We've all done it.
You go to a conference or a networking event, collect a hundred business cards, and then do absolutely nothing with them.
Or you’re organizing an event or looking for a job reference, but you're not quite sure where that person's email address went. Wait, you did delete that one email—you can get it back right? Not likely, unless you like digging through the trash.
My advice is to start organizing and managing your contacts today. Here are some helpful tools and tips for doing:
Create your database
There are a number of different programs—including pencil and paper—for creating a database. I prefer Gmail, which has a fantastic messaging and contact management system. To access it, simply click on the "Gmail" text with an arrow down, and you'll open a little menu I bet you never even knew was there. Click on “Contacts” to open up a list of everyone you've email.
Remember the details
Once you add someone to your contacts, open his or her contact page to add in other details. When did you meet this person? What projects was he working on? What are the names of her kids? Add these details in the “add notes” section to the right of the person’s contact information. They will be impressed that you remembered the details, and you'll be better at recalling who's who.
Don't delete emails. Instead, archive them. Once you have answered the question, solved the problem, returned the message—archive it. See that little file folder button? Click it. Your message will be filed away—don’t worry; you can still search for it—but it will not be in your immediate inbox.
I hate a cluttered inbox. (Watch this video about “Inbox Zero
.”) Google gives you 10GB of space, use it.
Sync your contacts with your devices. You'll be happy when you find yourself in a pinch. Let's say, for example, you’re traveling while trying to plan a last minute event. Who was that event planner? Just check your phone, where you have all of those contacts—and notes—stored away.
Put it somewhere other than the cloud
Cloud-based computing is excellent. I love it. But everything fails occasionally, or maybe God-forbid your email account gets hacked and wiped clean. Sad day.
Thankfully, Google makes it easy to download all of your contacts as an Excel file. Do this. Save it to your computer, on a flash drive, or on an external hard drive—even print it out if you like. Just have a copy somewhere other than on Gmail.
Ellie Humphrey is the founder of MadGirlPR (@MadGirlPR), which provides insights about the PR, social, and marketing industries. Ellie is also the public relations and social media coordinator at PerBlue (@PerBlue), a mobile and social gaming company in Madison, Wis.