably to dashboards presented using PowerPoint.

Now creating an Excel dashboard is a long process and it takes certain skill and experience to get the work done.

Here, I want to share what I have learned in the process of building a dashboard and mistakes to avoid when working on one.

Choosing the Wrong Metrics

Most of the time, those who are tasked to create an executive dashboard for their organizations make the mistake of including all metrics that are set by the company. While it is imperative that you consistently check your standing vis-à-vis your business goals, you have to make sure that only the relevant metrics appear on the board. Make sure that you include only the valuable metrics by choosing those that are directly aligned with your core objectives and the efforts that individual executives make towards achieving them.

Make sure that you include only the valuable metrics by choosing those that are directly aligned with your core objectives and the efforts that individual executives make towards achieving them.

Now the big question is, how to know what are the right metrics? You can only know this if you keep the objective of the dashboard in mind. Ask your clients/management on how they would be using the dashboard and what questions would this dashboard answer.

Only when you have a clear understanding of the objective, can even begin to think of the metrics that would be needed.

Trying to Include Data Just because it is Available

We live in the age of big data is more often than not, you are inundated with relevant and irrelevant data.

When creating a dashboard, don’t try to include everything just because you have the data. Ask the question – is this data helping me in answering the key questions. My suggestion is to only keep the data that is 100% relevant.

Overloading the Wireframe with Too Much Formatting Guidelines

Designers often make the mistake of thinking that colorful prototypes are what the end users want. This cannot be farther from the truth.

The creative dashboard should be kept as simple as possible. If you are to use colors, you have to make sure that it has something to do with signifying points for contrast among the elements on the dashboard. The function is the primary concern here, so focus on detailing the requirements of the organizational tasks at hand.

Not Making the Dashboard Interactive

When you design an executive dashboard, you need to consistently go back to the function of the tool.

With this being said, the dashboard has to include functionalities that will empower the users to customize their views depending on the kinds of information that they need at a certain moment.

This helps as while you are presenting the insights, your audience may ask questions that can be answered by simply changing the view of the dashboard.

This is why you need to make the dashboard as interactive as possible. Ensure that you include the necessary details and functions that will help the users gather relevant information with just a few clicks.

Failing to Add Provisions for Data Context

Yes, executives are mainly inclined towards using numeric data to create decisions and to plot out their next steps; but this does not mean that number exist in a void. The dashboard is, after all, a tool for tactical analysis. For this reason, you need to ensure that you include a provision that your clients may use to add and acquire the context surrounding the figures.

To be on the safe side, so a preliminary interview and ask the organization what their benchmarks are for evaluating the numbers. This will help you ensure that you produce a design that will include features for proper analysis.

Not Using the Right Data Representations

When creating a dashboard, you are always limited by the real estate you can use on the screen.

Ideally, you would want to use the tables or charts that your audience is familiar with. At the same time, you need to make sure that the data or charts are the right ones that answer the question your management or client are looking to answer using the dashboard.

While creating a data representation, you need to see if you can minimize the use of space while still showing the same level of details. For example, you can use comparitive charts that plot more than one type of data in the same chart.

Not using the Organization’s Business Plan as the Foundation

It is the executives’ main task to create a business plan that will propel the organization forward. As a designer, it is your task to ensure that you produce an executive dashboard that will help them achieve what they plan to achieve for their business.

Creating a board that fails to take the overall plan into account will render the exercise moot. You have to ensure that you produce a design that will allow users to assess real-time standing versus the plans that they have for their organization.

Showing Too Many Alerts

Believe it or not, alerts can be counterproductive at times. Imagine working on something and consistently receiving alerts that divide your attention and divert your focus.

As much as you can, try to keep alerts at the minimum. Have a sit-down discussion with your clients and determine which actions require immediate actions; and use your findings to design your alert mechanisms.

Ignoring User Feedback

The ultimate test of your design lies on how user-friendly it is. This is why you should do some beta tests and make the necessary adjustments based on your findings.

Feedback from people who are within the organization will help you optimize your design. By taking their opinions into account, you will surely be able to create an executive dashboard that people in the organization will be delighted to use.

Google Apps – A powerful Suite of Free Tools

Unfortunately Paul - Google Apps Utility

Over the past couple of months, I have been exploring the different tools in the Google Apps Suite.

And I must say I am quite impressed with the way these tools have been developed and improved over the years.

For those of you who don’t know what Google Apps is, it is a free set of tools that you get when you create a Google account. Now I am sure you have heard about Gmail, and when you create a Gmail account, you also get access to a set of additional (FREE) tools. These additional tools are called Google Apps.

Now I am sure you have heard about Gmail, and when you create a Gmail account, you also get access to a set of additional (FREE) tools. These additional tools are called Google Apps.

The Rising Popularity of Google Apps

Now you don’t need to use all the apps in the G Suite, but if you’re a working professional like me, you may find it worthwhile to check out the ones listed below:

Google Docs

Google Docs is a web-based word processor and have similar functionalities as Microsoft Word.

