I have never experienced anything like the past 15 days since the Power BI freemium announcement. Since that day, my in boxes were flooded with inquiries and huge long lists of technical questions from both internal and external groups all around the world. My in boxes are still flooded with more questions coming in daily. I do try to answer and route as many questions as I can while still fulfilling my core duties per se. Hopefully a public FAQ will be shared soon by the group that publishes those. In the meantime, I need to add Q&A time investment logging soon to my existing personal TO DO list tracking system.

Yes, you read that correctly. I openly confess that I have always logged and measured my personal tasks. The data fanatic in me is compelled to track them. It helps me keep a pulse on many concurrent activities while also providing full visibility into my workload for balancing and planning. Since my last data addict confessions article about analyzing home prices was popular, I’ll share my secret on how I typically track personal tasks. It is not a perfect system but it is evolving nicely as the technology I use improves.

My Favorite TO DO Spreadsheet

In Microsoft Outlook, there are nice features for managing tasks that include follow up flags, priorities, assigned to fields and so on. I do use a few of those features but I keep coming back to my beloved, simple, tried-and-true, flexible and extendable Excel spreadsheet. It allows me to add many other fields, track my time and report on other lists side-by-side neatly within the same file. Excel has advanced filtering, sorting, search and color highlighting features that not only appeal to my creative side but are also fantastic for organizing super long TO DO lists.

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In Excel 2010 and lower, I created boring pivot table and pivot chart reports. If I had to report status to a manager or a client, I would usually pretty up those lackluster charts with a theme, insert them into PowerPoint to add context and email the files. If you are still doing that yourself, keep on reading. There are better ways for reporting today that are free and will improve your data savvy.

I have also used SSRS in the past to report on both personal and team task status via an intranet site for more efficient distribution and timely visibility. Depending on the program or project, I periodically used MS Project or Primavera for managing multiple work streams of team tasks. Ironically even with those best-in-class project tracking software programs, I often had to export task data back to Excel or a database to be able to mash it up with invoice or budget data for true status reporting.

When Excel 2013 came along, I updated my cherished TO DO list to use Power View for the fully interactive online reports and filtered task views. Delivering contextual, interactive status reports for desktop viewing was great but the Silverlight user interface introduced challenges for common mobile access situations.

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Modernizing My TO DO Data Savvy

Today when I publish my Excel 2013 Power View reports to the free Power BI Preview site, they render in a mobile device-friendly HTML5 format. I simply update my Excel 2013 TO DO list file stored on OneDrive and enjoy automatic data-refresh for my created dashboards and reports. OneDrive for Business Excel data-refresh supports automatic, manual or scheduled updates.

With my TO DO list reports securely updated and distributed on PowerBI.com, leadership can get up-to-the-moment insight on my latest task and workload status anytime, anywhere from their favorite mobile device while sitting in a meeting or answering a call. If I get an inquiry from them while I am on the go, I can annotate and email back my status with a few swipes on my iPhone or iPad. I can also get Power BI iPhone threshold alerts to remind me of overdue or upcoming tasks that I am tracking.

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My simple Excel TO DO list tracking and reporting system just got a lot slicker with the latest PowerBI.com sharing, native mobile apps, annotations and alerting features.  You don’t even have to use Excel 2013 to try this yourself. You can do the exact same thing that I am doing to survive on a daily basis with your own task list stored in a lower version of Excel or a csv file since Power BI dashboards and reports can easily be authored in a web browser.  Alternatively you could author these in the cool new Power BI Designer.

Back to the Email Tsunami

I hope you have enjoyed this personal peek into my data addiction. Time to sign out for a few hours of rest before returning to the email tidal wave later this morning.