You want to be able to link the card to the person. If you have met 10 people at a business do and all have given you a card, you may walk away with ten cards and no idea who is who. It’s important to be able to not just have the card, but being able to recognise the person as well, or the connection will be very tenuous and ultimately useless.
If you can, write down a couple of key words – including date and place of encounter – on the cards after each separate encounter. I realise this will be impossible in many situations, but try nevertheless. If you sit down after meeting ten people, you’ll probably find that you cannot place some of your cards already. Don’t worry too much, but let it be a lesson for next time…
Organise your cards
It is not enough to collect those cards and put them down anywhere in your office. Not only should they go into one designated location, but you should really be able to find a particular person without having to go through piles and piles of cards. While a small pile of cards allows for that option, you will need a better system pretty quickly.
At the very least, you want to arrange your cards alphabetically, into one single pile, maybe simply separate by first letter and group them with rubber bands. You may choose a card holder box and place your cards in there, with riders to separate the letters of the alphabet. Another option is to create some kind of card separator in a drawer and follow similar lines of organisation.
Plastic sheets of card holders in folders are a common way of doing this, but they tend to multiply quickly and use up a lot of space. Also, if you put cards in alphabetical order (and that is recommended, by the way), you may end up shuffling those pages and cards around every time you add new ones.
Use a database
While organising your cards alphabetically is a useful way to sort them, retrieval of a particular person is not very easy. Just imagine you are looking for an investment broker whose name escapes you at the moment!
A database could be useful, and that could be a full database where all the information is entered (time consuming) or a mix of a scan with a smattering of base information like the name and profession of each person (manual retrieval of additional information like phone numbers or email address). There is a payoff to be considered, and it pays to think about the use you will make of your database in the future. If you wish to make use of the email addresses for mailings, or the phone number for calls, you may want to consider a full database, time consuming as it is), if you only occasionally fall back on the cards, scanning them might be enough.
There are contact management systems out there in all shapes and sizes, as well as apps that allow for scanning of cards, and entering a series of basic information for search purposes. And a lot of options halfway in between.
The important thing is to not neglect your cards, for business reasons, and to keep the clutter at bay. The information in those cards could be worthwhile sometime, and you are better off with a decluttered desktop – it’s a no-brainer really.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.