All posts by Ali Jackowski

Group Emails – Time Management with Outlook

Group Emails - Time Management with Outlook

Making order out of the chaos of our Inbox  can be a cumbersome job. However, failing to do so often means we have a hard time finding needed emails regarding a project, or ones sent on the same date. Grouping emails together by conversations is helpful, but sometimes the people in those conversations start a new email chain every time they send out an email. How can we keep such a set of emails organized? Luckily, there are other ways to group emails in Outlook. You can easily organize your Inbox to your own unique needs by utilizing just a simple click of the mouse.

Dropdown menuFilter

Immediately above the email summaries is a drop-down menu that allows you to choose any number of options with which to group your email. If you have set your reading pane to be on the right, then the drop-down filter is above the email summaries to the left of the reading pane, as shown above.

If your reading pane is on the bottom, or it is turned off, the filter drop-down menu is on the far right side, above the email summaries:Dropdown menu

Group Emails - Filter optionsClicking this button opens a drop-down menu that allows you to filter and group emails by a number of different options, including by Sender, Date, or Subject. Select the options that will allow you to find what you need quickly, without having to scroll through all of the email in your Inbox.

Utilizing the various functionality options available in Outlook can be a vital part of managing your time better throughout your working day.

Check out MCT’s Time Management with Outlook class to manage your time and boost your productivity.


Using Eyedropper to Match Colors in PowerPoint

Using Eyedropper to Match Colors in PowerPoint

While building a PowerPoint presentation, it is common to want certain colors to match within the slide, so that elements of the slide do not look out of place. Anytime we can make a slide more appealing to the senses, makes it easier for listeners to focus the substance of the presentation. As humans are so visual, it can be easy to go overboard with colors. Thus, we do need to make sure we use colors that pull things together, instead of the slide looking so wild that everyone is wondering what happened to it.

One way to pull colors together is to use the Eyedropper function to ensure colors match other elements of the slide. We are not necessarily looking for things to be symmetrical, but rather more consistent. This will help others focus on the important parts of the presentation. Eyedropper works great for elements such as text boxes, as well as other items within a slide.

Text Box Example

Today, we will use text boxes for our example. Below we have a slide in which the text at the top blends too much into the background.Fading Header

The header text needs a background color to make it stand out. We want to use a color that already exists in the background picture, but we do not want the color we use to look out of place. By following the steps below, we can make text color harmonize with the background picture.

  1. When using Eyedropper, you must select the item where you want the color changed. In this case, it will be the text box.Select Header
  2. The Drawing Tools contextual tab will appear. If it is not active, then click it. Drawing Tools Tab
  3. In the Shape Styles group, click the drop-down menu for Shape Fill, and select Eyedropper. Select Eyedropper
  4. Your cursor will change shape, allowing you to select the appropriate color. As you hover above different areas of the slide, your cursor will change color to give you an idea of what color will be used for your text box.Match Colors - TealMatch Color- Brown
  5. Once you find the color you want for the text box, left-click and the text box color will change to the color you were hovering over.Using Eyedropper to Match Colors - Harmonized text box

Now the header looks like part of the picture, instead of something that doesn’t belong with the slide.

Functions like Eyedropper allow you to create dynamic slides for your presentation, keeping your audience alert, and focused on the presentation.

Learn more about the functionality available, as well as how to create presentations that keep your audience engaged with a PowerPoint class from Mission Critical Training.

Recorded Macros vs. Coded Macros

Recorded Macros vs. Coded Macros

In the world of Microsoft, macros are the way many users automate various steps of their daily processes. There are two basic types of macros, recorded and coded. Recorded macros are what most users are familiar with. as they are simple to create and simple to use.  Coded macros are less common, as require knowledge of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). Recorded macros tend to be more forgiving than coded ones, especially since one character out of place in a coded macro will render the whole macro useless.

Check out this video on creating recorded macros and coded macros, and some of the differences between the two:

Get the skills you need to automate your work day with MCT’s  Excel Macros or VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) training courses

The Telephone Game – Emotional Intelligence

The Telephone Game - Emotional Intelligence

Most of us remember playing the Telephone Game at a party as children: The first player thinks of a sentence, then whispers it in into the ear of the player next to them. That person whispers what they thought they heard to the next person, and so on down the line, until the last player reveals what was whispered into their ear.  Usually, the message has dramatically changed between the message the first player thought up and the message the last player heard, often with humorous results.

What is it that makes this communication-chain game work?  Clearly, the whispering aspect has some bearing on the results of the game, but that is not the only thing that is happening. The same thing can happen when we try to communicate with others outside of the confines of the Telephone Game.

So what factors are at play that can cause our efforts at communication go so awry?

