How to Use Evernote as a Contact Manager
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The One Minute Takeaway
- Evernote is a software application. It comes in Mac, Windows, iPhone, Android and Blackberry flavors
- As a tool, it has multiple uses, but its primary function is to capture information (web pages, articles, photos, chunks of text, contact information, graphics, etc.), store it in the cloud, index it to make it keyword and tag-searchable (findable) and then sync the cloud version with your laptop and mobile versions of Evernote
- If you don’t already use it, you should. It will literally change your life
- If you do use it, take the time to learn more about it
- Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be featuring a few ways that I use Evernote personally here
- This post shows step-by-step how to use Evernote as not just a Contact Manager, but a Relationship Manager, and why you should try it right now
- Evernote is free, but I recommend buying or upgrading to a Premium account, both to support future development of the application and because it provides for more storage
- Transparency Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the company other than being a customer, and none of the links provided below are affiliate-related
Evernote Contact Manager
The primary purpose of a Contact Management Program has always been to store and retrieve contact information (phone, email, address etc.). In fact, you’re likely using the Contacts section of Outlook right now for this purpose. You may or may not be connecting a mobile device to your laptop via a sync cable and software program.
If this is you, I’ve got a bottle of Tylenol I can sell you, because there is a better way to do things and I’m about to show you something that will rock your world.
I’m writing this post because at the time of this writing there are no articles or tips for how to use Evernote as a Contact Manager, other than the suggestion that one can take photos of people you meet at a conference and use them to remember what they look like. There’s also the obvious use of Evernote as a Contact Manager by taking photos of business cards with your smartphone and storing them in Evernote.
The Missing Piece: How to Use Evernote as a Relationship Management Tool
What we have here is a fundamental misunderstanding. You see, when I think of managing my contacts, I think of deleting phone numbers, updating Outlook and other painful things. But what I really want to think about, what’s really (literally) as valuable as gold, is Relationship Management.
Any smartphone or email program can give you an Address Book or list of Contact Information. Evernote can even be used for that if you wish, but Contact Management is such a very small part of Relationship Management that it’s worth clarifying the difference in mindset before I show you something new.
Contact Management = Me being able to locate & retrieve your phone number and email address
Relationship Management = Me using that information and more to, over a period of months, get to know you as a person and establish either a relatively shallow relationship (think: Twitter or Facebook) or a deeper relationship (think: in-person, phone, dinners, lunches, coffees, dates, marriage, life, etc.) with you.
You see the difference? It’s important. Because while I hate “managing contacts”, I absolutely love meeting new people and establishing relationships. I’m going show you to use Evernote to effectively manage relationships, but if you insist on simply wanting a Contact Manager, the same strategy here can be used for that too.
Step 1: Stop Looking for the Tool that Does Everything Really Well. It does not exist.
You’re chasing a Pink Unicorn; and it is laughing at you, the way Pink Unicorns tend to do.
Step 2: Separate Your Contact Manager from Your Relationship Manager
NOTE: Below I’m going to briefly tell you about my current setup. When I write here, the strategies I write about can be applied to anything, because my objective is not to find ways to make things work for only specific devices or platforms on the market. My objective is to develop and share platform-agnostic techniques and strategies that work to solve a problem for many people. In English, this means that, while I am telling you what I use below and why I use that setup, if you’re reading this and your preference is for say, the Blackberry or iPhone, keep reading. I’m just sharing what I have found to work best for me. For now.
I currently use the Droid X on Verizon as my mobile device. I use Google Business Apps, which provides me with a premium version of Gmail, Calendar, Docs and the rest of the product suite.
Gmail is my Contact Manager. In other words, when I need a phone number, or need to send an email or on the rare occasions when I need to locate an address, I click the Contacts link in my Gmail account.
This works nicely for me because when I change a phone number or email or create a contact in my Gmail account in a web browser, it is instantly available and updated on my smartphone. No cable. No syncing. No software. No headache. No Tylenol. My Contacts are in the cloud and I access them from multiple devices, including my smartphone.
Step 3: Use Evernote as a Relationship Manager, NOT a Contact Manager
Once you start using Evernote, you’ll quickly discover many uses for it. Their site has video tutorials, a tips blog and many great ideas. If you click on the image below to view it full size, you’ll see how I use Evernote as a Relationship Manager. I’ll explain a bit more about it below the visual, but look at the image in its full size so you can get a sense for my setup. Click on it and if you’re using a browser like Chrome you may also see a plus sign if you still need to click again to view it full size.
Take a couple minutes to look at the image. I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee and come back.
Okay. I’m back.
On the left side of the image are my Notebooks. I’ll do some short posts in the future on what they are and how I use them, but for now I’m just going to focus on the CONTACTS notebook (selected in the image).
