Organize Your Life With Numbers for Mac
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Macs come with Numbers, a spreadsheet program that’s perfect for helping you get organized. Part of the iWork suite 5 Reasons You Should Use iWork Instead of Microsoft Office 5 Reasons You Should Use iWork Instead of Microsoft Office Many long-time Office users will be unwilling to transition away from the apps they're so used to working with, but it's time to give iWork another chance. Read More , Numbers is a better choice over Google Docs and Excel as it is native to your Mac, and has a more convenient interface for designing these sheets.

In addition to getting your life organized, designing spreadsheets should help learn how to use Numbers for a range of tasks. From drawing and designing sheets to making charts, each of these sheets should help you get the basics down.

We’re not diving into conditional formatting or VLOOKUP. So if you’re spreadsheet averse, this will be a great way to get your feet wet.

Note: If you are native to iOS, the steps might be slightly different, but doable. If you save these in iCloud Drive, you can use them on all of your devices.

1. Meal Planner and Food Diary

Weight loss often involves replacing impulse choices with planned meals and snacks. Numbers has a built in Meal Planner template, which even has a shopping list you can use.

The problem is that it is set up for you to have a different breakfast each day, unique snacks as well. For simplicity, we are going to make a more custom design. Click New Document in the Open screen, and then select Blank. There are some default header and footers included, let’s clear these out for now. In the formatting slide-over, which should be up by default, set all the drop-downs under Headers & Footer to 0.

Change the title bar from “Table 1” to “Meal Planner”. We are going to enter the first two cells as Breakfast and Snack. Then highlight them and bold the text, and under the Cell tab of the formatting slide-over select the color fill and select a color for these two cells that will still let the text stand out.

Then take those cells, and the two below them and select the box border and increase the weight of the line until it is visible using the sizing on the bottom right. Around 1 pt should be sufficient for it to stand out.

Fill the rest of the top two rows with the same color as the Breakfast and Lunch cells. Next, we are going to put the days of the week in the third row, starting with the second column. Fill the first cell in the row with a solid color, and below that put Main, Side 1, and Side 2. Then drag the equal sign until the spreadsheet only contains your data cells.

Adding the link to your meal title

So now you should see the basic layout for your meal plan. Then browse for what you want to make, filling out the sheet until it is complete. For each entry, you can make sure you always save the recipe link by highlighting the text and right-clicking, then select Add Link. Then paste the link, and now you can just click the text, and a pop-up will ask you if you want to visit the link.

Now that you have the basic shape down, you can tweak this to accommodate your specific meal plans. Add rows to accommodate more variety for breakfast and lunch, though make sure to clean up the top of the spreadsheet to avoid confusion.

You can also go one step further and add calorie counts to each meal, then sum them at the bottom to track your progress. If you want to keep track of your week to week intake, save your blank template in the first sheet, then copy it into new tabs each week. This also should help you get the basics of creating new sheets in Numbers.

2. Project and To-Do List

Right after losing weight, getting organized is the next biggest to-do Get Things Done With 3 Tiny Changes To Your Day Get Things Done With 3 Tiny Changes To Your Day There will be good days and bad days, productive and unproductive ones. You can tilt the scales in favor of the productive days by making some simple changes to your routine. Read More . We are going to set up a template to track projects, goals, current reading and learning, as well as a daily to-do list.

Open another blank file, and clear all the headers and footers. Hide the title by right clicking it and choosing Hide Table Name. Then select the first line by clicking on the 1 on the left. Click the Cell tab in the Format slide over, and select a color to fill the line. In the first cell, type “To-Do list”. Set the style for this text in the Text tab in the slide over.

To-Do List

Next, we are going to create the rest of our to-do list. Select the number of cells you want in your list. (I use around 20, as I use the same list for work and home to-do’s each day.) In the Cell tab of the slide over, change the Data Format to Checkbox. Then we are going to want to make the rest of the line a single text box, select the rest of the cells in line 2.  In the Table menu, select Merge Cells. Next, copy the merged cells with Cmd + C. Select the rest of the cells in your to-do list, excluding the checkboxes, and paste the merged cells with Cmd + V.

numbers todo

Then box off the to-do list by highlighting it. We are going to draw the inside first, go to the Cell tab of the slide over and under border increase the weight to 1 pt, and select the complete outline on the upper right. Then re-select the box and increase the rate to 2 pt, and select the outline in the upper right to draw the border. Then, repeat that step with your title bar.


Next, we are going to make our project lists. I am breaking up mine into three lists. Paste your title from the to-do list into the line below it, changing the label to Projects. Then select the six lines below your label and fill it out with the same color as your title bar. I am using “Work”, “Home”, and “Personal” to label mine, put these across the first line alternating with “Current Task”. (If you only want to track work projects, lay out the project and current task as two larger columns using the Merge Cells steps from above.) Repeat the outline steps from above.

Tracking Lists

Next we are going to create our tracking lists for Learning and Reading 5 Tips To Read More Books Every Year 5 Tips To Read More Books Every Year There are just so many amazing books out there. To never have finished at least some is a regret waiting to be felt. Forestall it by reading more and reading smart with the following tips. Read More . These are optional, and if there is something else you are looking to track for yourself, put them here. Some other ideas could be home improvement projects, important dates, exercise schedule or frequent contacts.

numbers projects

Select the first two cells of the next line and merge them, then repeat that with each of the next five lines as well. In the first line enter the title, Reading List. Create the borders for the box, then paste it into the next set of columns as well, change the title to Learning. Paste it one more time, changing the title to Goals. There should be one final column, fill it with the same color and enter “Due”. You may need to adjust the text to match the title of the other areas.

