In the ‘good old days’ we had a paper agenda for the year with a list of addresses and phone numbers pinned at the end, maybe we even had a little notebook next to the family phone with only the phone numbers, but that was pretty much all there was in private life. Business contacts weren’t much different from this, apart from the type of names that appeared on the relevant lists, of course.
The advantage of those systems were clear: each year we were forced to transfer the information into a new agenda, and while doing so we culled our list by neglecting to transfer the names we no longer needed or we simply forgot who they were.
These days, most of our contact lists are electronic, especially the ones related to business. And when it comes to personal, private lists, they tend to be on our phones for most people. Electronic lists appear to be fail-proof and in the majority of cases that is certainly true, but they come with a downside: having everything hidden away in a file that can seemingly grow to epic proportions without too many problems allows us to take a step back and never really manage those contacts.
Having worked in corporate office administration, contact lists and mailing lists have been the bane of my life for the longest time! It’s absolutely staggering how many Christmas cards are returned because the address is no longer correct or a contact no longer works with a particular firm. One would assume that whoever sends the card would be aware of a ‘contact’ having moved away or changed their job. The same goes for a lot of private letters and cards that are being sent to people we only really touch base with occasionally.
One of the reasons, I believe, is that we are collectors: we cannot bear with scrapping someone from our contact list (they might be offended or turn out to become important contacts in the future). These two reasons sound very familiar, don’t they? It’s just like letting go of an object we have had in our possession for a long time: there is an element of habit of having it around, and that vague sense that it might come in handy at some unknown moment in the future.
Contacts are not so different, but it pays to cull them regularly. The old annual review system has gone the way of the dinosaur, though. The hundred-odd names we had on one list in the past have been replaced by thousands of them on different platforms, some even spanning multiple platforms at once. How can we possibly manage those?
Simple answer: by doing it regularly and consistently rather than in one fell swoop! Here are some tips that could help:
Those tips don’t take away the need for a more regular system of maintenance, especially when it comes to business contacts. If you can, do a full sweep occasionally, or have it done for you. There are services around that can do that for you!
A special case
If you are using a systems to maintain shared contacts, you may need a different approach. You are not the only one who is likely to use those contacts and makes changes to them. Make sure to never delete anything in that situation, others might be very unhappy about this! There are usually options in place to simply ‘unlink’ from a contact card, and there might also be ways to highlight erroneous entries with proposals for change rather than replacing information.
Keep in mind:
There are many ways to break a shared contact management system. Be aware that you are not the only one responsible for each contact. But also keep in mind that you are sharing responsibility and should contribute to updates in order to help out everyone.
The main thing to remember about contact list management, however, is that contacts need to be maintained and groomed regularly, or these lists will grow out of proportion very quickly and become untreatable.
Steady does it: regular review is the best way to deal with it.
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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.