In my opinion, this even goes a step further when it comes to features and flexibility of a word processor. The fact that multiple people can collaborate and work on the same Google Docs document is amazing.

It’s immensely helpful when creating project proposals and plans. All I need to do is share the link with my team and my manager and they can leave their comments in the same document. It saves time as there is no hassle to attach and send these in emails and worry about the version control of the document.

Google Slides

I find Google Slides useful but Google needs to do some catching up here if you compare it with PowerPoint.

The basic functionalities are all there and the ability to collaborate with other people in the same document is great. However, there are numerous minor functionalities where PowerPoint excels.

The big advantage of Google Slides is that it’s free (just like all the other Google Apps). So if you’re a freelancer or a teacher, and don’t want to get a hole in your pocket, Google Slides is a great way to make presentations. You can also convert existing PowerPoint slides to the Google Slide format and use these.

Google Sheets

Just like Google Slides, Google Sheets lags considerably in functionalities when compared with MS Excel. And in my opinion, I don’t see Google Sheets catching up with Excel anytime soon (especially with Microsoft Excel team coming up with so many new features such as Power Pivot and BI).

However, there are two reasons that work for Google Sheets and has led to an increasing level of adoption by freelancers, educators, and small businesses.

The first reason is the price. Since Google Sheets is free of cost, it makes sense to use it for simple stuff such as data entry and management. To use MS Excel, you need to purchase a license and that may not be worth it if you only need to get basic stuff done.

The second reason is that Google Sheets have done a great job in having almost all the function that Excel has, and in some cases, even have some additional functions.

You can create simple templates in Google Sheets and share these with your team members or employees. Creating such templates that can be accessed from anywhere by a fixed set of people can drastically improve the productivity and streamline operations.

One area where Google Sheets lags is the online support. You may not find many forums of blogs on Google Sheets Tips and tutorials (while the internet is full of the Excel ones).

Google Forms

Now this one is where Google is far superior to others.

There is a form option available by Microsoft as well, but Google Forms is easier to the user and more advanced in functionalities. A big benefit of Google forms is that you can connect it to Google Sheets easily. This allows you to quickly collect responses from other people in minutes and then compile these in Google Sheets. It’s extremely popular among small and mid sized business and I have seen many big marketers use it to reach out to their audience and get their response.

It’s extremely popular among small and mid sized business and I have seen many big marketers use it to reach out to their audience and get their response.

Google Drive

Another great product from the Google stable.

It’s very popular and used by millions, however, still lacks behind Dropbox in popularity.

The best part of Google Drive is that you get 15 GB of free space with each Google account. As an individual, it’s more than sufficient, but if you are looking for paid options, you may consider Dropbox. I have used both Google Drive and Dropbox and prefer the latter. One benefit of Google Drive is that you can easily store your Google Sheets, Slides, and Docs documents in Google Drive. Also, if you take the Google Apps subscription, you get more space in Google Drive.

One benefit of Google Drive is that you can easily store your Google Sheets, Slides, and Docs documents in Google Drive. Also, if you take the Google Apps subscription, you get more space in Google Drive.

As I continue to work with Google Apps, I am convinced of its utility. As a package, I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes more popular than its counterparts.

7 Common MS Excel Questions Interviewer Asks

Excel questions for Interviews

MS Excel is the most popular Microsoft spreadsheet app all over the world, with billions of users using it to perform several functions. Most offices hence rely on the application for many day-to-day tasks.

Consequently, every job nowadays requires you to have functional knowledge of Excel.

Anytime you are applying for any job that needs any form of data entry, analysis, or calculations; chances are you will be required to have, at least, a basic knowledge of MS Excel.

Below are 7 Common MS Excel Questions Interviewer Asks, and which you should expect at an interview.

  1. What is MS Excel and what core functions does it perform?

Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet app which you can use to record, manipulate, analyze and store data. The sections in which data is stored are called cells. Each cell is uniquely identified, depending on its column and row value. The cells can be manipulated arithmetically using core and complex functions and operations. Besides its standard spreadsheet feature, MS Excel provides programming support through VBA (Visual Basic Applications), as well as extensive charting and graphics capabilities.

  1. What do you know about Excel Pivot table?

Pivot tables are Excel’s powerful features that allow a user to extract the significant from a large detailed data set. It provides an excellent way of summarizing, analyzing, exploring and presenting data. It is also very simple to create. However, when you add either a new row or new column to any of the source data, the pivot table is not updated because the lately added data lies outside the range of the underlying data of the Pivot table. You can overcome this limitation by either manually refreshing the source data or providing a dynamic range to the pivot table. To provide a dynamic range create a Named range by use of Offset function, and use the Named range to base the pivot table.

  1. What role do Dashboards play in MS Excel?

Dashboards track metrics, KPIs, among other data points in a single visual, central place. Therefore, besides giving you a high-level view of work, dashboards help you make fast decisions while at the same time helping you keep everyone updated. Its visual nature gives you an at-a-glance view of performance in real-time and simplifies complex data. They are composed of charts, tables, numbers, and gauges. You can use dashboards in spreadsheets for a variety of purposes in a wide range of industries including making marketing dashboards, financial dashboards, project dashboards, and much more.

