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  • Best Practices for organizing contacts

    I am working to reorganize my 1200+ contacts into more logical groups. Friends and family are pretty easy, but I am struggling a bit with the strategy for business-related types. Lumping everyone into business doesn't make a lot of sense, but there are folks that move from being current clients to prospects to networking connections that make it a bit confusing.

    What are others doing here? I am using Outlook and synch to my Treo 650.

    Thanks.

  • #2
    I use Outlook's multiple category feature for this. All business contacts are in category "business." Clients are also in category "client," active networking contacts in "networking," and so forth.

    This approach lets me keep track of all my contacts, while making it easy to find the information for client mailings, prospect followups, etc.

    Katherine

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    • #3
      Yes...

      I agree with Katherine. You are not restricted in Outlook to just assigning one catagory. Personally, I have made many of them up myself so they will be easy to jog my memory.

      I use mutiple catagories for many of my contacts.

      Bob

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      • #4
        Categories vs. Distribution Lists

        I belong to a local filmmakers' collaborative, in which film hobbyists take turns to make their film projects, with the help of others in the group. After every project, we reconfigure the teams, and switch roles on the next project. So the current film's director would work as cinematographer in the next, as Asst. Director on the following, and so on.

        So, to organize the members' contact information in Outlook, I've used two strategies:

        1. Categories: Add "project" categories as the contacts move to new projects. Outlook supports multiple categories, but I'm not sure if there's a max. I did run into a problem with syncing multiple categories with my Pocket PC at one point, but that seems to have fixed itself since ActiveSync 3.8.

        2. Distribution Lists: Supported in outlook for exactly this purpose, to group your contacts in different ways. Problem: distribution lists don't sync with Pocket PC.

        If you don't need to sync contacts with your PDA, I'd recommend distribution lists, they are a little easier to work with (for example, you can address an e-mail to the distribution list directly, by typing in the name of the list in the "To:" field).

        Comment


        • #5
          Multi-dimensional system

          I use a spreadsheet because I have three different major roles prompting me to keep in touch with people, and while some people overlap those categories, others are firmly in one area. The same person weighs differently in my Business, Personal, and Ministry networks, so I track a priority indicator in each of those dimensions. That way, I can choose to monitor one, multiple, or combined roles. (I'm an introvert and need to push myself a lot to keep in touch with people).

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by thr61
            I am working to reorganize my 1200+ contacts into more logical groups... but I am struggling a bit with the strategy for business-related types. Lumping everyone into business doesn't make a lot of sense, but there are folks that move from being current clients to prospects to networking connections that make it a bit confusing.
            (1) I maintain separate Outlook Personal Folders (.pst) for personal and business contacts (personal contacts.pst and business contacts.pst, respectively).

            (2) I organize my personal contacts into the following folders:
            • art & creativity
            • art & culture
            • body
            • education
            • family
            • finances
            • food
            • friends
            • government
            • home
            • insurance
            • legal
            • media
            • medical & health
            • merchandise
            • mind
            • office
            • resources
            • spirit
            • travel
            • utilities
            • work
            (3) I organize my business contacts as follows:
            • companies
              • consulting/professional services
              • executive search
              • financial services
              • information technology
              • media
              • telecommunications
              • etc.
            • government
            • people
            (4) Finally, I make extensive use Outlook categories to create additional subgroupings as needed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mscudder
              (2) I organize my personal contacts into the following folders:
              • art & creativity
              • art & culture
              • body
              • education
              • family
              • finances
              • food
              • friends
              • government
              • home
              • insurance
              • legal
              • media
              • medical & health
              • merchandise
              • mind
              • office
              • resources
              • spirit
              • travel
              • utilities
              • work
              So how will you categorize your friend who is a doctor (medical & health) works with you (work) in the governmental institution (government)?
              Do you really need such detailed categorization?

              Comment


              • #8
                I've found that I don't really need to organize my contacts. I treat my contacts list simply as a white pages. Everyone I know is in there. When I need to find an address or phone number, I don't have to worry about whether the person is a friend, business associate, doctor, whatever.

                There are times where I need to find someone of a specific type: doctors, court reporters, restaurants, etc. I use the notes field of the contact to just drop all sorts of keywords that describe a person or my contacts with a person. A search generally picks them up.

                Just my .02

                Comment


                • #9
                  Primary Criterion Is What Works

                  Originally posted by TesTeq
                  So how will you categorize your friend who is a doctor (medical & health) works with you (work) in the governmental institution (government)?
                  business contacts/people

                  Best, however, if/when the technology permits it, all of the above. (Of course, it's possible to do this now with Outlook categories.)

                  The guidelines I use for assigning categories include:

                  1. What kind of resource is the person, organization, or agency in relation to me?
                  2. From which of the various communities in which I participate do I know the person?
                  Originally posted by TesTeq
                  Do you really need such detailed categorization?
                  Not sure what you mean by 'need'. My primary criterion for the 'best' system is what works best for me -- not some arbitrary standard of simplicity or elegance and certainly not 'perfection' (whatever that is).

                  'Works' in this context means knowing where to file new contacts and being able to find existing ones quickly and with minimum effort in the majority of (albeit not necessarily all) cases. In both my physical and electronic filing systems, I adhere to the GTD standard of reducing the number of places I might have to look for something to three or four. 'Works' also encompasses ease of physical administration of the system -- backups, archives, encryption, and practical limits on file sizes.
                  Last edited by mscudder; 07-14-2005, 08:59 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    mscudder,
                    I have also found that it is extremely helpful to have many detailed categories for classifying people as a kind of reminder. I work in development, and the number of people I have in contacts is large and diverse.

                    I have categories for type of work, or for their type of interest and mission (gender issues, birdwatchers - whatever) and even for functions (Reunion, Denver workshop, etc.)

                    I keep multiple catgories in Outlook. [Briank, I may look into the idea of keywords in notes instead- that might get around the category limit of my handheld.]

                    It is especially helpful to have extensive categories when I am trying to place "now how do I know Jane?" and surprising (and face-saving) to realize from a quick look at contact categories that I must have run into her at least three times this past year at various functions.

                    Sounds like a good system to me!

                    emkay

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                    • #11
                      Maybe I'm simplistic...

                      I used to get into colour-coding, setting up categories, etc. until I realised that (a) I could never remember what was in what category, and (b) it took forever to categorise everything. Now I live by the philosophy of "SEARCH," and if I have a particular project or subset of people I want to keep together then I create a distribution list/group.

                      For me (YMMV) I find the less time I spend "organising," the happier I am.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by emkay View Post
                        mscudder,
                        I have also found that it is extremely helpful to have many detailed categories for classifying people as a kind of reminder.

                        ... [deleted middle]

                        Sounds like a good system to me!

                        emkay
                        Agreed! I think this is a great way to track that one friend you promised 6 months ago you'd call if you were ever going camping. Great way to track interests, etc.

                        Comment

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