I reached back into my bag to pull out my datebook... and realized with a sinking feeling that I'd left it at home on my desk. Luckily I still had my all-purpose notebook with me, into which I usually enter all client info. I easily found her number and dialed it. But the episode gave me pause: What if I had really left home without that phone number?
Many people rely on PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) - those small, hand-held electronic calendars and information databases like Palm and Blackberry - to manage their address books and phone numbers. When combined with mobile telephone and wireless internet functions, they literally allow you to have the world at your fingertips.
For the less-digitally-inclined among us, however, there is still old-fashioned paper. (In fact, it's always a good idea to have paper back-up for those times when the electronics fail. And they WILL fail...)
But how do you realistically (i.e. easily) manage all the phone numbers you need on a day-to-day basis? And how do you ensure that you always HAVE the numbers you need, close at hand?
I ran into a problem a couple of weeks ago when I was delayed at a client's and realized I was going to have to cancel a date I'd planned for later in the evening. My new friend and I had exchanged cell phone numbers, but I hadn't transferred his number to my datebook or cell phone - it was still sitting on my computer, in an e-mail he had sent me. (Luckily he called MY cell phone at the time we were supposed to meet, and I was able to cancel without too much hassle).
I now enter numbers into my cell phone as soon as I get them. I can easily delete them when I no longer need them. My new process is as follows: When I get a phone number (usually from a voice message left on my phone), I write it on a Post-it Note along with the name and other pertinent information.
The Post-it goes into my go-everywhere notebook. I then MAKE TWO COPIES OF THE POST-IT - one for my datebook, and one for my home address book. And I put the number into my cell phone. Odds are I won't loose ALL of those resources all at once. (Knock wood.)
My home address book, by the way, consists of THREE three-ring binders. One contains active personal numbers, a second contains active business numbers, and the third is an archive. Each book has alphabetical tabs, and one page for every contact. It's very low-tech: I just punch holes in a scrap piece of printer paper from my recycling tray (reduce, reuse and recycle!), staple a business card (if I've been given one) to the page, and stick Post-its with contact info onto each page as well. The full page gives me lots of room to make notes if I need to (handy when I'm keeping track of appointments or significant dates).
I haven't had much need for a computerized contact management system yet (although I sense that need is coming). At that point I'll probably add a spreadsheet step to whole the process.