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How to Maximize Efficiency with Apple Numbers: Insider Tips for Boosting Productivity

Dive into the world of Apple Numbers and transform the way you manage data. Discover essential tips and tricks that will skyrocket your productivity and make spreadsheet tasks a breeze.

Apple Numbers App Icon

Mac laptops and desktops are packed with quality-of-life features that simplify the workflow of entrepreneurs and creators alike. One feature that I feel often gets overlooked is the Numbers App. Apple's take on popular spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, is a fresh take on how we view large amounts of data.

Learning any new software can feel like an uphill battle, however. Today I want to cover some of the features that make the Numbers App stand out from its competition, and in the Focus Forge way, how we can leverage those features to make our lives more productive and organized.

Apple Numbers vs. Excel

It's not a reach to say that when you hear spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel is probably the first thing that comes to mind. This tried classic has been around since 1985, cementing its place in corporate America's accounting books.

Apple Numbers vs Excel

Originally included with the iWork suite in 2007, Apple's Numbers App sacrificed some functions found in Excel in exchange for a more minimal appearance that Apple is known for. This simplicity still packs a punch when it comes to more complex analysis tools, and displays it in a much more organized way.

The biggest difference you'll notice between the two is while Excel starts you off with a near infinite-sized spreadsheet, the Numbers App is blank, showing a small table in the top left-hand corner. This table can be expanded to meet whatever spreadsheet size you may need, but the white canvas gives users a feeling of freedom when it comes to how sheets are organized.

Another standout difference between the two is the Numbers App tends to use Apple's drag-and-drop system whereas Excel opts for a more manual way of entering data. Both have their pros and cons, but as we'll see in a moment, Numbers offers a number of features that make a world of difference for freelancers and other entrepreneurs.

A Quick Apple Numbers Tutorial

Every new Numbers spreadsheet will start you off with a small blank table. Along the top of your spreadsheet you will see the menu bar with 7 main actions: insert, table, chart, text, shape, image, and comment. These are the core tools you use to build both complex and simple spreadsheets.

Apple Numbers Main Menu

One of the most convenient things that has come to Numbers in recent years has to do with the comment button. Using iCloud, Numbers allows multiple users to interact simultaneously on the same sheet. This can be invaluable when you are working with a team!

To the right of your main menu are 2 additional options for formatting and organizing. Think of the 7 menu items as Step 1 to any kind of changes you want to make on your spreadsheet and the Format and Organize buttons as Step 2. For example, you may wish to insert a chart. After clicking the chart icon and choosing the type of chart you want, you can select that chart and click Format. This will give you additional options for how the chart looks, what data is shown, and so much more.

A man using Apple Numbers on a MacBook
Unsplash: Campaign Creators

As you begin to play around with the features on each sheet, you may start to see ways in which those features could help organize a part of your life. If you're struggling to understand how to format things correctly, there's another tool included in Numbers that you won't find as easily for Excel; templates.

Using Apple Numbers Templates to Make Quick Work

If you find yourself overwhelmed with creating a spreadsheet that makes sense, Apple has included over a dozen templates to get you started. In addition to these built-in templates, Apple Numbers has an active community that is always coming up with creative new templates.

As a business owner or freelancer, it may be difficult to find time to create all-encompassing spreadsheets, especially as your business starts to grow. Templates are a fantastic way to save time and energy. Focus Forge actually offers a Monthly Budget Template for Numbers users. This is the template I originally created for my own personal finances. After months of figuring out what worked best for me, I made some adjustments and now it's available to anyone.

Focus Forge Monthly Budget
An Overview of the Focus Forge Monthly Budget Template

The best part about templates is they have infinite uses. Simply duplicate the original copy and you're good to go for the next week, month, quarter, etc. If you find it tedious to memorize functions or figure out how to link data points together, consider finding a template that's already done it.

Linking Your Business Using Apple Numbers

Any startup founder will tell you how big the mountain of files in your company will grow as the company grows. Focus Forge was born out of my realization of how important it is to stay on top of that organization.

This happens in stages. Today may be about organizing your budget, while tomorrow focuses on cleaning up your filing cabinet. The important thing is to keep finding areas in your setup that can be improved. When it comes to startups, less can often be more.

One thing I like to do with Numbers is keep a "data room" that's like an overview of my company. This may be divided into subsections like marketing, legal, manufacturing, financial, etc. Each of those sections is linked to their own sheets. I keep a table on those individual sheets for things I'm currently working on, things I still need to do, and an archive of old files.

Apple devices with their boxes
Unsplash: Julian O'hayon

Each of these "things" are linked to documents, files, or pictures in my iCloud Drive. While my iCloud Drive is organized in a similar way, my Numbers sheets make it easier for me to see where things are, and keep track of my progress. Even better, while my business partner may not have access to my iCloud storage, he can see my Numbers sheet and follow along with major tasks.

Part of the reason I've enjoyed using Numbers so much is because of how intuitive it is to visualize data. If I have a table filled with expenditures over the month, in two clicks I can have them broken down by category and presented on a pie chart.

Keeping Everything in One Place

A while back I wrote about how critical it is to keep everything you have in one centralized place. It doesn't matter where that one place is, what matters is that you stick to it. For a long time that place for me was Google Drive. This is a great option for anybody, especially if you're on a budget. But as I slowly began to move my life onto the Apple Ecosystem, I was met with an even better process.

One thing Apple really nails is the user experience between its devices. I can work at my desk on a pitch deck with my Mac and bring my iPad with me when I leave the house to continue that same task. When I was using the Google Suite, I had to locate my files in the drive app, which would then take me to the slides app and its limited functionality.

A woman at a point of sale using Apple Pay
Unsplash: Christiann Koepke

While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, as I moved everything I do to Apple's stock apps, spread between an iPad, Mac, and iPhone, I realized how much time I was losing trying to get my old system to boot up. Apple Numbers was the final app in that transition as I had my doubts about its functionality. Today I can say that I wish I'd switched over sooner. There is a simple simplicity in working with Apple that for me just works. I know it's not like that for everyone, so what I would encourage you to do dear reader is find what that system is for you.

It may be on Google Drive, Microsoft360, or heaven forbid AOL, but regardless, having everything you do in life centralized somewhere is a huge step towards self-sufficiency. Being an entrepreneur is all about managing yourself. That task becomes nearly impossible when you find yourself spread across an entire household.

If you've set a goal to be a more organized person this year, take this as your sign to get started. Apple's Numbers App is just the place to go!


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