A while back, I read a book by Tim Templeton called The Referral of a Lifetime. The book is basically a story about how referrals are your best resource in any kind of business you run, or venture you take on, and it gave some ideas on keeping in touch. One of the ideas in the book was a regimented Keep In Touch program. After reading the book, I scoured teh internetz for a ready-made Keep In Touch program, and didn’t find one.
So I did what any resourceful internet-age efficiency whore would do: I made my own.
First, I got all my contacts in one place. Lifehacker did a piece on consolidating your contacts, which is really good, but they use Gmail to house all of their contacts in one place. I personally don’t really like Gmail’s contact system, so I’m using Plaxo, synced with Address Book on my Mac. This also syncs with my iPhone, so I have a complete and updated address book on my laptop, my iPhone and on the internet at Plaxo.com in case my phone dies and I don’t have my laptop with me. This system works really well and I’ve never been without my contacts’ info when I needed it. Check out Lifehacker’s post for all the info on how to export all your addresses and get everything synced.
Ok, now on to the categorizing. Plaxo, Address Book on a Mac, Gmail, and pretty much any other address program you decide to use has a way to categorize your contacts. If you have a way to add a category, a group, or a new field in whatever address book you’re using, it’ll work. I went through every contact (and I have almost 400) and categorized them into the following groups:
N- I never really feel the need to speak with this person, but I want to save their contact info anyway, or I see this person daily (at work, for example) and don’t need to have a Keep In Touch plan for him/her.
1y- I will get in touch with this person at least once a year.
6m- I will get in touch with this person at least once every 6 months.
1m- I will get in touch with this person at least once a month.
2w- I will get in touch with this person at least once every 2 weeks.
Most of my contacts ended up in N. I know a lot of people that I either don’t need to stay in touch with, don’t want to stay in touch with, or don’t really know that well.
Once I had everyone categorized, I took all the categories except N and began putting them in my task list. I use RememberTheMilk, but you can use whatever task management program you like, as long as you can set it to repeat tasks at specified intervals. I put everyone on my list. If I knew their birthday, I went ahead and used that as the starting point, since I’m obviously not going to get in touch with everyone, like, this week. For the people whose birthdays I didn’t know, I staggered them throughout the year. For each one, I set up a repeating task based on how often I’d like to contact that person.
Honestly, it took a really long time to do all that, but I’m so glad I put in in place. Maintaining it has been a comparitive piece of cake, and the biggest benefit is that I have a system in place to keep in touch with everyone I need to keep in touch with, and I won’t forget, and I won’t be sending notes saying stuff like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I haven’t spoken to you in THREE YEARS! Can we still be friends?” And that’s worth a lot.