Excel Template: MBA Excel Homework Tracker

by Matthew Kuo on October 2, 2012

in Excel, Excel Templates

Free Excel Template Download

When I started as an MBA student at UCLA Anderson, I was surprised and eventually overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities I had to manage.  Multi-tasking was something I had always considered a skill of mine, but I soon realized that I couldn’t track all of my tasks just by memory.

For this reason, I built a homework and task tracker using Excel to track all of my commitments during fall quarter.  I have been using it ever since and have made several revisions to the tool.

Tracker Design

There were a couple of key themes that went into the design of this tool.  The first of which is having vertical lists for all of your classes.  The reason for this is fairly simple – during your first quarter you will fall behind in your classes.  Even those of us who are used to getting straight A’s in our undergraduate courses will have difficulty balancing school work with networking, recruiting, social events, and club leadership positions.

Therefore, it’s not uncommon to fall several readings or assignments behind for a given course.  The remedy for this situation is always the same – the night before everything is due, or right before a midterm, you’ll go through each deferred task in sequence until you are caught up with the syllabus.  The vertical format is perfect for this.

Another key theme is the process of checking and crossing off items.  While it may seem like a minor attribute, there’s something fulfilling about checking a box or crossing out an item once you’ve completed a task.  The Homework Tracker template replicates both of these processes in a digital format.

Another goal of mine was to make the tool simple and intuitive.  There are only two tabs where you actually input data and all input cells are highlighted in yellow.  The tracker was built on a series of lookup formulas and significant conditional formatting.  Please follow the Excel category on my website if you’d like additional information on those subjects.

Click here to download the MBA Excel Homework Tracker

Click here to download a populated example of the MBA Excel Homework Tracker

The next section is a basic tutorial on how to use this template.  It covers each tab by going from left to right through the workbook.

The Setup Tab

Start using the template by going to the Setup tab.  Once there, all the cells you can update are highlighted in yellow.  The process of populating this tab is fairly simple:

  • Input your name
  • Under the “Class Name” field, input all of the courses and commitments you’ve made for the quarter/semester (these could be club leadership positions, TA positions, recruiting, group projects, etc.).

If you have more than 8 total commitments, I would suggest combining some of the less intense commitments into one entry.  If you have fewer than 8 commitments, input the word “(blank)” or some other generic text in your unused slots.  This affects the conditional formatting of the Calendar View.

Each class / commitment (outside of the blank ones) must have a unique name for the template to work properly.  For these inputs, it’s best visually to use an abbreviation.  For example, Economics could be ECON; Accounting could be ACCTG.

The Master List Tab

Now that you’ve setup the foundation of the tracker, you must input your relevant individual tasks.  The best time to do this is right at the beginning of your classes.  What I’ll usually do before I start a quarter is sit down with each course syllabus for all of my classes and use them to populate this template.  The update process is as follows:

  • Enter a task name for every task
  • Enter a task due date
  • When you finish a task, enter “Shift + P” in the checkmark column to cross that task off
  • To highlight an important task, enter “Shift + N” in the checkmark column to highlight it in yellow and bold the text

The template allows a maximum of 200 tasks for a given class / commitment.  How many rows you use will depend on how much detail you want for your tasks (i.e. listing five readings due in one day as one assignment versus breaking each reading out individually).  Overdue tasks and tasks without a date will be highlighted in red.

After completing you initial input, you’ll likely need to add additional tasks that are due in the middle of your entries.  To add data and re-sort your entries:

  • Append your new task after the last task you filled out
  • Select any entry under the “due date” field that is part of your congruent data set
  • Input “Alt – A – S – A” to re-sort your tasks
  • You can also sort manually by going to the menu and selecting “Data – Sort – Sort By: Due Date – Order: Oldest to Newest
  • Your entries will now be chronologically arranged

For the sort function shortcut to work, you need a congruent data set, meaning you can’t have empty rows separating your data.

Finally, a couple of things you should not do on this tab:

  • Do NOT try to move or shift rows to sort them when incorporating new tasks.  Doing this will break formulas that feed into the Calendar View.  Please use the sort process described above.
  • Do NOT edit the top row of the Master List tab

The Calendar View

The Calendar View is primarily an output tab designed to show you a weekly view of the tasks you entered into the Master List tab.  The only thing you can change on this tab is the week displayed; you do so by pushing the spin button up or down.

The Calendar View basically shows you when you might get slammed with work and encourages you to prepare accordingly.  During the recruiting season, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have multiple interviews, a midterm, and a group assignment all due in one day.  A maximum of 12 tasks will appear for a given day; if you happen to have more than 12 tasks due, an overflow indicator ( ! ) will appear at the very bottom of the corresponding day.

The Calendar View is also formatted to be print ready, so you can print a copy out at the beginning of the week to help plan out your schedule.

Technical Issues

Below are a list of known technical issues with the template:

  • The MBA Excel Homework Tracker was built using Excel 2010.  Opening the file with an earlier version of Excel may prevent some formatting features from working.
  • There are no macros in this workbook nor links to other workbooks
  • A circular reference warning may pop up when using this file.  There are no circular references in this model and this is a known bug in Excel.
  • I designed the tool as “offline-only” as each tracker will primarily be used by one person.  I considered using Google Docs for this tracker, but currently Google’s version of Excel has nowhere near the conditional formatting capabilities that Excel offers.

Please email me with any comments or suggestions for future versions.  Due to contractual agreements, I am not able to give out the unlock password for the spreadsheets.

Click here to download the MBA Excel Homework Tracker

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

dana February 23, 2013 at 9:54 am

PERFECT!!!!! Exactly what I was looking for!!!! thank you!

Reply

Alys February 25, 2013 at 10:35 am

Holy cow! Thank you! I had a family tragedy a couple weeks ago, and it really threw me off in school. I have been incredibly overwhelmed with being behind because it seemed like I had SO much to make up. After putting all my assignments and such in and seeing the calendar, I feel a lot better. I have a ton of work to do in the next few days, but having things organized helps me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks for saving my GPA!

Reply

Matthew February 26, 2013 at 4:17 am

Glad I could help. Hope things get better for you.

Reply

Maaike March 16, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Wow, this is super helpful! Is there also a possibility to include a monthly overview, so it is easier to see which weeks have the highest workload etc.?

Reply

Matthew March 16, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll include that in the next version.

Best,
Matthew

Reply

Marcos October 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

Hi Matthew, this is awesome, thanks! quick question, i’m trying to put in some tasks for 2014 however the date defaults to 2013, how can I change this?

Thanks again

Reply

Blake October 16, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I downloaded the tracker. I have followed the instructions, but for some reason i can’t get anything to populate in the Calendar view. Can you help me troubleshoot this issue?

Reply

Benjamin October 31, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I have filled in all the things required but the calender will not fill in the tasks for me. How do I fix this???

Reply

Mark Miller June 1, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Thank you for the spreadsheet. It works very well. I am able to sort by date properly. I cannot however use the “Shift-N” or “Shift-S” key to mark the task completed or highlight and bold the item. Do you have any suggestions?

Thank you.

Reply

Mark Miller June 1, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I meant “Shift + P”, not “Shift + S”.

Mark

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: