How You Free Up Weeks of Your Life

Come back with me to 1997. A brilliant early February Monday morning. Alexander aged eight, was in his school uniform. So were my twins Samantha and Daniel, aged five, it was their first day at school. This meant I was home alone with just the triplets Elizabeth, Aaron and Matthew (aged two). Well at least until 3:30ish.

So I did what any sane mother would do. I decided to start a home based marketing consultancy that day.

Fast forward to Thursday.  I’m sitting in the living room, on my laptop, working with an Excel spreadsheet. My husband Steve walks into the room and peers over my shoulder for a few moments. He says with bemusement “what are you doing Debbie?” “Oh honey” I moaned, “I want to do my first newsletter tomorrow and personalise it. I have 300 names here but I stupidly put the name in one column. So now I have to split them apart into first and last names”. I had copied the column of names into a second column and I was deleting the persons last name out of the first column, then their first name out of the second one.

Have you ever done that copy paste delete dance?  Copy paste delete delete. Copy paste delete delete. Copy paste delete delete.

“Don’t do that!” Steve said. “Use text to columns”

“Text to columns? What’s that?” I asked

“Let me show you” he said.

That simple computer trick saved me an hour that night. And it changed my life. Literally.


It showed me how little we know our software. How we don’t know the diamonds hiding behind the menus and ribbons, waiting for us to use them to save time, eliminate repetition, help make us more successful.

At that moment I became a modern crusader. I started my quest for the holy grail of the new millennium. How to save time. From that moment on when anything repetitious in nature had to be done on the computer – I made myself I stop. Question. And search for a quicker, smarter, better way. Either through the Microsoft’ help question mark; and more easily now through the omnipotent ‘Mr G’ where you’ll find 42 articles and 17 videos showing you the how. The end result now is that I can honestly say now that in general with Excel problems I can accomplish in 15 minutes what takes others three staff members and three days to do. I can manage a significant volume of emails in a few moments whereas others it would take at least an hour or two.

By the way you’ll find text to columns in the Excel Data Ribbon

My advice? Make time to save time.

  1. I have a new 16-week 3-minute lesson online learning program here
  2. Go to the library or book store and find the how-to books that suit your style of learning
  3. Tack on a share a tip section to your staff meeting (and encourage staff – people always feel that everyone is doing ‘that’ already, but as you know it’s definitely not the case