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The Gaps in the Standard Address Book

The Gaps in the Standard Address Book
Rolodex card

    When I was a kid, my dad would give me little tasks around his office to keep me out of trouble. My favorite was gluing business cards to Rolodex cards and carefully arranging them. Kept me out of trouble for hours at a go, because my father not only had plenty of contacts but also hated organizing his Rolodex himself.

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    Dear old Dad’s tried plenty of contact management systems in the intervening years from scanning business cards to handwritten notes in his daily planner. Low-tech or high-tech, none seem to work as well for him as that old Rolodex.

    The two key complaints are always space and flexibility. Most software programs have little more than fields for a name, a few phone numbers and an address — if you’re lucky, you can add a website. Daily planners may not even have room for those details. There are no options, beyond a simple notes section for the details that might help you make a sale down the road or cheer up a friend.

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    One of the reasons that adding new contacts to Dad’s Rolodex was a time-consuming task was the need to transcribe all sorts of information off of the back of business cards before I was let loose with my glue stick. I learned to type by adding extra phone numbers, side businesses and a host of other details to the back of Rolodex cards: Dad notes these things down right after conversations so that he can remember all sorts of things about his new contacts. But those other systems he’s tried just don’t offer the flexibility necessary.

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    I have similar issues with many of the address books and contact managements systems I’ve tried. At this point, I use Gmail — not because I consider Gmail’s address book any sort of killer app for contact management, but because I use Gmail for all of my email, and the address book happens to be there. In its favor, I can access my contacts just about anywhere I can get an internet connection, but there are plenty of features I’d love to see added.

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    The Seven Improvements I’d Love to Have Made to My Address Book

    1. Searchability. Sure, you can search most contact management systems for names, or even employers. But I want to be able to type in a keyword, like ‘accountant’ and see a list of all the accountants I happen to know. Tagging would also suffice for my needs, but either way, I want to be able to find contacts based on information beyond a name.
    2. Easy customization. Gmail offers me the option of adding my own fields to my address book, and that’s nice. I’d like it, though, if I could add a few fields to the whole thing, rather than having to add it to each entry. For instance, I keep track of blogs as well as company websites, and it’s a bit of a hassle to add that entry to just about every contact I have.
    3. List management. Lists are another area where Gmail is giving it the old college try, but the fact that I have so many contacts makes the list management process unwieldy at best. Honestly, I’m not too sure about how to make it easier to handle, but Google’s got some brilliant minds — can you help us out, guys?
    4. Simple syncing. Every time I try to sync my cell phone and my address book, I wind up with tons of information that just isn’t useful. This is one context that I don’t need email address, extra notes or fax lines to make it into my ‘new’ address book.
    5. Automatic adding. Gmail’s habit of adding every email address that I send mail to from my account is amazingly useful. While Google is keeping track of all my personal data, though, why can’t they add all of the contact information that they have on my friends on Facebook directly to my Gmail address book? (I’d appreciate all those other social networking sites, too!) Easy importing of hard copy information — business cards, scribbled notes, etc. — would be great, as well.
    6. Updating systems. As it is, I have to go through my address book entry by entry to check if an email address or phone number is good. If the whole system is computerized, though, there should be a simple way to check all of the email addresses in one go. I’d like a simple report saying that a certain set of contacts has defunct information so that I only need to bother a few people. I’d also like a quick and easy way to delete all addresses from a given domain, such as the inevitable pile of Craigslist addresses that accumulate in my contact book solely because of responses I send to job listings.
    7. Personalized updates. This is pure wishful thinking, I know, but the fact that Gmail displays the last several email exchanges you’ve had with a particular contact got me thinking: why can’t the last couple of updates to a person’s blog or other updates about the person pop up as well? Alright, I admit I’m unlikely to get this one, but if I’m making a wish list of abilities for a contact management system, I think I’m allowed to list a couple never-gonna-gets.

    So, what capabilities are missing from your address book? What ability would turn your contact management system into the perfect tool?

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2020

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    The Gentle Art of Saying No For a Less Stressful Life

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to master the Gentle Art of Saying No:

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    1. Value Your Time

    Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”

    2. Know Your Priorities

    Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

    For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.

    3. Practice Saying No

    Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

    4. Don’t Apologize

    A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.

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    5. Stop Being Nice

    Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets.

    Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

    6. Say No to Your Boss

    Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no,” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning.

    But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

    7. Pre-Empting

    It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

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    “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

    8. Get Back to You

    Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them:

    “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

    At least you gave it some consideration.

    9. Maybe Later

    If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

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    “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

    Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

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    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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