Bread may be the staff of life, but an up-to-date address book is the stuff of a really good life, enriched by thriving relationships. Busier schedules and wider social circles have multiplied the number of people to keep track of, and a dizzying array of organizing products—from PalmPilots to designer black books—can make you feel more overwhelmed than ever.
This month's project is to spend three to five hours consolidating all of your half-baked systems into one that makes it easy to connect.
Create a Simple Plan. Regardless of where your information comes from, the goal is to contain it in a master system. I recommend one with three components:
Business contacts, permanently stationed at work.
Personal contacts, kept in one place in your home.
Priority numbers from both groups, carried everywhere.
For your master lists, think beyond addresses and numbers to birthdays, websites and colleagues' family members. Organize names according to the way you think. Choose between electronic systems or pencil and paper. Also, the memory in your cell phone is for speed dialing—don't use it as an address book. If your battery has ever gone dead, you know why you should carry a hard copy of critical numbers.
Consolidate, Consolidate Take an hour on a Saturday to gather all your far-flung 411. Start with the most current information and ripple out to the most archaic. Edit as you go, transferring only people you really want to stay in touch with.
Keep it Up-to-Date. Set aside a routine time to enter updates (daily or weekly). PDA users should HotSync every night. To prevent scratch-outs in address books, write in pencil or check out updated designs—by FlexAddress at www.flexaddress.com and Circa at www.levenger.com especially—that let you change individual entries without rewriting whole pages.
When you're done, reward yourself! Get in touch with a long-lost friend, send your great-aunt a birthday card, or arrange an impromptu dinner party—you've got a new lease on relationships.