The Telephone Game - Emotional Intelligence - Misinterpretation factors

The Real Life Telephone Game

When we communicate with another person, the message they receive is based on much more than just the words we choose. Studies show that less than 10% of our message is conveyed by the actual words. Body movements and the expressions on our faces communicate more than half of the meaning the listener receives, and around 40% is conveyed by our tone of voice.

If something outside of our intended message influences our voice, posture, or facial expressions, it is easy to see that what we meant to say can get lost in translation. For example, if a speaker is in pain, or feeling unwell, it can come across to their listener as though they are angry or impatient with the conversation. Our mood, or our feelings about the listener, can alter the tone of our voice, as well as our expressions or body posture, altering how the listener understands our message. Even something as simple as sitting with your arms crossed can give the impression of being defensive.

Many things beyond those physical attributes can cause your misunderstanding. How the listener feels about the speaker can also influence whether they interpret a message more positively or negatively. Even the listener’s mood can bias their interpretation of what is said to them.

In a recent article, we discussed how word choice can be interpreted differently by different people. Our experiences with particular words or phrases can easily stymie effective communication. One example many people can relate to is the phrase, “We need to talk.” Those four words can send shafts of terror through the hearts of anyone who has heard that before they receive very bad news. A speaker may mean it in the most innocent or positive way, but a listener who has heard that phrase prior to being dumped by a partner, or punished by an angry parent, is not going to be able to put aside those experiences to listen with a completely unbiased mind.

Getting It Right

How can we make sure our real life version of the Telephone Game gets us closer to getting our intended message across the line? We cannot control the listener’s mood, or their past associations, but there are some techniques to help minimize misinterpretations:

  •  Avoid important conversations when we are feeling agitated, distracted, or highly emotional.
  • Try to keep our nonverbal cues (body posture, tone of voice, facial expressions) consistent with the message we intend to convey.
  •  Be attentive. Actively listening when another speaks, and giving them nonverbal signs (like maintaining eye contact and an open body posture) encourages the listener to be attentive and open to your message.
  •  Keep an open mind. When you jump to conclusions, even if you do not verbally express them, those thoughts are often betrayed on your face, and can steer the conversation in an unintended direction.
  •  If you know your listener has negative associations with certain words or phrases, avoid using them.
  •  If you observe that what you are saying is missing the mark, own it. Do not blame the other for misinterpreting, as that will just increase defensiveness. Say something like, “That didn’t sound right. Let me try that again.”

Effective communication is about how well you get your idea across.  If the message is being misinterpreted, it is your job to take a step back, figure out where things went wrong, and then try to make them right. After all, it isn’t the fault of the last player in the line of the Telephone Game if he hears “The Pope wears stinking pomade,” after “I hope we’re drinking Kool-Aid,” has filtered through 12 whispering people. The message went wrong somewhere up the line; blame won’t make the message any clearer.

Get the Skills

Want to make sure your conversations don’t turn into the Telephone Game? Mission Critical Training can help:

  • MCT’s Emotional Intelligence training course will teach you how to influence and direct your emotional states, and better understand others’ emotions, with an eye toward anticipating and influencing their behaviors. Our EI classes will help you develop the skills to be more effective in communication, manage conflicts better, and find more common ground in your interactions.
  •  Effective Business Communication teaches the skills needed to be more effective in your conversations, so that your interactions with others can be more productive, and yield more positive outcomes.

Summer Camp Fun = MCT’s Boot Camps!

Summer Camp Boot Camp

Remember the fun and excitement of summer camp? You got to spend a week or two learning new things, meeting new people, and generally getting away from the routine of your normal life. Too bad you can’t escape for a week of new activities and friends, as an adult. Or can you?

Mission Critical Training can help you regain that summer camp frame of mind. MCT’s Boot Camps can give you that experience of fun and learning in an intensive multi-day format. We offer Boot Camps in Excel, Access, SharePoint, and Word (Word Boot Camp is offered only as a private training course; contact us for more information regarding private training). Each Boot Camp is designed to take you from beginner to master within a few concentrated days of hands-on learning.

You could even put your own unique summer camp experience together, with your choice of classes from the wide variety of computer and professional development classes offered on our current course schedule.

What could be more fun than spending a few days away from your regular routine, indulging in the excitement of learning new skills? With MCT, you can do it all without packing the bug spray or sleeping bag!

To get in on the fun, register online, or contact our sales office for more information, including private group training, at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, (602) 955-7787 in Arizona, or


Automate Excel Without Macros

Automate Excel Without Macros

Many students come to us wanting to learn how to create macros in Excel to automate their spreadsheets.  However, they often don’t realize that formulas can be used to create most of the automation they want.

Although we can use macros to automate steps, there are limits to macros (especially the simplistic ones that are created by recording steps), and we still need to remember to run the macro. Thus, recorded macros are not full automation.

