Five Tips For Organizing Your Contacts

When’s your grandmother’s birthday? What’s your neighbor’s cell phone number? What’s your college roommate’s mailing address?

I only know one of these pieces of information by heart and, like most people, I have to rely on my contacts list for the other two.

Unless you’re my mom (who is the most organized person I can think of), you probably don’t have this information as ‘at hand’ as you want to have it. If so, this post is for you.

Tip 1: Determine every place you keep contact information, then pick ‘the one’.

Let me use my case as the example:

  1. I rip corners off envelopes when people send me stuff so I have their mailing address. These are in a pile on my desk (if I got them at work) or my dresser (if I got them at home). They are in the same piles as business cards people give me.
  2. I have all email going into one Gmail interface.
  3. I text people/meet people in real life and put them into my phone contacts.
  4. I use a CRM for work and have people in there who I’ve classified by relationship (business contact, family, etc.) that syncs with my phone and email to track what information/contact has been made and when. (Note: not as creepy as it sounds.)
  5. I have a Rolodex on my desk which, besides being something everyone can laugh at and revealer of my middle aged-ness, has business cards in it and is full.
  6. I rely very heavily on Facebook for birthday reminders and those people not on Facebook, my mom is kind enough to text me about.

Clearly I have some decisions to make but one thing is true: I will never feel organized until everything is in one place, whether it’s a paper system or digital one. I’d love to know, say, my client’s birthdays, but before getting ambitious I have to pull everything into one system. You do, too.

If you decide on paper, it’s time to find a nice address book or Rolodex and start going through your lists in all your digital places.

If you decide on digital, you need to pick one system that is the main system (ex: Gmail) and then merge/import your data from the other systems in. Most programs will let you export to a .csv file (comma separated value, like a text file with commas where lines of a table would be) that can be imported in. Googling something like ‘merge Hotmail contacts into contacts on iPhone’ should give you some options, or hire a nerd to do this once you understand what all the moving pieces are.

Tip 2: Clean duplicates or people who shouldn’t be there.

Once everything is in one system, it’ll be very easy to clean duplicates (since the system will either automatically do it or make it easier to spot because alphabetically, they’ll be right next to each other).

The one thing technology can’t do is delete those people who shouldn’t be there, like ex-boyfriends or deceased relatives (I have other places for both but I don’t need ‘David OKCupid’ to appear every time I look for my colleague Dave’s number). Lost time, people.

Tip 3: Make it work everywhere.

Let’s say you picked Gmail contacts and have cleaned them out. It won’t do much good until you put them on your iPhone too. Or the Mail application on your phone. And anywhere else you need to regularly access them.

Tip 4: Create process when you add a new contact.

Yay, you met a new friend when you went out for drinks. Now what?

Well, ideally you have a system for adding her into your contacts. Yes, maybe it takes an extra two minutes to look up her birthday on Facebook and type in her mailing address as you put her into your Gmail contacts but the first time you need to look up her email address and it’s actually there, you’ll be grateful.

If this sounds tedious to you, you can use a website like Upwork and hire someone who does this periodic data entry/finding for you, then you can email them and say ‘Add so and so to my contacts.’

Tip 5: Periodically clean out.

Just because you met that cool Australian guy at the youth hostel and traveled Rome when you were 20 does not mean he needs to be in your contacts. (Bye, Chris.) By periodically cleaning out people you aren’t planning to stay in touch with you will make your list a lot more manageable. Fun fact: Australian Chris I’m sure continues to exist despite the fact I deleted him the other day.

If you want to remember these people, maybe write a short story about them or make a fun ‘Random People I Once Knew’ Google Doc and stick them there. Your contacts list is a living document and your past, while an important part of you life, shouldn’t exist there.

Having an organized contacts list will make you feel in control of your entire life and who knows, maybe I’ll be texting people to let them know about birthdays one day soon, impressing my friends and family with my organization.

Can Your Phone Do That?