Finally, adjust the size of the table to the bottom of the last cell. So if you are a single task manager kind of person, you can now just run with this tab as your main list, adjusting the to-do list each day. If you prefer to start fresh each day, then use this as a template and paste it into a new tab each day.

3. Daily Schedule

We are going to take a small pit stop here for something much easier, a daily schedule. You may not tweak this as much as your to-do list and project tracker, but it is nice to have a map for your week. With a day job, my week is probably a bit more routine than most. It might be even better just to create one as a log of what you are doing currently. Then you can try and find places you can save a bit of time to work on your next DIY project The 11 Best Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners The 11 Best Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners These Raspberry Pi projects for beginners are great for getting started with the capabilities of any Raspberry Pi model. Read More or more time to read MUO.

Open another blank sheet, and clear out the headers and footers. Then hide the title again. Add a column to the right-hand side by clicking inside the sheet and dragging the column indicator to the right. Next fill the top right cell with a solid color. This gives us the basic shape for our chart.

numbers schedule

Next add the hours you are awake along the left column. I went with 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM, but you may have a different schedule. Put your days across the top. Then fill in your activities, and you will have a picture of your week. Tweak it to find the right balance you are looking for.

You can get a bit more granular and break it down to half-hours (you will need to add some more rows of course). If your work days are predictable, you can fill in that time as well. My schedule is more for organizing my time when I am not at work, but you may want to focus on your 9-to-5. It’s nothing terribly complex, but will let you get a handle on what you’re doing with your days.

4. Basic Budget

A crucial step in getting organized is getting your finances in order 7 Great Financial Resolutions for 2016, and How to Keep Them 7 Great Financial Resolutions for 2016, and How to Keep Them If you choose the right resolutions, though, and use the right tools, you should be able to make a big positive difference in your finances this year. Read More . There are a few budgeting templates built into Numbers, but they all serve slightly different purposes. So it is probably best if we just start from another blank template. Create it, clear the header and footer, and then hide the title.

Our budget is going to be different tabs, the basic breakdown of each paycheck. The second tab is a list of the bills, and when they are paid. This budget assumes a weekly paycheck with similar payouts each week. You may need to tweak this a bit to make it fit your situation.

Paycheck Breakdown

For our first sheet, right click the tab at the top and select rename then enter “Paycheck”. Select the top line and fill with a solid color. In the first cell, enter “Weekly Budget” and bold the text. Next, break down your total check, the amount you pay in bills each week, what you want to set aside for savings, as well as specific expenses you set aside like groceries and gas/transit fees. Label these in the first column, and then put your figures in the second.

numbers paycheck

To find what remains for personal spending, we are going to build our first formula. Enter “=” in the cell and the formula builder should pop up. Enter “SUM B2-(B3+B4+B5+B6)” to find out how much you can blow on apps, coffee, records, and beer this week. We can then make a chart showing the spending breakdown by highlighting rows 3–7 and clicking Chart in the toolbar.

In the popover, select the pie chart (you can change the color scheme of your chart by sliding to the right). The chart will appear under your spreadsheet, click and drag it up next to your data. You should now see your types of spending broken down by percentage of your budget.

Bill Summary

To add our next set of data, we are going to add another tab. Click the plus sign in the toolbar to create a new sheet. Rename that to “Bills” and clear out the header and footers. I know we are recreating them, but it is better to be in control of the fill, and other details. Expand the sheet out to fourteen columns. You may need to adjust the number of rows depending on how many bills you pay each month.

Highlight the first five cells in the first row, and fill them with a solid color. Then label them: “Bill”, “Amount”, “Pay On”, and “Due Date”. Next fill out the bills you are paying, with “Pay On” being the week you pay that bill. Finally, at the top of the next column, fill out the first four cells with paycheck 1 total, paycheck 2 total, paycheck 3 total, and paycheck 4 total.

numbers bills

Then, we are going to total what we pay each week using a SUMIF formula. Next to your label, enter “=SUMIF(C,1,B)” which totals up all of the bills that you want to pay with each paycheck. Paste the formula into the next four sheets, making sure to change the second value to match which week you are evaluating.

In the last three columns, detail out your recurring subscriptions and total them up by month and year. This way you can see what you are paying each month/year, just to make sure all of your recurring subscriptions are listed out somewhere. Break them down by monthly and yearly renewals, and note which credit card they are on. Then do a quick sum for each category. At this stage, you might be shocked at how much you are spending.

Once you have the basics, there is some further tweaking you can do. Adding tabs to track account balances and spending on individual credit cards would help you see if your payments are making a difference in reducing your debt. Experiment and find what type of tracking works best for you.

What About Apps?

I am sure at this point you have probably rolled your eyes more than a few times and said that there are already apps that do all of this and do it better. Building each of these invests you in the process far more than just downloading another to-do app or budgeting app. Once you have mastered the process, then feel free to move on to an app.

Numbers will never be as powerful as Excel, but its design approach allows you to make friendly and approachable sheets for home and work. Each of these projects should have gotten you further into the basics of Numbers.

Do you use Numbers? How do you organize your life?

Image Credit: Maxx Satori via Shutterstock

Explore more about: Budget, iWork, Organization Software, Spreadsheet.

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  1. Phil
    January 11, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    A good concept, but the screenshots are unreadable. Also there are several inconsistencies in the instructions.