Step 4: Create a Notebook for Relationship Management
Now here’s a decision point for you that is your own personal preference. I do NOT use Evernote for Contact Management, meaning that I do NOT store phone numbers or email addresses. Why? Because I choose not to. The wonderful thing about Evernote is that you can customize your version the way you like it, even down to including contact information and/or photos of your contacts if you wish.
So create a new Notebook, and call it CONTACTS or RELATIONSHIPS or whatever you wish, so long as it means something to you and you know where to find it. If you put a character like a $ before the name, as you can see in the screenshot above, you can reorder your Notebooks however you prefer. It’s also worth noting that you should explore further Evernote’s ability to create “Stacks” of Notebooks, as I’ve done in the screenshot for the Notebook labeled “$ 20% SPOKES”. Stacks are basically Notebooks that are organized under the same theme, so you may want to create a Stack called “PROJECTS” and within that might be a Notebook for each Project. There are a million ways to use this program, so test a few and use what works best for you. I’ll tell you about my PROJECTS Notebook in another post.
Here are the reasons why I DON’T use Evernote as a Contact Manager:
- Because I use Gmail for my Contacts, there is no need to use Evernote to store my Contact Information
- When I email someone, I email them using the web version of Gmail because I have a searchable archive going back five years that is valuable to me. No other email client, PC or Mac can handle that large of an archive and still offer efficient and functional search capabilities to the degree that Gmail can. However, if you do make the choice to include the Contact Information in Evernote, the Link Field (in the image above it says “Virgin Galactic”) can be used for the contact’s email address by using “mailto:email@example.com” instead of http:// for a web link and it should launch your default email client with a new message pre-addressed.
- When I call someone, I call them from my mobile phone. Although in the Evernote app for Android, phone numbers in Notes can be touched on and it will dial the contact, I choose not to do this because it creates unnecessary dual updating of Contact Information for me – I’d have to update both Evernote as well as Gmail Contacts. Whenever possible I opt for Less, rather than More, particularly when I have a choice.
Step 5: Create Your First Contact or Relationship
Click to select the CONTACTS Notebook (or whatever you chose to call it).
Click the New Note icon and in the Note Title, put the person’s name. Doesn’t matter if you put last name first or first name last because we’re not going to sort by name. The true power of Evernote is its ability to allow you to search specific Notebooks or All Notebooks by Tag or keyword or name or even the area code of a phone number, name of a book etc. – all from either your laptop or your smartphone. That’s power under the hood.
In the example screenshot above I highlighted Richard Branson and listed his title, opting to create a “Tag” for his company name. Why? Because I wanted to be able to click that Tag or search on that Tag and have all contacts display from that company. An alternative option for you would be to title the note: “Richard Branson / Virgin Galactic”.
Step 6: Use It
Here are some great usage tips if you choose to deploy this strategy:
Get a Text Expander
PC peeps: Comment below and tell me what the best text expander for Windows users is. I’m on a Mac. I’ll update this article with a PC equivalent.
If you’re on a Mac, you’re just going to have to trust me on this tip. Go download and install Typinator (not an affiliate link). This software will allow you to create keystroke shortcuts for frequently used text. I’ll do a post specifically on text-expansion software apps in the future, because they can really save you time in replying to email. But for now you’re going to use it to create a single shortcut. The shortcut keystroke combination is going to be the letters DTS followed by a space. I don’t provide tech support, so you’re going to have to RTFM (read the manual) for Typinator, but it’s pretty easy.
You’re going to set that keystroke combination, Date/Time Stamp, such that every time you type that combination of keys, this happens:
Tuesday, 22-February-2011 – 9:13 PM:
Now you’ve got something you can work with to document phone conversations. Until you get a text expander you’re going to have to manually just enter the date/time. Why take notes with Date and Time Stamps?
#1. Because it makes you look really smart even if you’re not. If something goes sour on a real estate deal you’re doing, imagine the look on the face of the other agent when you are able to recite literally verbatim what they said or what you discussed over coffee or on the phone THREE MONTHS AGO!
And B, because it creates a chronological history of the Relationship, how frequently you meet, perhaps the last time you had coffee with this person they told you they needed help with finding a nice dog. After you had coffee and before you forgot, you booted up Evernote – either on your smartphone or your laptop, and you inserted the Date/Time Stamp, and put: “Met for coffee. She’s looking for a dog. Prefers Rottweillers, not poodles. Would like it to be a shelter dog rather than from a breeder.”
Four months after having coffee with her, you get a call from your friend who runs the Dog Rescue Center in Montana. Turns out she’s looking to place a Rottweiller who is going to be put to sleep in 2 days if they can’t find a home for her. Something clicks in your mind. One of your 500 friends you met with or spoke with or emailed with some months ago was looking for one, wasn’t she? But who?
