How to Replace Index Cards With Excel or Google Sheets
Digital index cards can be just as useful, if not more, than paper index cards. That’s what I set out to prove when I share the value of making index cards with Microsoft Word . But the problem with traditional index cards? They aren’t searchable.
One of our commentators on the above article, William Caldwell served us a simple but genius idea: using Excel sheets in place of index cards for better searchability and organization.
Instead of Excel, I prefer Google Sheets because I can access it from anywhere (and Google Sheets is free). This tip also does not need any prior knowledge of spreadsheets. It’s that simple! Let’s see how William turns a single spreadsheet column into a database.
In his own words , this is what you need to do in either Excel or Google Sheets:
- Open a new file or a workbook.
- Change the width of column A to approximately the width of the screen.
- Enter every information you want to save on its own line.
- Give it a 2-4 letter code. (e.g. “Add” for an address or phone number you need to write down, or “Travel” and the name of the B&B you stayed at in Michigan.)
- Save the file.
Thanks to the letter codes, you can do a data sort to put all items together. You can use the search function to find information faster than with a stack of index cards. Also, you can create a new spreadsheet for each year.
You can keep track of any information with a code or a “tag” word. Think of these uses and make up your own as you go along:
- A Christmas gift list
- A database of recipes organized by the main ingredient
- A commonplace document for favorite book snippets arranged by theme
- Anniversaries and birthdays in your extended family
- Track potential clients with a mailing list
My favorite spreadsheet is a commonplace book where I relate ideas mentioned in books to the personal life areas I can apply them to. I can quickly scan down the rows or use a sort to narrow down to the ideas I collected for a specific life area (e.g. motivation).
Is the idea of a simple database too obvious for you? Or have you applied it for storing a particular type of information?