I use Gmail’s Contacts for keeping track of names, phones and email. I know I should use more fields to store information, but I haven’t taken the time to add the necessary custom fields. Another fear is that I won’t be able to get the data back once I do find nirvana in a package. Every now and then I try weeding out the duplicates I inherited from Microsoft. I think I am down to the G’s.
I try to keep as many birthdays as possible in my calendar. It is the most obvious day to keep in touch with someone. I use Google Calendar for this task. I use it for tracking many different sets of events, including family, work, personal, and my wife’s besides birthdays. These calendars sync to my iPod Touch. I can either see all the calendars overlaid or each individually. I have set the birthday reminders to come up two days in advance to give me enough lead time to prepare. On the special day, I make sure I send the person a personal email or a phone call. I learned about the phone call from Keith Ferazzi in his book, Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. He explains how every morning, he calls the people on his birthday list and immediately bursts into singing Happy Birthday as soon as they answer. It is a great way to start the day. I like it. I also use Google calendar to keep track of appointments, although I admit I also track them in my office Outlook calendar so that I don’t miss anything. I hate duplicating efforts, but until I get an iPhone or some single device, that is where I have to live.
Who introduced me to whom? In the past, I used Microsoft Excel for this. It is a lousy way to do it, too. But it works. Tonight, though, I had the idea of using Mindjet’s MindManager. It would show that hierarchal view I have been missing. Each node can have multiple leafs which in turn can have many of their own. The more I think about it, this tool makes sense. If I were using Microsoft Outlook for contact management, it would also be able to link the contact information directly into the mind map. That has potential. I will have to think about this one some more. I add the missing tags and attributes to the mindmap as well. That would allow me some interesting possibilities as well to sort people into groups. There is another tool out there called Personal Brain that really could make this powerful the way it links nodes together. It is worth checking into it again. I’ll do that and report back.
This tool / site bears mentioning. I have been on LinkedIn for many years and have a lot of contacts through it. I haven’t done a good job of using LinkedIn to keep the contact vibrant. That is a failing I need to rectify. Some friends at work and I are learning more about LinkedIn and how to make it work better for us. This also has possibilities for a contact management system. If you aren’t on LinkedIn, you need to be. Unlike Facebook, it is geared to the working professional. They have a nice way of vetting contacts by having you list the method of connection and verify it with the other party before that connection is listed. Their focus on professional contacts is what makes it attractive to the business world. They aren’t trying to sell the experience of Farmville or some other social experiment. Be careful what is up there, though. It is there for the world to see, including your current and future employer. More on social media and network building at a future date.
I have used many organizers over the years. Most don’t cut the mustard and have been discarded. I don’t even like to think about the amount of money I have spent on them. Currently, I use an iPod Touch and love it. If I were willing to pay the cost, I would carry an iPhone. I am holding out for a company provided iPhone because I am too cheap to pay for it myself. If I bought one for myself, I would still have to carry the company phone and I find that ridiculous. But I digress. The iPhone syncs my contacts with Gmail, my calendars with Google and has other tools I use, such as Toodledo. I have to have my iPod. I am very dependent upon it.
That wraps up my tools. What do you use? What do you like or dislike? Please share your experiences. I would love to hear how you keep track of your network. I just got an invitation to gist.com. Anyone use this? It is supposed to consolidate all your contacts from different sources into a single list. Sounds interesting.
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