While you’re still on the phone, you boot up your laptop and Evernote, click on the CONTACTS Notebook and search “dog” and “rottweiller”. Immediately the friend you had coffee with four months ago comes up. Whether you chose to include contact information at the top of the notes or not, you now know immediately who your next call is going to be to. And you’ve helped someone. Two really – You helped the dog and you helped your friends.
Helping people and Paying It Forward is Powerful. As Scott Stratten says, it’s “AwesomeSauce”.
Less is More, Where Relationships are Concerned
As Peter Shankman says, “Follower Count is the new Penis Envy.” And he’s right. In Relationship Management, it’s NOT about Quantity, it’s about Quality.
It is physically impossible for you to maintain deep relationships with 1000 people and still be employed. Really. It’s an easy time-based equation. Goes something like this: Hours you have available per month / # Relationships you want to grow or maintain = Time that you have for each person.
Or, said another way, “The bigger your CONTACTS Notebook, the shallower your relationships are.”
You’re giving them a fraction of a fraction of your attention, or, if you’re like me, you wake up one day and have an epiphany. Suddenly you see why it’s actually NOT better to have 1,000 or 5,000 “Friends” on Facebook; and you go through and pare your list down significantly so you can put more time and attention into fewer relationships. I have less than 250 Friends on Facebook, and I enjoy it far more than when I accepted every friend request that came in.
Don’t Just Add Existing Contacts. Create Notes for People You’d Like to Meet
Relationship Management is not just about maintaining relationships. It’s about adding new ones. So you should be creating Notes for people you’d LIKE to have a relationship with as well as those who you already know. For example, do you want to have a relationship with me? If so, create a Note with my name on it in the title (Adam Boettiger), drop my site link into the URL box (http://digitalminimalism.com/), follow me on Twitter to learn more about me and what I might need help with, and one day introduce yourself. But keep in mind that my philosophy is that Less is More, so it may not be possible right now for me to have a deep relationship with you. You may have to be satisfied with just following me on Twitter and engaging me there in 140-character chunks of text. Trust me. It’s nothing personal. Like you, my Time and Attention are finite.
How to Remember to Stay in Touch in a World of Noise
Relationships – good ones – take work as well as an investment in time. With this Evernote Relationship Management System, there are two ways you can remember to stay in touch regularly with your Contacts:
The first way is to click the top of the column that has your Notes in it and choose to Filter the list of contacts by “Last Date Updated”. What this will automatically do is, by month, allow you to see how long it has been since you changed or added something to a Contact’s Note. In other words, if you haven’t spoken to Mom in four months, it’s probably time to give her a call.
The second way – the one that I use, is to use an email reminder service called FollowUpThen. It’s free as of this writing. I have no affiliation with them other than using them for some time quite effectively. In this article, I go into great detail on how I use the service for those interested.
In general though, just understand that you need to have regular contact with people for a relationship to happen, so an example of how I might remember to do this might be to send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Line: TICKLE: Gail Goodwin and I’d send it with nothing in the Body of the message, unless there was something specific I needed to discuss with her. It just needs to be a nudge for me to open the Evernote app on my smartphone, look her up, read about what we discussed last and pick up the phone or email her.
Generally when I meet someone new, after I get to know them I always end up asking the same thing: “If there was one thing that I could help you with this week or this month or this year, what would it be?”
Now, those who know me, know that’s who I am. I know that at some point, if I help enough people, it generally comes back to me in some way. But our society has focused on “Me Me Me Me Me Me” for so long that it’s quite funny the looks I get when I say this to a person I met in a coffee shop. They assume that you have to have an ulterior motive – selling or otherwise – if you’re wanting to help them. And I think that’s sad.
So for me, what Evernote allows me to do is help people. And look really smart to the people I choose to have relationships with. It allows me to ask about their spouse’s broken ankle and refer to her by name – the “right” name this time.
I use Evernote for many, many things. It is a truly critical part of my life and I’ll share more about how I use it in future posts. If you’re interested and don’t want to miss them, get on the list or pick up the RSS feed for this blog.
One Final Thought
Evernote is a powerful tool. If they ever went out of business, I would immediately look very stupid to my spouse and to many others. It’s THAT important.
But helping other people is more important and more powerful than any product you can buy. So the one final thought I’d like to leave you with is this:
If you do decide to try Evernote and start adopting my philosophy of “Relationship Management” over “Contact Management”, do me a favor?
When you create your CONTACTS notebook, pick three people you don’t know well, create a Note for each of them, ask them how you can help them; and while you’re on the phone with them, be taking notes in Evernote on what they need help with. Use descriptive keywords or even assign a Tag to that contact so that they will come up on future searches.
Help three people you don’t know. Pay It Forward and it will come back to you a hundred-fold. I guarantee it.
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Recommended Next Reading: VIDEO: “How and Why to Make Time for Yourself”
Make it a great day!