You don’t need shiny new apps and websites if you’re looking to get your life organized. All you need is the trusty spreadsheet. With Google Sheet’s sharing capabilities and some solid, easy-to-use templates, you can stay on top of your budget, schedule, to-do list, and more.
Why Google Sheets?
While you can easily use Microsoft Excel to manage your life, there are several good reasons to use Google Sheets.
You can share and collaborate: By its very nature, Google Drive is all about sharing. Whether you’re using Google Sheets for personal or work purposes, you can easily share everything with your family or colleagues.
You get simultaneous updates: Everything happens in realtime. You can see changes as they are being made.
You avoid duplicates: While you can use cloud sharing to work on one master document, using Google Sheets helps you avoid the confusing mess of duplicate copies.
You can use free templates: Google Sheets has a template gallery, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel or figure out spreadsheet formulas if that’s not your thing. If you’re striving for simplicity, stick with Google’s templates.
To open the templates, go to Google Drive > Click the blue New button > Hover over the arrow next to Google Sheets > Click From a template.
You can generate reports: This is also a feature you’ll get with Excel, but nonetheless worth noting. If you’re a visual person or just like to get a general overview of what you’re doing, you can use your Google Sheets data to generate reports, charts, and more.
You save time with automation: Like with Excel, if you have repetitive items that constantly appear in your spreadsheets, you can create dropdown menus for your cells. You can use conditional formatting to automatically change the appearance of cells based on their contents. And of course, you can use formulas to automatically generate data.
Everything in its right place: Radiohead references aside, you can use Google Sheets to keep everything in one place—giving you fewer apps to check, and in the process, saving yourself a lot of time.
There are plenty of reasons you might opt for Google Sheets over Excel, and vice versa. But if you find that Excel is the better fit, you can still use the following ideas in your quest for spreadsheet perfection.
And of course, all of this advice comes with the understanding that you are placing personal information in the cloud and where you may also be granting third parties access to your personal data.
Get Your Expenses Under Control With Google Sheets
Spreadsheets were made for budgets. Whether you’re tracking monthly or yearly expenses, Google Sheets has you covered.
With a few spreadsheet formulas, you can automatically calculate how much you’re earning, how much you’re spending, and understand where your money is going.
If you’re looking for something straightforward and easy to use, stick to Google’s templates: they provide a personal monthly and annual budget spreadsheet, as well as a business budget courtesy of Intuit Quickbooks.
For the monthly budget, there are two sheets: one is a summary that uses formulas to calculate your expenses and income. The other is where you log your incoming and outgoing transactions.
When using this spreadsheet, make sure that you only change cells that are highlighted pink:
- Customize your planned expenses and their categories, as well as your planned income and their types.
- Add expenses and income on the transaction sheet.
- As you add items to the transactions sheet, the other fields in the summary sheet will be automatically filled.
This is a great way to see at a glance if you are going over budget for any given month, and in what category.
At the end of each month you can add your monthly numbers to the annual budget spreadsheet.
- The first thing you’ll need to do is enter your starting savings balance in the Setup sheet.
- In the Expenses sheet, fill in your monthly expenditure for each category.
- In the Income sheet, fill in your monthly income for each type.
- The Summary sheet, which shouldn’t be edited, will be automatically populated with your data based on your expenses and income, and includes a line graph to visualize your expenses and income over the year.
If you want something a little more elaborate, you can import Excel spreadsheet templates and use them in Google Sheets. There is no limit to the financial planning spreadsheet templates out there. And if none of these work for you, you can create a budget spreadsheet yourself.
Manage Your Task List With Google Sheets
There are TONS of ways to keep track of your to-do list – whether it’s with digital apps on your phone or computer or using a bullet journal, or even just a scrap of paper that you somehow manage to not lose.
In an effort to keep everything in one place, you could simply opt for a Google Sheets to-do list.
Google’s template is again a straightforward and easy-to-use option. It consists of only three columns: a column to mark the task as completed (using an x), a date, and information on the task itself.
Completed tasks are automatically crossed out, but you will continue to see them on the list.
You can change the formatting of completed tasks using Google Sheets’ conditional formatting feature. For example, you can change the color of the text or the fill for that cell. And if you find that your to-do list is getting cluttered, you can right-click rows and select Hide Row to dismiss completed items without deleting them.
Given the collaborative nature of Google Sheets, you can also create a column for ownership of the task. That way, members of a team know what everyone else is working on.
Other columns you can add include priority status and a due date.
Get Your Time Back With Google Sheets
This is another one of those things that may be better served with an app, or even another Google offering in Google Calendar.
But again, if you’re trying to wrangle your life into some semblance of organization – reducing the number of apps you have to use and simplifying things could be a good approach.
Google Calendar’s Schedule template offers you an easy way to log your daily appointments and tasks. You could even do away with the to-do list if you want to tie your daily tasks down to specific blocks of time.
You could also use this schedule to do some calendar blocking. Making an effort to understand where each hour of your day goes—including sleep—is a good way to come to terms with whether you’re using your time wisely or not.
Another way you can figure out where your time goes is using a timesheet. Log how many hours you spend on projects, tasks, chores, and more.
The template for a weekly timesheet includes two sheets.
The first sheet: Log the date range and hours spent on each day for a variety of projects. The sheet comes with four projects pre-populated. But, you can insert rows above the Total Hours row if you need more.
The second sheet: This shows a visual summary of how much time you’re spending on each project per week and how many hours you’re working per day.
More Creative Ideas You Can Try
You don’t have to stop there. You can use Google Sheets for one off projects or events, for the mundane tasks you don’t want to do but know have to be done, and so much more:
- Google Sheets offers a travel planning template with an agenda where you can fill in transport, accommodation, and event plans. Vertex’s Travel Budget Worksheet is another handy template to add to your arsenal.
- Google Sheets has a mammoth wedding planning spreadsheet. It has just about everything you’ll need to plan your big day: budgets, guest lists, to-dos, and more. If you have a big event coming up, use the wedding planner template and adjust it for your needs.
- Need to create a pro/con list a la Rory Gilmore? Google has you covered for that too.
- Trying to be mindful of what you eat? Use Vertex’s Meal Planner or Food Diary. Couple that with a Weight Loss chart if you’re trying to lose a few pounds.
- Use a Chore Chart to organize your household work.
Look at the list of templates list. You will realize that there’s so much more you could do to get organized. Once you have all the information in Google Sheets, you can use visualizations to understand all the data you’ve saved.