**This post contains affiliate links**

In addition to phone cases that do more, there are lots of accessories and attachments available that can transform your phone into any other tool you may need for your business. I couldn’t cover ALL the possible phone accessories/attachments in one blog post, since there are so many (and you can only really use one or two at a time, otherwise you’d have an Inspector Gadget phone). The following phone related gadgets are practical and affordable, plus their application can mean saving money on an extra piece of equipment.

Car Mount. This is helpful for people who travel a lot for work related purposes, but it can also be useful if you need a mount for pretty much any reason. This mount attaches to many different surfaces, so you can set it up on your window, wall, kitchen counter, and pretty much anywhere else. Think about anytime you’ve been using Google Maps on your phone for directions while trying to drive- not exactly a safe situation unless you have an extra arm. There are several different types of mounts available for different prices, but here is a recent list of 17 to get an idea.

Square Reader: If you’ve ever needed to accept a card payment from a customer on the go or without a retail setup, the Square Reader lets you swipe from your phone. To get the reader, all you have to do is sign up for a Square account and you’ll get the magstripe reader. Although it costs a little extra, you can purchase a Square Chip Reader for $29 that reads both chip cards and the usual stripe. Either way, the processing fee is 2.75% (which, if you consider the convenience factor is a bit of a fair trade). The reader works online and offline, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of a bad internet/data connection in order to accept payments.

Keyboard. A useful tool for freelancers/people who may not have the budget to purchase a laptop but need to work on the go. Typing on your phone’s keypad is fine for shorter content, but as someone who has to type a lot of longer content, that tiny keyboard gets old fast. Some keyboards can be connected physically or through Bluetooth. Some of these keyboards range from $30-$130, depending on the brand. A couple features to consider- whether or not it comes with a stand (which I’d recommend if you don’t already have one to keep your phone upright while you type), and whether or not you want it to fold (which may be useful if you pack up and go a lot). We really like the ZAGG keyboard– it’s foldable, wireless, and can connect to your smartphone.

Dongles. Need to connect your phone to a projector? Certain dongles (the funny name for certain cords that connect your phone to another device) can hook you up. This Apple Lightning Digital AV Adapter will connect your phone to a projector or any compatible AV device. For Samsung users, this HDMI cable will also do the trick. It’s also a great way to do movie night (not really a business application, but a fun idea nevertheless).

Selfie Stick. Don’t knock it till you try it. Selfie sticks are not the magic wand of narcissistic millennials, they can also have a business application. You can use them to get a better vantage point for a picture, recording live videos, and more. (Additional ideas for using a selfie stick include self defense and feeding your pets). Selfie Sticks may seem like a frivolous phone accessory for your business, but you’d be surprised at how handy they can actually be.

Are there any practical phone accessories you’ve found helpful that got neglected in this post? Let us know! We love hearing about useful tech stuff 🙂

Phone Cases That Do More

**This post contains affiliate links**

Most people with cell phones consider cases a necessary add-on. After all, who wants to be left in the lurch with a shattered screen or malfunctioning phone after it has a little lovetap with the ground? Phone cases are also a way to show off a bit of individuality (since we all have the same 2-3 phones, it’s nice to feel like we’re standing out in some small way). My favorite former case was my iPhone 5’s Otterbox, which finally had to be retired, but if I dropped my phone it would just bounce right back up into my hand (more or less).

Although phone cases are a necessity nowadays, there are a variety of functional cases that can actually benefit your business while protecting your phone.

In1 Case Tool Kit: If you’re like me, you don’t think a whole lot about having a tool kit until that moment strikes when you suddenly need one. The In1 Case not only has a built-in kit with different tools, including ball point pens, a nail file, tweezers, a set of scissors, a Philips screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver, a bottle opener, and a kick stand. So, you probably aren’t going to be able to do any major renovation projects with this phone case, but you can safely remove a splinter or tidy up your nails before a meeting on-the-go. And, it’s TSA compliant, so you can still travel with it.

Lifeproof: Lifeproof is perfect for anyone who needs something that’s a step up from Otterbox (which I wasn’t even sure was possible until recently). For those working around a lot of water, dirt, or out in the elements in general, this case has you (and your phone) covered. Beyond just being waterproof, this case can remain submerged in 2 meters of water for up to an hour without any damage to your phone. It can handle a drop from 2 meters high, and you can take it on your next ski trip without worrying about snow getting inside. This case is perfect for anyone who is active/adventurous/maybe a tad careless.

