Calendar Chart

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  • July 15, 2019 Updated
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Everyone knows how well excel crunches numbers and manages data tables. But it doesn’t get a lot of credit for its ability to present an appealing visualization of data. In part, this is because it takes a bit of set-up and know-how to get Excel to operate visually. The Calendar Chart template that we have created with Excel allows users to understand data in a different, more intuitive way than is possible when they are simply lists of numbers.

Why is this important? While it might sound weird, it’s something most of us are already familiar with. One example is the Heat Map we see every time we open our weather app. A heat map provides a visual comparison of temperature over a given area. Think of a weather map representing the nation’s temperatures. The map is covered with areas of color—each representing a different temperature range.

In the example below from the NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), the February 21, 2018 surface temperatures indicated in the colored areas increase as the color moves from blue to red. To understand this map, you don’t have to read the temperature at each point on the map. By simply looking at the colors, you can not only know what the temperature is in a given area, but you also gain some understanding of the patterns that shape the weather across the country.

Calendar Chart NOAA Temperature Map Example

Heat maps can also be used to represent the quantity of an event or action. Consider the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) water vapor image below. The brown colors indicate little or no moisture content while the white, light-green, and dark-green colors represent higher vapor content (increasing respectively).

Calendar Chart NOAA Water Vapor Map Example

So, how does a colorful image relate to an Excel template? Well, a Calendar Heat Map provides a visual comparison of data over a given date range in a calendar format. A chart created by a dataset can help you recognize patterns in data.

Template Contents

This calendar chart comes with two worksheets.

2019

This is a one-year calendar (2019)

2019 2020 2021

This is a three-year calendar (2019, 2020 2021). It works the same as the first worksheet but allows you to create a chart with extended data and forecasting.

Preview

Now, let’s take a look at the template. After you download it, open up the first worksheet (“2019”) and you’ll see the four main components of a Calendar Heat Map: a key, the data, date range, and the chart (visual representation) of the dataset.

Calendar Chart Preview

The cells in the chart section are color formatted based on the data given for that specific day. For example, the cell representing January 4, 2019 (H6) is yellow. A quick check of the “key” shows us that “yellow” means a value of 400 to 500 (actually, number 499). Now, looking at the dataset, the January 4 value is number 470...which, indeed, does fall within the color range.

So what? That’s pretty and everything but what does it really do for us? Well, now we look for patterns that can become predictors of future outcomes. The more data we have the better our predictions. If we just have one year of data we might be able to see patterns from month-to-month but our predictions for the next year won’t be very accurate. If we have data from multiple years then we might be able to see yearly patterns and make better predictions for the following year.

Before we look at the setup and how to use this template, I’ve created a couple of fictional datasets to help you understand basic visual patterns. In these examples, let’s imagine the dataset represents how many stairs your fitness watch reports that you’ve climbed each day.

In the first example, I’ve created a dataset in which the steps increase each day in January but stay within the same color range each week. (Note: This is not a typical pattern for most datasets, but will hopefully provide an understandable example).

Calendar Chart Dataset ExampleNotes:

  1. Data values increase throughout January
  2. The key indicates that as the values increase the colors go from red to green
  3. The chart shows that the data values increase (red to green) as the month progresses

Predictions:

If we gathered data over multiple months and the data showed a similar pattern, we could predict (with a high level of confidence) that we will be walking a lot of stairs towards the end of next month.

We can use this prediction to modify our actions to the event. Such as eating healthier towards the end of the month or making sure we get enough sleep so we’re ready for the extra workout. Because our stair climbing is less at the beginning of the month, we can be a little laxer on our preparation and still make it through the day without being exhausted.

In the second example, the steps increase depending on the day of the week, but each day of the week stays in the same color range. (Note: this is not a typical pattern for most datasets, but will hopefully provide an understandable example).

Calendar Chart Dataset Day ExampleNotes:

  1. Data values increase as the week progresses but then decreases again at the start of the week
  2. The key indicates that as the values increase the colors go from red to green
  3. The chart shows that the data values increase as the days move towards the end of next week

Predictions:

If we gathered data over multiple months and the data showed a similar pattern, we could predict (with a high level of confidence) that we will be walking a lot of stairs towards the end of every week.

In this example, we would be wise to eat healthier and get enough sleep towards the end of the week (compared to the end of the month in our previous example).

Using the Template

There is no control page with this template, so we can start right away by manipulating the dataset and key values.

In the first worksheet (“2019”), select all the “Value” cells from the “Data Input” section (Q6:Q37) and right click… then hit “Delete.” Notice that all the color of the “Chart” section disappears and the dates populate the calendars. Now that the dates are visible, it’s important to note that the calendar is continuous. There are no space gaps between months (see screenshot below).

Calendar Chart Month Input

The cells that you’ll want to change for your specific application are the Value “Min” and “Max” cells (K6:K16, M6:M15) and the Data Input “Value” cells (Q6:Q370).

Calendar Chart Minimum Maximum ValuesThe screenshot to the right shows an example of “Min” and “Max” ranges that vary by a quantity of 10. To change these ranges, simply highlight the cells and enter in the new values based on your data.

The Data Input “Value” cells are also changed by highlighting and manually typing (or pasting) in the data.

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