I find that the best and most immediate use of personal technology for most people is in personal communications.
For example, I did not have an organized and comprehensive set of contacts until this last year. I had one previously in the glory days of the Palm Desktop and Handspring, back in 2000, until I ran out of batteries and the excellent Palm PC software corrupted my contact database. That was not a good day. I worked around my data loss by using email, directory information, and piecemeal solutions for years. I wasn’t willing to make the time commitment again.
Last year, I decided that I had had enough and needed to get everything organized. The time savings, improved availability, and of regularizing your contact data is worth the effort.
First, I identified the data sources that would be of use.
Second, I would need to clean and consolidate my data to remove duplicates, expired or erroneous information. This step takes the longest of the three.
Third, consider pushing your consolidated data to mobile devices, web services, and social networks.
In a nutshell, this is how I’ve become organized:
Initially I gathered contact information from LinkedIn, various e-mail client contact exports, Facebook using FacebookSync, and the imported phonebooks from cell phones.
Next, this information was consolidated into a single address book. In my case, I used the OSX Address Book and painstakingly combined contact information under single names. The look for duplicates feature was particularly useful here.
Following this, making your contacts work effectively for you is particularly handy.
- iTunes and iSync may sync your contacts to:
- Configured cell phones
- Yahoo and Google contacts
- LinkedIn can accept an export from Address Book or can use the previously synced Google or Yahoo contacts, if you are willing to give them your password. The same goes for Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn can also slurp up all of your Outlook contacts if you are using IE due to the questionably prudent MS Office integration functionality.
Once again, I use all common computing platforms, but accomplished this under OSX. This can be easily performed with Outlook, various Linux offerings, and others as well using most of the same data flows.
After you have accomplished an end result, it will be quite difficult to lose your organized contacts due to a hard drive failure, the loss of a mobile device, access problem, or other common event. Imagine the time savings of never having to hunt for contact information, never wondering if it is consistent, or if it will be lost if you make a change or update. It’s pretty nice!
Keeping these address book updated can also be a bit of a task, but is a surmountable one. Some people are fans of the highly annoying Plaxo and Cardscan services that sends nagging emails asking your contacts to update their information constantly.
I am not a fan of needlessly annoying people when there are so many ways to get in contact. With Facebook and LinkedIn being periodically imported, chances are that I will have at least a couple of updated methods of contact no matter the circumstance.
Almost immediately after the launch of Plaxo as a new service, critics were there to do what they do best. Their words are still worth consideration today.
Whenever possible, technology should make life more simple and not more complicated. You know that you’re doing things right when this happens.
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