Picture a large examinations hall.

One hundred students sat at widely spaced desks waiting to take a test in Excel.

We know what’s going to happen during the exam.

Some candidates will dread turning over the test paper. Some will be nervous but just want to get started on the first question. Some will approach it all with enviable confidence.

For those with confidence in their answers during the exam, the time will fly by. For those who struggle with the answers, it will feel like an eternity.

Can you relate to that?

For professional assistants, every day can feel a little bit like an exam. There’s pressure to deliver for bosses and clients.

Picture of the word test written on a blackboard

And those bosses and clients will expect you to be someone with competency and confidence in using Microsoft applications like Excel.

There’s no escaping it.

If you don’t know how to carry out a task, you’re either going to have to ‘wing it’ or spend time finding out.

If you’ve got your Excel essentials under your belt, you’ll know the way to get things done efficiently and productively.

If you’re more advanced in your understanding of the application and its nuances, you’ll take advantage of the little (often less well known) shortcuts to speed things along even more.

It all boils down to this.

When put to the test, it’s all about knowledge, preparation and execution.

Some assistants will stubbornly stick to their ‘learn it only when I need it’ approach.

Typically, they’re the ones who spend endless hours on YouTube finding something that covers what they want to know, for the version of Excel they’re using. And then repeat the process the next time they’re asked because they forgot what video they watched.

Some assistants teach themselves and learn by trial and error. They work their way through the ‘ribbon’ on an application over time and slowly get to know what works.

Other VAs, PAs and EAs go for the smart, straightforward and simple option – investing in an online Excel training course.

This gives them all the know-how of the practical steps for essential Excel tasks. They can learn what they want, when they want. Because it’s on video, they can pause or rewind at will, and learn the skills in the way that works best for them.

Once you know it, you know it.

We all remember our favourite teachers.

The best ones are able to help even the least confident student make sense of a topic – and enjoy learning about it.

And when it came to the test (or exams), it was about remembering what you had taken in – and applying it to the questions.

The more you do something, the easier it gets. Your brain gets trained to ‘know what to do’.

Here are three ways to put yourself to the test with Excel.

1. Self-audit – Go through the application and the tasks you get asked to do or are most likely to need to know how to do.

Give yourself a mark (say out of five) for how easy each task is for you. Or rate yourself under descriptions like “Don’t know how to do this”, “I struggle with this”, “I’m competent”, “I’m good at this task” and “I’m excellent at this”.

You can now see where you stand with Excel.

2. Practise – It’s like that old joke about Carnegie Hall, if you want to get better at Excel, you have to practise.

Begin to use the application more. See what it can do. Explore its capabilities. Play with the features and functions. Get an understanding of what tasks it can take care of. Follow the steps in a course.

Practise. Practise. Practise.

3. Identify and Use Your Strengths – If you’ve already done a self-audit, you’ll have a strong idea of what your strengths are – and the areas for improvement.

Some people may choose to get training in their weaker areas. That’s one way to go. The other is to focus on what you’re good at and take that skill to more advanced levels.

When you know what Excel can do and what you’re best at, you are in a better position to be proactive with bosses and clients. You can suggest different ways to do things or take on more responsibilities because you’ve got that winning combination of expertise and efficiency.

Go on. Put yourself to the test and reap the rewards.

The session was well structured and the explanation was very clear. It was amazing how Shelley managed to squeeze so much info in just one hour and a half! Colin’s support and contributions were also very valuable, and so were “Virtual Veronica”‘s. Thank you for a most interesting and useful training session at the Miss Jones Virtual Summit!

Laura Carizzo- Royal Norwegian Embassy in Argentina

I haven’t used PowerPoint in 20 years, this has really boosted my confidence.

Lyn Parker

Course is packed with so much valuable information in a easy-to-understand and follow language, even for a complete beginner. I can respect the fact that sometimes it’s very hard for an expert to break the information down to basics. but Shelley has done it brilliantly. I was sure that I knew quite a bit but Shelley has proven me wrong even at the very beginning of the basics of PowerPoint. Lessons are short and precise which allowed me to easily transfer the new skill into practice without being overwhelmed and to carry on adding on more with each lesson. I had so many ‘Aha!’ moments and for most of them I couldn’t believe I used to pay graphic designer to do it for me, now, thanks to Shelley, I am looking forward to creating, designing, converting my presentations all by myself!

Iva Freeman – Vertex Human Capital

Shelley was very thorough and knew a lot of tip’s for using Teams, thank you 🙂

James O’Connor – Cavannah Homes

Very informative, constantly getting everyone in the meeting involved, loved every bit of it!

Dylan Teal Hopkins – Cavannah Homes
Fantastic and informative training and great to see all of the exciting functions with Microsoft Teams.
Laura Rigby – The Apprenticeship College
Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.
Leigh Dowling – Innuous

Microsoft Teams One to One Training Session

Shelley was approachable, easy to work with, and agile with answering questions to apply the session to my specific needs

Melissa Marshall – Present Your Science

A course on Outlook had been on the top of my list when Shelley asked VA’s what they wanted to learn.

It was a real case of ‘so that’s how you do it’ or ‘I never knew that’. I have to say that I learnt so many great tips it has definitely improved the way I work in Outlook and my inbox is looking colourful and organised and I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my clients.

Jacqueline Leake – JLeake VA Services – Outlook

A great course with lots of examples and step by step instructions. I can now confidently create infographics and as a bonus, I learnt a lot of new PowerPoint functionality that will enhance all my PowerPoint work and save me so much time.

Jessica Bailey – Integral Resource

I really like Shelley’s courses. She has a clear and easy to follow teaching style. In ‘How to Create Fillable Forms’ I’ve learned about the functions of the Developer ribbon which will mean I’ll be able to create a bespoke Returns Form for a client who has an online shop

Freya Henderson – Virtual Office Orkney

Shelley was really clear in her teaching and went at a pace that was helpful to us. We covered all we needed to know to get us started, as a small team, using MS Teams. She was also very helpful in the run up to the session, with check in calls and ensuring our platform was set up correctly. I would highly recommend Shelley to anyone wanting to learn to navigate their way around MS Teams.

Sarah Clements – Inuous

Absolutely superb course, easy to follow and to refer back whilst putting it all into practice! I was unaware of the extent you can customise a presentation and it’s just made me want to know more – what’s next Shelley?

Denise Williams

I thought I had a pretty good grasp of Outlook until I did this course! In her videos, Shelley is clear and concise, and the language she uses is straightforward and jargon-free. Each module is broken down into manageable chunks, which helps keep your attention and means the course is easy to fit in around other commitments. I’ve created email templates and implemented rules that are already saving me time, and as all the other things I’ve learnt start to become second nature, the positive impact on my efficiency is fast becoming clear. This course has been incredibly beneficial and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to strengthen their skills and boost productivity.

Pip Doleman VA

I thought I knew Powerpoint really well, but I wanted to specifically learn how to use Powerpoint to create better infographics, easily and quickly. Shelley explains everything in a very logical and clear way, so I understood everything the first time I heard it. The most useful thing I learnt was that Powerpoint can do so much more than I thought it could. By also using the short cuts that Shelley showed me I am much quicker than I have ever been and I thought I was already quick!

Susan Marot

Shelley Fishel of Tomorrow’s VA has a wealth of experience in Microsoft Office. I met her in person 2 years ago at the PA Show in London. I also saw her in action in a fab workshop and knew she was the whizz that everyone had told me she was. I have since bought a lifetime access to her HUB and all the courses in there are a MUST if you are a VA on a mission. The courses will give you confidence in all the Office 365 components and will catapult you to dizzy heights

Alex Hughes