Tracy and I had been great friends since high school.
She and her family were so much fun – a husband and two adorable little kids, four-year-old Jennifer and two-year-old Garrett. She prided herself on keeping up with all of her friends and loved having all of us around her. One of her favorite things was her address book, where she kept all of her names and numbers. This was back in the days before everyone had PCs and cell phones at their fingertips. Since all of our friends were in their twenties and thirties, the hardest part was keeping up with everyone’s new addresses and phone numbers. One graduates from college, another marries and buys a home. As much as she tried, the book became a maze of different inks and cross outs, but she couldn’t bring herself to buy a new one. What was the point when it would just end up in the same shape as the old one, a few months later? One night after spending the day helping a friend, Tracy was driving home alone, when her car was struck by a drunk driver. She was killed instantly. Her husband was beside himself and when faced with the task of pulling together a funeral, didn’t know where to begin. He figured that he would start with Tracy’s address book. He’d seen her use it hundreds of times, but now that he desperately needed it, it was nowhere to be found. He and the kids tore the house apart – nothing. The friends and neighbors who lived nearby, couldn’t find it either.
At least thirty of us, didn’t learn that Tracy had passed away until weeks later, when the book finally turned up. We missed her funeral simply because her address book wasn’t in a place that her husband could easily find it. And when he did find it, he had trouble figuring out which entries were the most recent, or which of the hundred people, Tracy would have wanted him to notify first.
Don’t let that tragedy happen to your family or your friends. It’s so unnecessary, especially when there are so many outstanding tools out there now to help. Between contact software like Microsoft Outlook, cell phone speed dial lists, and our favorite address/notebook, the Circa by Levenger, it’s easier than ever to have all of your contacts up-to-date and accessible in multiple locations.
Here are a few simple ways to get your contacts organized, backed up, useable and accessible.
If you use a physical address book:
Always keep your address book in the same place, and make sure the place makes sense, like a drawer in the desk where you pay your bills or work on your computer.
Keep your address book up to date. Yes it’s a pain to have to change emails, addresses and phone numbers every time your friends or relatives move, but one change doesn’t mean you have to toss out the whole book and start over. Try the Circa Address Book from Levenger. In it, each person’s entry is actually a square, perforated information slip. So if someone messes up your book by getting a new phone number, all you have to do is tear out that entry and replace it with a new one, leaving the rest of your book intact. Brilliant!
Tell your spouse, roommate, or if you live alone, mother or best friend, where you keep your address book in case of emergency.
Have a quick conversation with your spouse, best friend or parent about which people you would want them to notify if you were seriously injured. Or simply put a star next to each of those names in your address book, along with a notation at the beginning of your address book explaining the reason for the stars.
Copy or scan your address book once a year (or every six months if they change a lot). Save the copy in a different location than your book and a second copy in a secure file at work or in your safe deposit box. Scanning is even better, since you’ll be able to save your book to your computer. Save an additional copy onto a portable hard drive or flash drive and place it along with your other vital documents in a safe deposit box. That way you’ll be able to access your contacts in case your home is inaccessible in an emergency.
If you use a computer based address book:
Microsoft Outlook or other computer based contacts are the easiest to maintain – but only if you actually maintain them.
Every time you notice that a friend has updated information, take a moment to update his/her entry in your contacts.
If you don’t have time for those momentary updates, here is a great way to update your contacts. Make an appointment with yourself once a month to update your contacts. Then make a folder on your computer desktop to help you manage them. Every time you receive an email that a friend has changed his or her contact information, save it and drop it into the folder. Or you can create one Word document and every time you get a new update from any of your contacts, note the person’s name, the date and cut and paste the new information onto that document page. Then on the day of your “appointment” make all the changes to your computer address book, making sure they are saved, and erase the entries on your Word Document or dump those old emails, so you can start the month fresh.
Tell your spouse, roommate or if you live alone, mother or best friend, where you keep your contacts, in case of emergency.
Have a quick conversation with your spouse, best friend or parent about which people you would want them to notify if you were seriously injured. Or create a “notify” category in your contacts, and put each person you’d want to notify in that category. That way all your spouse, friend or parent would have to do is sort by the notify category and will have a list of people to notify seconds later.
Back up your contacts. If you’ve decided to make updates to your contacts once a month, then simply back up your contacts the same day. Depending on your software, save or export your contact file to a separate folder on your computer, just in case anything ever happens to your original contact list. Save an additional copy onto a portable hard drive or flash drive and place it along with your other vital documents in a safe deposit box. That way you’ll be able to access your contacts in case your home is inaccessible in an emergency.
If you use your cell phone as your address book:
Run, don’t walk, to your phone immediately. Download all of your contacts to a file and transfer it to your computer. If you don’t know how, look at your phone’s instruction manual, or call your cellular carrier for instructions.
After the file is on your computer, back it up to at least one other location on your computer and save an additional copy onto a portable hard drive or flash drive and place it along with your other vital documents in a safe deposit box. That way you’ll be able to access your contacts in case your home is inaccessible in an emergency.
It’s extremely dangerous store your important personal contacts ONLY on your phone. Phones can easily be lost, stolen or damaged and to trust all of your vital contacts, friends and family only to your phone is just asking for trouble.
Have Fun Getting Your Stuff Together! We’ll talk later…
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