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How I used Microsoft Office 365 Apps Forms & Sway in my personal life to increase productivity by 422%


Recently, I took part in a 30-day health challenges at my local CrossFit box (Abode) with around 80 others, the aim was to transform my diet to a Paleo-based eating lifestyle. Two requirements came out of this challenge: Firstly, I needed an eating plan on what to eat, and secondly, as part of the challenge it was a requirement that each person wrote up a daily and a weekly diary. As challenging as starting a new diet may be, the greatest challenge for me was the time consuming systems and processes that were going to be used to track progress.


PDF Forms – A Challenging and Outdated System


I had an eating plan tailored for me from an online nutritionist with my eight different daily meals. The weekly and daily diary forms were provided in a PDF for each person to complete how they best saw fit with a requirement that they must be submitted back to the coach by Monday afternoon at the start of each new week.

Part of the PDF Form I was originally given


The first time I tried completing the forms in this PDF format, it took almost 10 minutes to complete each one. The other problem with this process was that it was not easy, it would be quite probable over 30 days I may forget to log a few.


Anyone who knows me knows that I am quite a competitive person, I really like to win! I thought I might try to utilise some technology I had available at my fingers to make diary submissions a little easier and more interesting.


Utilising Microsoft Office 365 Suite Apps to Improve This Process


In our Making Digital Transformation Real event held in Adelaide last November, Phil Meyer introduced us to a bunch of applications in Office 365 that I had heard of but hadn’t used before. One was called Sway, released in August 2015, and the other was Forms, released in June of that year.

A quick intro on what both applications do;




“Organisations can use Forms to create basic surveys for internal use with employees or external use with customers. The surveys are accessible in any browser and scale to work on mobile devices. Response data is then displayed in automatically generated charts, which pull the data together in real-time. Forms users can see the graphed data from the Responses tab on the Microsoft Forms page, which is where they create the surveys. Users can access that site with their work or school Office 365 credentials.” (Via RCP Mag)



“Microsoft Sway can be used to create visually striking newsletters, presentations, and documentation in minutes. This application allows you to easily drop in photos, videos, and other multimedia — Sway is integrated with your device and the web.[…] Sway dynamically adapts so it looks great on any screen, and can be shared or co-edited with a simple URL.” (Via


How I Used These Applications to Improve the CrossFit Challenge


After being given both this eating plan and diaries to complete, and wanting to increase my chances of winning, I thought I would use both application to make it quicker and easier to submit these surveys, and easily access what I needed to eat to keep in line with the competition rules.


My first step was to recreate the PDF paper-based forms as digital forms. I did this using the Forms application, the daily diary forms each had 25 questions that required answering each day. The Forms application is built with a really great and simple user experience, so It only took me about 15-20 minutes to work out how to use the application create this form digitally.

See my Forms digital diary here:


The next step was to try and create my eating plan in a webpage. The aim was to easily access this anywhere from my mobile device at any time. I did this using Sway. A handy feature with Sway was that I was able to import the PDF document from my nutritionist directly in to Sway rather than retype everything. Once imported, it set up most of the page for me. I was then able to add the finishing touches and inserted some pictures of nice healthy foods to make it look nice and to inspire me. I then linked the daily and weekly diaries into the page from Forms, which made it easy to navigate to from my mobile each day.

See my Sway page and forms here:


The Results


Now that my forms and plan were fully cloud-based and digital, I was ready to start using them. Over the full challenge I used the form 35 times. The cool thing about Microsoft Forms is that is integrates with Microsoft’s BI (Business Intelligence) platform. Essentially this gave me a whole stack on analytics live about my results and was quite good at pointing out areas of success or failure visually.

See the full analytics of my results here


So how did all of this technology assist? Well, I did not win the challenge, but out of 78 I did score in the top 9!

What I did work out though, is if I had spent 10 minutes on each daily form completing it manually, then over the challenge period I would have spent 5.83 hours completing forms. My average completion time on digital forms was 2:48 minutes or 1:38 hours in total. In other words, digitally transforming the process increased efficiency by 422%.

I decided to do a little further investigation with the man running the challenge, Cobi Head, and ask him about the results and challenges he faced in managing the result marking process. One of the biggest challenges I thought there would be in completing the diaries was that a number may be missed. Cobi provide the below results which showed a drop of 15.3% over the 4 weeks and the number of late response doubled off of week 1.

Week 1- 78 received (4 late)

Week 2- 78 received (2 late)

Week 3- 67 received (5 late)

Week 4- 66 received (10 late)

Because I was able to automate my responses with clean data on my daily diaries, I asked Cobi what the data he received from others was like.

“Data was hard to read (except yours) as I had to decide what trend I was looking for and scroll through the document to analyse it each time. Some had too little information to interpret, e.g.: meat and veg for dinner (it could have been chicken parmigiana for all I know)” Cobi Head

Cobi worked out that it took on average 10-12 minute to mark each weekly diary submission, it took only 6 minutes however to mark mine. Out of 78 submissions this worked out to 13 hours of marking each week over four weeks vs digital submissions via forms which would have been more than half of this.


What I learnt from this experience


The lesson I took from this is that for daily life – as well as business, digital transformation can be incredibly powerful if done right. It is not only many hours of time and productivity gains that can be made, but with Business Intelligence and Data Analytics, you can see many patterns and trends that may not have been visible before.

Microsoft has provided some fantastic tools and again proves that Office 365 should be considered by all businesses no matter the size as part of the staple selection of productivity software.

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