How to Organize Contacts to Maximize Productivity

Use your desktop address book to store your contacts now and forever.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #406

My friend Asheen has been cursed with the need to travel to the underworld. I mean, Silicon Valley. In order to find some fiends—I mean friends—to lunch with, he went to LinkedIn. But to his horror, and LinkedIn’s delight, the site refused to let him search his contacts. LinkedIn gave him an alert. He had exceeded his search limit for the month and would have to upgrade to a paid plan to access information about his very own contact list.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

We trust third-party providers with all our our important data. Why? It makes life simpler, particularly when you’re on the go. And this being the 21st century, “on the go” is the new black.

But we need our contact data! Handing it off to cloud providers leaves us open to extortion. How do we avoid extortion by address book, while keeping up convenience? We put the information in our address book on our local machine, and we use our own system to track it.

Go Local

To start, copy your cloud-based contacts into a local contacts book. If you’re on a Mac, you can do this in just a few quick steps. First, go to System Preferences, then from there to Internet Accounts. You’ll see a list of accounts (if you don’t, click the plus button in the lower left). 

Click on one with some contacts you want to grab, and enter your login information. It’ll pop up a list of apps that the account will interact with, including Contacts. Click Sign In to connect the account and wait a few minutes for everything to synchronize. Soon, your Contacts app will contain all the contacts from that account. If you change your mind later, you can disconnect the account, with the option of removing the contacts you got from it, by clicking the minus button in the lower left of the same menu. What could be easier?

What, indeed? Well, I’m sure Windows is even easier! So for all you Windows users, I won’t patronize you by giving you the instructions. Microsoft, on the other hand, surely has plenty of “documentation” lying around that will tell you everything you need to know. And as my friends who use Windows assure me daily, it’s far superior to the Mac in every way, so I’m sure it will be easy peasy to do the same thing from your Windows machine.

Note Nearby Cities

Now that you have a local copy of your contacts, prime your address book for travel. Put the names of nearby cities and regions in the notes field of each entry. For example, if a contact lives in Brooklyn, New York, you would put “New York area” in the notes fields. Then you can find out who you know in the area, with one quick search.

Include all the major cities and regions near them. Then you only need to search for “New York” and you’ll get everyone who lives in surrounding towns and burroughs. 

A physical copy provides a backup in case a device runs out of power

Once he organizes his contacts this way, Asheen can check out who to meet up with. And he doesn’t even need the “cloud.” Because we all know “Fly-fi” sucks, just another reason why a local contacts book on your computer is handy. 

In his case, he just tags everyone in San Francisco, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Jose, Atherton, Palo Alto, and Oakland as “Silicon Valley.” He filters his contacts for the keyword “Silicon Valley.” Everyone nearby pops up. And now he might discover that his much loved and respected second grade teacher lives in Marin county and runs a Grandma Cuddles Daycare franchise! 

But while Asheen wants to see Ms. Bowie, he also wants to get out of his hotel and head out for some hardcore socializing with friends. But … He needs a way to find out what activities people are into.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.