Megaverse Anti-Gravity: If you’ve ever tried watching a YouTube tutorial on something that requires both hands while also trying to hold your phone, you’re not alone in this predicament. Instead of trying to grow a third arm, the Megaverse Anti-Gravity case is the perfect solution. This case can stick to just about any surface: “…windows, mirrors, whiteboards, metal, kitchen cabinets, tile, flat car dashboards and more.” You can lift weights or bake while binge-watching your latest show on Netflix and not having to worry about dropping a dumbbell or spilling flour all over your phone. It’s also perfect for hands-free selfies/live-videos. The cases are also slightly more customized, with built-in wallets and bottle-openers (why have a case that can only do one cool thing?)

Cases that Charge: A lot of freelancers or even just on the move a lot during the workday and don’t have time to sit around plugged into a wall, a phone case that acts as a battery pack may be a good idea for you. Since there are so many different types of phones out there, I’m just linking to the Amazon best seller list (personally I’m an iPhone user but Samsung is represented here as well). Continuing on the “more than one cool thing” idea, some of these cases have kickstands or other features.

Edible Gummy iPhone Case: This was an intriguing find during internet travels that I had to look into. Although I’m not convinced this case provides a lot of protection to your phone, you can still at least gnaw on your phone case if you find yourself trapped somewhere without access to other food. The flavors are pretty intriguing, too, with offerings like Bubble Tea, Fermented Apple, and…Fish Lips? I also really enjoyed the product photo (below).

Having a phone inevitably means having a phone case, but you might be able to find something that can bring something extra to the table for you and/or your business.

Our Phones Are Listening

Feeling watched? You might be being listened to instead.

Feeling watched? You might be being listened to instead.

When I log into Gmail, answer some correspondence, then browse the internet, I am never surprised that I am being pitched social media reports or task management software… because all that is what I’ve been writing about in my emails. This is the same reason that, if you browsed my email while I was logged in, I wouldn’t freak out about you seeing anything in particular. Passwords and other information that is sensitive are typically sent via encrypted messages or other means and what remains is a ‘Hey did you do this?’ ‘Yes, I did that’ back and forth of a typical work correspondence.

I’ve often teased that my friends know to call me if they want the dirt; in my online life, I am an open book.

Listening to the Note To Self podcast recently, I heard the story of a guy who was singing to his dog before work (the song was ‘Every time I say goodbye, I cry a little…’ something that I could have done myself if I was still living alone with my dog and watching her sad face as I got ready for work). He puts his iPhone on shuffle and out of the thousands of songs that could be playing, guess which one does.

The interview went in depth with Walter Kirn who wrote a recent article in The Atlantic called ‘If you’re not paranoid, you’re crazy’.

The summary: our phones are listening to us. Our web cams are recording us. We are being watched, even when we think we have logged out for the day.

Now, my life has always been if I am on my computer, I get how I’m being watched. But the fact that my phone could sit charging while listening to my husband and I argue or my friend and I have a heart to heart… that’s where it crosses the line for me.

The article I’ve linked above discusses a tech person who throws parties and insists everyone leave their phones in their locked cars, ideally with the batteries taken out. There’s a lot in there if you take the time to read it.

All of it makes me ask myself, do the people in this article know something I don’t? And if so, why am I not listening?

In all the user agreements that none of us read, apparently it doesn’t mention that we aren’t being recorded. Plus, why does every new app seem to want access to our microphone?

It makes me wonder what tasks I can do with my phone off that I have been a little lazy about:

  1. Bringing my digital camera with me for photo opps.
  2. Sending out correspondence via handwritten notes.
  3. Scanning my receipts and other documents to file away with my Doxie scanner.
  4. Buying stuff from local merchants with cash.
  5. Trying to hang out with people in person.
  6. Wearing a watch again so I can leave my phone places. (I often bring it with me just for the time keeping purposes!)

In any case, I am happy to know this is happening and think of ways I can go ‘offline’ a little more often, not just for the good of my body but to avoid being spied on.