Full automation would mean not needing to click a button, using a shortcut, or adding a quick step to the Quick Access Toolbar. Fully automated macros can be created but require the use of Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBA is a smaller version of Visual Basic, added to each Microsoft application, and is limited to the application in which it is being used to create the modules or macros. This type of automation is very powerful (and is offered in our 2-day VBA course), but you are now talking about learning code to create these macros.  Also, one character out of place in the code can make a macro inoperable, making it not the most efficient way to automate, in some cases.

Using macros is not the only way to automate Excel.   You can often use functions and formulas to fully automate an Excel workbook. Functions and formulas do not require any shortcuts or buttons to make things happen; they only require data. As soon as data is entered, the functions and formulas go to work.

A Different Approach to Automation

Functions and formulas can be built into a template. This means that the areas where data is to be entered is empty and waiting for input. Then the functions and formulas create the magic after the data is entered. Since all the formatting, reports, and pivot tables can be built into the template as well, you can create a template for a finished workbook that will display robust visuals and calculations after a few pieces of data are entered.  This can turn hours of work into mere minutes.

Microsoft has spent many years making Excel more robust, and has added a ton of functionality that can make full automation a reality. However, if you have not read about all the functionality available or had someone show you, then there is a whole world of possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

Let Mission Critical Training show you what Excel can do for you, including our Function and Formulas class that focuses on full automation.

Why Excel? Two unique scenarios

Why Excel - Wine Inventory

When you think of Microsoft Excel what comes to mind? Accounting spreadsheets? Using formulas to calculate numbers?
Generally, we think of Excel only as a system to manage our numbers, but you might be surprised by some other things that you can do with this program. We are going to look at two uses for Excel that go outside of our assumption of accounting spreadsheets. We will look at a personal use to track a home wine collection and a business use to track marketing campaigns for an ongoing growing contact list.

Learn more about the things Excel can do for you, in both your career and your personal life with a class from Mission Critical Training.

Missing a Mouse? Use ALT – Excel

Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel


If you’ve ever had a mouse go bad in the middle of a project, you probably called IT to bring you a new mouse.  Or if this happened at home, you drove to the store to get a replacement. Regardless of where it happens, it is Murphy’s Law that it will happen at the worst possible moment. You’re desktop computer doesn’t have a finger pad and you just have a couple of things to finish, but you are stuck waiting to finish. Or are you?

Clicking the ALT key allows you to keep going! Follow the steps below to type your way through the commands need to finish your project:

  1. Once you have pressed the ALT key, letters and numbers will appear on the ribbon tabs and on your Quick Access Toolbar.Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Press ALT
  2. If you press the correlating key on your keyboard, you will make that tab active, which will display different options for you to press. For example, if you press N, the Insert tab will become active, and the commands in that tab will have different letters or combinations of letters to press to insert that object. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Commands
  3. Single letters are easy, but what about commands with combined letters? You do not have to press the combination of letters at the same moment. Press the letters of the combination in order, and the command will execute. For example, pressing the key for letter S, then the key for letter L, will open the Sparkline dialog box. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Sparkline dialog box

If you need to backup a step, maybe because you pressed the wrong key, press the Esc key to go back one step. Missing a Mouse? Use ALT - Excel - Press Esc

Pressing Esc a few times will take you out of the functionality.

Mission Critical Training has the Excel classes that fit your specific skill level and project needs.

Keep Decimals Out of the Equation with Data Validations in Excel

Data Validations in Excel

Using Data Validations in Excel can be very helpful, as validations make sure the data is entered correctly, and ensures all the intended functionality works according to plan. One possible validation scenario is the need for all numbers to be displayed as whole numbers. Follow these steps to ensure no decimals are included during data entry:

  1. Once your Excel workbook is open, drag-select the cells in which you want the numbers to be restricted to whole numbers.Data Validations in Excel - Select columns
  2. Click the Data tab on the ribbon, then in the Data Tools group, click the Data Validation command.Data Validations in Excel - Data Tools
  3. When the Data Validation dialog box appears, set the Allow section to Whole Numbers, the Data section to Greater than or Equal to, and the Minimum section to 0.Data Validations in Excel - Select Validation
  4. Once completed, click OK, and those cells will be restricted to whole numbers.
Want to learn more ways to make Excel work harder for you? Take a class from Mission Critical Training, in Denver and Phoenix.

Download MCT’s latest class catalog


Catalog download Want to get the very latest version of Mission Critical Training’s schedule of classes? We are happy to announce our 2019 class catalog is now available to download, for your immediate viewing pleasure.

Get the most up-to-date class calendar, plus details on all of our classes and training programs, now on your desktop.  Follow the link below, fill out the requested information, then view, download, or print the catalog.

Of course, you can still request a printed version of our 2019 catalog at, or contact our sales office for information about our programs, including private group training, at (303) 900-0850 in Colorado, or (602) 955-7787 in Arizona.