The Spreadsheet Spotlight is a periodic series where I provide knowledge of a spreadsheet I use, why it's valuable, and how you can leverage it too. Reading the Spreadsheets and You article first will help you get the most of this Spreadsheet Spotlight post and all the previous ones found here.
I have hot dreams about spreadsheets.
There. I said it.
Confidence. Having your crap together. The ability to slice-and-dice outside the kitchen. Instant access to an external and mobile brain.
These are things that everyone wants, right?
And it's sexy when you get them. I mean, who doesn't find a confident, organized, flexible, smart, and “always-on” person hot?
I guess I'm busted though. The hot dreams about spreadsheets aren't about the spreadsheet itself. They're about the sexiness that's infused by wielding them like a champ.
Now that you're feeling frisky for spreadsheets, let's dive into our first article in the Spreadsheet Spotlight series as promised in my equally stimulating Spreadsheets and You post.
Why This Rocks
It was damn hard picking the first spreadsheet to show off from all the goodies in my secret stash. I decided to highlight this spicy little devil though after much deliberation.
The Home and Auto Maintenance Spreadsheet Purpose
This spreadsheet is actually a “2 for 1” as it covers both home and auto maintenance. This bad boy exists because I didn't want or need to pay for fancy software to track and remind me about my core maintenance tasks. Well, that and I didn't need a complicated, proprietary system for something perfect for a spreadsheet.
You might not own a home like I do or maybe you even have a landlord perform most of your dwelling's maintenance. It doesn't matter though. Someone's gotta be responsible for scheduling, reminding, doing, and tracking maintenance on whatever place you live in.
Besides, even the best home maintenance service or landlord probably won't keep track of the last time your refrigerator water filter was changed (and the details of the replacement part).
Access the Sample Here
Now it's time to pretend Yoda is here and telling me, “Cut to the chase, let us, Joel! Hmmm?” Here are the high-level benefits of this spreadsheet:
- Home and Auto Maintenance: Has stuff like task names, maintenance objects (e.g. microwave, tires), official recommended maintenance frequencies, and actual maintenance frequencies from trusted third-party sources
- Home and/or Auto Maintenance: The ability to sort and filter by interior or exterior tasks, room in the house, last maintenance date, last maintenance mileage, replacement part details and cost, plus more
- Auto Maintenance: Tracking for an unlimited number of cars (take that, paid auto maintenance services!)
Well hey, Yoda. Welcome back. What's that? “Learn how to get most from dashing spreadsheet, read on you must.” Oh. OK then.
How to Use It
First off, you'll need a separate system to notify you when a specific maintenance task is due (or to check the spreadsheet for upcoming/overdue tasks). Google Calendar, Evernote, or a handy notebook should do just fine.
I use Google Calendar for all my reminders and the ability to easily share only maintenance-related tasks with whoever I want. Cutting out the email and text reminders – not to mention the calendar syncing on my smartphone – makes for a super simple set up.
Got the reminder process in place? Word.
Now add events or notifications for the actual maintenance frequency you plan to perform. You can copy my steps for adding a new maintenance task or tweak them however it works best for you.
1. Name the task. I prefer very literal task names so that anyone looking at the spreadsheet can understand them, not just you.
2. (Auto only) Pick a car. The maintenance varies heavily depending on the car, so you'll need to specify which one it is if you have multiple. For example, my 2002 Toyota Camry has tires that last twice as long as the ones on a 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
3. Define the object. This is for what needs to be checked, replaced, modified, cleaned, or otherwise attended to. Examples include a stove, an air conditioner system, pipes, windows, or a brake system component.
4. Determine the action. I like a single word that describes the action needed. Whether it's “clean,” “check,” “replace,” “drain,” or something else, being able to sort and filter by an action is schweet. If your significant other loves to clean or a normally helpful buddy hates to inspect, simply delegate tasks by type of action.
5. Find the “official” (a.k.a. conventional wisdom) recommended maintenance frequency. This could come from many places like an owner's manual, other manufacturer documentation, or a reputable online resource. For example, the conventional wisdom is to still change the oil in your car once every six months or every 3,000 miles.
6. Find the actual maintenance frequency you plan to perform. You'll need to do some research for certain tasks unless you're a professional home inspector or auto mechanic. I believe in changing a car's oil once every year or every 5,000 miles (whichever comes first), but you might use some cool synthetic oil that only requires changing every other century. Use common sense and do your homework now to save yourself wasted time and money later.
7. Document replacement part details. My furnace requires a “201 Furnace Replacement Filter for Aprilaire or Space Guard 2200 and 2250” filter. I doubt yours does though. Think more about the specs for replacement parts. Does the filter performance rating needs to be a “7” or higher because you have dogs or cats and an airborne particular-sensitive kid? Are the filter dimensions flexible or must they be 20″x24″x4″? Bonus points if you document the total previous or current replacement part cost – before discounts and including tax/shipping – so you know the financial damage when you next buy one.
8. Add contextual details. For home maintenance, I like sorting and filtering by interior or exterior tasks (or both like when I wash windows). I also like knowing what room is involved (e.g. bedroom), although you might want to create your own contextual details.
9. Track the date(s), mileage, or another metric for past maintenance. I include the past three maintenance dates for trends and historical reference. Once I have some history, I can compare my actual maintenance to what I've told myself I should be doing. The same philosophy applies to mileage for car maintenance. Other tracking might include maintenance by total cost, the time commitment, or any additional people involved to complete the task besides you. Get creative.
10. (Home only, optional) Document where to find maintenance instructions. I do this in two ways. First, I document where in the physical user manual (assuming I have one) I can find the maintenance instructions. Second, I document where in the online user manual – potentially more relevant and up-to-date than the physical one – I can find the maintenance instructions. You'll get bonus points for adding hyperlinks to quickly access the online instructions. If you want double bonus points, add hyperlinks to unofficial instructions for things like lighting a natural gas fireplace.
11. Add miscellaneous notes. A good spreadsheet almost always has a column for miscellaneous notes. Whether it includes an explanation from your dad about why and when you should trim your trees or some copy and pasted instructions from a user guide, use your all-purpose notes column liberally.
Bada-bing, bada-boom! That's it.
Just don't forget to organize your notification system. Having this badass spreadsheet only helps if you remember to look at it or add tasks from it to a “to-do” tool.
Download the Full Version Now
It includes already completed parts that are relevant to you and everything else all set up to be customized.
Calling All Spreadsheets!
So there you go, my friend.
The last thing to do is pretend that Yoda went away and we're chasing our arch-nemesis in the Batmobile. We're tuned in to the police radio frequency and…what's that?!
There's a call across the radio for all units to send in their most amazing spreadsheets to solve the riddle of catching the villain! Are you going to help stop the forces of complexity, chaos, and financial disarray?
It's time for you (yes, you) to answer that call and help out the rest of this community. None of us can liberate our time, money, and talent alone.
Yeah, I went overboard on the movie/comic book thing. I (sort of) promise it won't happen again.
So do you plan to use this featured spreadsheet or tweak it to be more valuable? Maybe you have an amazing spreadsheet in your secret stash that could help everyone else? Leave a comment and let's get our spreadsheet on!
Photo Credit: Visualogist, Pro-Zak, nickwheeleroz