Podcast discussing this is approximately 30 mins: http://www.wnyc.org/story/walter-kirn-paranoid-crazy/ Educate yourself… and as I educate myself, I am happy to share what I learn with you.

Why One Woman Wrote A Whole Book From An iPhone

This morning, I heard a story  on NPR about a woman who got diagnosed with ALS, a slowly degenerative disease that is eventually fatal. She spent the next year of her life living: travel with her family and doing all those other things you say you’ll do before you go.

She also wrote a book. Since at that time she only had movement in one thumb, she had her husband put her iPhobe in her non moving hand and she typed over 80,000 words with her working thumb into the Notes app on her phone (her iPad keyboard she said was too big to navigate).

I wanted to understand a bit how this felt so I typed this blog entry the same way. It was slow and I got the luxury of correcting my spelling errors, etc. on a full sized keyboard when I posted the blog.

It is amazing what the human spirit can do. Rather than seeing her limits, this woman saw her one working thumb and her still working mind and wrote the book she wanted to. Also made me realize there is more than one way to do something, even if one way takes longer and seems tedious. I thought it was the perfect thing to hear on a Sunday morning when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself feeling under the weather. Made me get up and do something with my day!

If you want to read (or hear) the interview too: http://kgou.org/post/living-life-joy-until-i-say-good-bye

Another great story about the same woman: http://thechronicleherald.ca/artslife/930473-her-toughest-assignment-reporter-chronicles-her-last-days


Marketing Monday: Acadia National Park Application by Chimani

I had a case of ‘Holy crap it’s a small world!’ this past weekend that finally made me write this blog post.

Chimani Logo- Doesn't it look techy and outdoorsy at the same time?

Chimani Logo- Doesn't it look techy and outdoorsy at the same time?

I was volunteering at Take Pride in Acadia Day, which is this yearly event at Acadia National Park that organizes volunteers to do outdoor projects like raking leaves and cleaning out culverts to get the park ready for winter. In exchange for manual labor, participants get a t-shirt and a lunch of chili and cornbread (which is so good, I heard about it before I even moved to Bar Harbor). In other words, this event could have been a whole Marketing Monday post because it was so well organized and publicized.

But this is about a random coincidence.

To organize the masses of people, everyone is put in a work group with a number. My friend Sarah and I were in group 13, as was a very familiar looking couple. (Keep in mind there are at least 50 people in each of the 21 groups.)

The woman I recognized as someone I went to college with and her husband also looked familiar.

“Wait a minute, do you blog?” he asked.

“Wait a minute, did you design the Acadia National Park application?” I asked.

Phone screenshots, lifted off Kerry's website. Way better than I could have done!

Phone screenshots, lifted off Kerry's website. Way better than I could have done!

So Kerry is this super nice guy who gave me a preview of the Chimani Acadia National Park application when it came out. A review of it has been on my to-do list for months. Seeing him reminded me to finally do it. (Full disclosure: He was so nice that he didn’t nag me at all…Those of you who read this blog regularly know me a little better!)

Mobile web is getting bigger with a 230% increase this year alone. And anyone who has ever been in Downeast Maine knows that ATT (iPhone) coverage here is spotty to say the least. So what does Kerry do? Designs an app that requires no cell service. Brilliant! Because the last thing you want to do is carry heavy guidebooks up Cadillac Mountain.

I’ve fired up the application a few times and see that the GPS capabilities and maps alone will keep me from getting lost (again). I have yet to do the voice over audio tour of the Park Loop Road. Information is up to date, including bus and tide schedules (handy for those venturing to Bar Island as every year a tourist parks there and comes back to a flooded car).

For $5, this application costs less than a guide book. You can buy it on iTunes or get it on the Android market.

And to those of you going to other national parks, Chimani has applications for several other national parks and historic areas already created and some in progress.

But my favorite part is Kerry Gallivan, the developer, was actually in Acadia National Park taking part in service event this past weekend. It’s clear that Kerry’s passion is the real deal and I as a user of the application appreciate that.

So Kerry, I’m sorry this review is so late. Your application for Acadia National Park is fantastic!