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This Is Why You Face Obstacles in Learning Microsoft

 You know the data well. You know what you need to write in the report. You have a great idea of how to visually present it.

And then you open Microsoft Excel to start the job. The data is an absolute mess so you start to clean it up, row by row. But it is so much work that you start to feel annoyed.

So, you make a start on the report. You copy data from Excel but it is not formatted correctly. So, you meticulously go through each section and update the formatting to match.

You are almost at the end of the day and you have not completed any of your tasks. You are no closer to completing a visual presentation of the data leaving you feeling fatigued, stressed and frustrated.


If you had attended regular Microsoft training, you would know that you could easily clean data with shortcuts and tools. You would know that you can paste data without formatting or quickly copy formatting with a click of a button.

You would have been able to complete your work without the annoyance, delays or frustrations.

Regardless of your position within a business, continuous learning in Microsoft programs is extremely important so that you can achieve your work with efficiency.

You can boost your competency of desktop applications through annual training sessions, continuous practice, upgrade or new version training, and access to refreshers and tips.

Attend Regular Training Sessions

To be competent in any task you need to ensure that you are constantly learning and maintaining your skills. How can you expect to not face obstacles when using desktop applications if you do not learn how to use them appropriately. It is an unrealistic expectation.

We recommend that you attend regular training sessions so that you can keep up to date with how to best use applications such as Microsoft. Attending these sessions at least once a year will help you to stay on top of the features that will help you to achieve your job.

Microsoft training is designed to empower you to use the programs to the best of your ability and help you to solve any obstacles you face. With training, you will no longer feel incompetent or frustrated.

For example, our Microsoft Excel training starts with an overview of what you already should know. This is designed to provide you with a refresher before we jump in to teach you new techniques and tools. Here is an example of what we start with:

Did you know that you can quickly filter out duplicate records in excel by using the advanced filter options? Literally, with a click of a checkbox you can simply complete a task that otherwise would take you a frustratingly long time.

Source: Save a Million Minutes Email Series from CTSA

In the refresher you will see all the tips that you should now, but maybe don’t remember. While that may seem overwhelming, it is a good reminder of how important regular training is.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Attending regular training sessions will help you to learn new techniques, skills, shortcuts and tools that you can use with Microsoft. But, when you finish the training, it is just as easy to forget what you have learnt as it is to learn it!

Part of continuous learning is that you continually practice what you learned to retain your new skills. It is so easy to complete a task with the processes you a familiar with, even if they are slower processes. If you attend training to learn new techniques and then just continue to use the techniques you are familiar with – what is the point in that? It will only result in a continued feeling of annoyance and frustration.

If you want to feel confident and empowered, you need to constantly practice these new skills. To do this, when you next open any desktop application, such as Microsoft Excel, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  1. “What have I recently learnt?”
  2. “What task am I about to complete and can I apply any of my new learnings?”
  3. “Is there a way that I can better present this work using my new skills?”

These questions help you to find opportunities to practice your new skills and put into action what you learnt. By doing this regularly, you will be retaining your new skills, rather than wasting your time in training.

Try to ensure that you are practicing your skills daily or at least, at a minimum, weekly. Anything less and you risk losing what you have learnt.

Recently upgraded? Attend training!

Outside of yearly training, we also recommend that if you have recently upgraded any desktop application you should also attend a new training session.


Each new version of a desktop application is updated with the features you have been asking for. It isn’t about just refreshing the user interface to a more modern look. It is about supporting you to be able to complete your work more competently.

If you do not attend training for upgraded programs, then you risk utilising a more advanced version with outdated processes or tools. In other words, you risk not learning new features and therefore not taking full advantage of what the version offers.

For example, in the 2013 version of Microsoft Excel, the flash fill feature was released. This feature allowed you to separate specific data in a cell and copy it to a column. You may commonly know the feature as split text to column.

This feature allows you to split content. So, for example, when you need to ‘clean’ data so that you can upload a file to a platform, you can easily split first names and last names into individual columns.

But, if you didn’t do training to learn the new features that the 2013 version had to offer, you wouldn’t know that. You would have continued to do it the ‘old way’. So, instead of saving literally hours on tasks, you would have continued to manually split content such as first names and last names.

This is the risk you take when you do not attend training for new upgrades. Instead, you continue to feel frustrated and annoyed even though the solution is right there on your computer!

Retain your knowledge through refreshers and tips

But, waiting a whole year to attend a refresher training session doesn’t help you to retain your knowledge. Likewise, waiting to upgrade doesn’t help you to maintain your skills. These are great practices to put into place so that you can learn new features and avoid using outdated processes in new versions.

To maintain your skills, we already mentioned that practicing what you have learnt is key. In addition to this practice, you need to remember what these features are.

That is why we created our Save a Million Minutes email series. It is a series of emails that send reminders of what you can achieve with Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word.

Think of it as small opportunities of learning (microlearning) delivered straight to your inbox. Each email provides you with a feature that you can achieve in a Microsoft program and the exact steps you need to execute it.

This is designed so that you can retain your knowledge of the features that are packed into desktop applications. It helps you to stay up to date, maintain your skills and retain your knowledge.

The advanced filter example above is the standard of emails you would expect. And, below is another example for you.

Including calculations in a Document 

Microsoft Word can perform calculations similar to Excel.  To display the results of a formula, use a field code by pressing CTRL + F9.  This will display an empty field code { }

For example, in a report you type “At a rate $45 per hour for 35 hours per week you would expect $XXXX”. Instead of navigating away from Word, you can complete the formula directly in the sentence by entering ${=45*35 \#,##0}.  This then displays $1,575 into your report.

By knowing simple features like these, and retaining your knowledge through practice, you can save so much time and stop feeling overworked and frustrated. Dare we say, that you can Save a Million Minutes!

You can sign up here to receive the Save a Million Minutes email series.

The Wrap Up

Of course, you want to feel competent when it comes to using desktop applications. You want to get the job done, not waste your time trying to remember how to do it.

But that doesn’t happen overnight.

Continuous learning of how to use features in these applications will help you to effectively achieve your tasks. Opportunities to learn are available through:

  • Regular training sessions (at least once a year)
  • Creating time and space to practice new features learnt
  • Attending training sessions for specific upgrades or new versions
  • Staying up to date with refreshers and tips

All of this, we offer through our Training as a Service (TaaS). These are live virtual instructor-led training sessions. We will demonstrate how you can improve your use of desktop applications so you can feel empowered and competent.

Click here to learn more about TaaS and request a demo with us.