  1. How can you add cells, rows, and columns in Excel?

To insert a row, column or cell in Excel, right click on what you would like to add to and select Insert from the menu. The insert menu enables you to add a cell, row or column, and shifts the cell affected down or right. You can add a comment to the newly added cell to clarify any formula used, its purpose, or leave notes for other users by right-clicking on the cell and, choosing insert comment from the resulting menu.

  1. Explain some data formats in MS Excel

The most common data formats are currency, numbers, and dates. The currency format is a specialized number presentation that stores data in a particular currency form. Number format stores info as a number, and can include decimal values as well as separators for big numbers exceeding 999. Date format, on the other hand, allows you to store data as dates for purposes of calculations and formulas.

  1. What is the Ribbon as used in MS Excel?

A Ribbon refers to a section that runs along the top of the app containing toolbars and menu items available in the Excel. It has various tabs that in turn include groups of commands to be used in the application. You can maximize or minimize the Ribbon by just pressing CTRL F1.

  1. How can you use MS Excel to analyze a group of data?

MS Excel allows us to create various types of charts, such as column and line charts, or even adding a small graph. You can also create a Pivot Table, insert totals quickly, apply table styles or even use conditional formatting to come up with useful features of the data you are analyzing. For instance, you can quickly label all values less than a particular value, say average, in your data by using the IF function. This feature enables you to perform analysis of information in the shortest time possible.

These are some of the common Excel interview questions that you are better off knowing if you have mentioned as one of your strong skills.

Useful Tips To Create a Powerful Resume For Your Next Job

Resume Writing and Elements

Looking for a job? You’ll need a resume.

This is a formal document containing a summary of your qualifications – education and work experience – that are relevant for the job you want. The goal of the resume, also know and a curriculum vitae or CV is to get you through the door and to a job interview.

The resume is used by a potential employer to make the first screening of candidates for a job. Because of this, you want your resume to present your qualifications accurately and to be eye-catching and well-written. You don’t have much of an opportunity to make a positive impression.

Your competition may be pretty stiff. Often, an employer will receive hundreds of resumes for one job opening. You need to hit a home run with your resume. It needs to make that all important great first impression so you will be the one that is picked in the end.

Maybe you are stuck and unsure how best to format your resume. Maybe you aren’t sure what to include. You can get sample resumes for just about any job opening online. Download a bunch of specific examples you can then use to fine-tune your own resume. You’ll have a better chance of getting that job you want if your resume is tailored properly to the position.

There are even sites that help you format your resume to make it more eye-catching and attractive. You can also go to sites like to download free samples and formats for a different type of positions.

Most employers will ask you to submit an e-resume or electronic resume. This is done online or more frequently via email. Resumes are then scanned electronically for keywords. It’s crucial for your resume to emphasize the appropriate keywords for the position you are seeking.

The scanner is programmed to look for specific words. If your resume has these words, you have a better chance to be selected. How to get the keywords right? Sit down and list out your goals, skills for the job you want, and how these goals and skills might be described. Put your resume into the appropriate format and include these keywords when you compose the various descriptive passages.

Resume Writing Tips

Your first step in landing your dream job is to create the best resume you can. It’s important that you not skimp on this step. You never get a second chance at a first impression.

  1. Use the appropriate format – There are two major formats used in resumes. These are chronological and functional. For applications within a field where you have relevant work experience, it is best to use the chronological format as this allows you to showcase your work history. The functional format is best used when you are looking at moving into a different field of work as it enables you to focus on your strengths and the skills that you are able to take with you, rather than limiting you to a particular area.
  2. Be specific with your details – Many people begin their resume with statements that are too general, such as “sold used vehicles” or “negotiated claims settlements”. When you provide actual details it will improve your resume: for example, “Within the first 12 weeks of employment I was successful in selling 20 motor vehicles” or “Successful in increasing overall customer satisfaction by 25% through negotiations in claim settlements.”
  3. Accuracy is vital – Avoid the temptation to stretch the truth in order to make a good impression. Your claims must use accurate numbers: you cannot build a successful career using false claims.
  4. Be Precise – Take the time to proofread your resume. Errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar indicate that you are careless and will result in rejections. It is essential that you have a well-crafted resume. If you have any doubts, ask another person to check it for you: quite often they will find something that you may have overlooked.
  5. Brevity is Important – Take care that your resume is not verbose. Make sure that every word is important – it is far too easy to see that a resume that uses superfluous language is lacking in substance.
  6. Make Sure your Resume is Error Free: A spelling error or a badly constructed sentence can kill your chances at a job interview. Once you have created a resume, make sure you check and recheck it thoroughly. Also, take help of tools such as Grammarly or ProwritingAid to make sure your written text is error-free and impactful. While Grammarly can help you get rid of misspelled words, ProwritingAid would help you create better sentences and improve the readability of your resume.

Remember that even a resume that is well written is not likely to get you the job on its own. You also need to address the job search process