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Articles to Help You Be More Productive

Enjoy these articles? There are many more available:
  • Time Management Article Collection
  • Microsoft Outlook and Email Article Collection
  • Managing Paper Article Collection
  • Computer Tips Article Collection
  • Less-Paper Office Article Collection
  • Computer & Email
  • Get the Most from Microsoft Outlook

  • Beware the Empty Inbox

  • Get the Most from Your Handheld

  • Do Digital Organizers Save Time - Or Waste It?

  • Efficient E-mail Habits

  • Transitioning from Paper to Digital Information Storage

  • Faxing Without a Fax Machine

  • Getting Your Files When You're On The Go

  • Business & the Office
  • Time Tactics for the Office

  • Keeping Track of Delegated Tasks

  • Controlling Interruptions

  • Keeping Track of Your Customers & Prospects

  • Do Your Employees Really Need Customer Service Training?

  • Paper Management
  • Action Files Prevent Desk Clutter

  • Reclaim Your Desktop with a Tickler File

  • What To Do With All Those Business Cards?

  • Managing Project Folders - A Surprising Tip that Works

  • Time Management & Organizing
  • The Power of Planning Ahead

  • Words of Wisdom You Should Ignore

  • Coping with Information Overload

  • Thirteen No-Tech Time Management Tips

  • What To Do With All Those Business Cards?
    © Jan Jasper; 2001-2012

    Get Rid of Those You Don't Need
    We collect business cards and wonder what to do with them. We're afraid to throw them out. But there's little benefit in saving them in a jumble in your drawer. First, remember that the information on the cards is important, not the physical cards. We need to organize this contact information so we can use it.

    Ask yourself "Would I really need this again, and if so, why - and when?" Be firm; get rid of cards from people you are not likely to contact in the future. If you have a great many business cards, it can actually backfire - the more cards you have, the harder it is to find a specific one when you need it. Less is more - It's easier to keep them in order, and easier to find when you need them. And remember, the point isn't to collect the cards, but to manage contact information so you can use it.

    Jot Down Useful Details While The Person is Fresh in Your Mind
    When someone hands you their card, immediately jot a note on back stating where you met the person and what you might contact them about. This is especially important if you return from a networking event with a pocketful of cards - otherwise when you come across the cards later, you'll have no clue as to who these people are.

    Different Ways to Store Your Business Cards
    Now that you've culled your cards and made notes on them, you're ready to think about how best to store this information. In the pre-tech era, I never liked Rolodexes, or those plastic business card books with a dozen or so slots per page. The problem was that the person's name may not be how you're most likely to remember them. Now that most of us use technology to store contact information, it's no longer on a card with a fixed location in a binder of Rolodex. Digital storage is tremendously easier because you can sort your contacts in a variety of ways.

    Using Software for Effective Contact Management
    The alphabet is effective for people whose names you can remember - but what about the names of service providers you won't need often, yet you want to keep their information for future use? This is where technology is light years ahead of the Rolodex. Let's say your friend Jane Smith recommends a great attorney named Joe Moon. This software usually has a space where you can type your own notes. Create an entry for Joe Moon but in case you don't remember his name, in the notes section type Lawyer and also make a note that Jane Smith recommended him. Now you can find him by searching for Joe Moon, lawyer, or Jane's name. Do the same for plumbers and accountants and anyone else you might do business with.

    You can type a note of when you last talked to them and about what. The software can also save a record of e-mails you sent to or received from them. Used fully, contact management software (also known as CRM software) keeps a record of all your dealings with each person. While Microsoft Outlook* is not really a contact management program, it can be used for many of the same functions.

    Keeping these notes does more than supplement a faulty memory. It permits you to slice and dice your data in a variety of ways. You could search for all referrals who were sent by a certain person, all the prospects who phoned you in July, all clients in a certain zip code, all clients who spent over a certain dollar amount, etc. Try doing that with a stack of business cards!

    Should You Buy a Card Scanner?
    If you have a great many cards, you may not want to type them all into your software. There are small scanners made specifically for business cards that capture all the text information on the business card (name, company name address, phone, fax, and e-mail address) and feed it directly into your contact management program. Many are designed specifically for a particular program (iPhone*, Outlook*, etc.) This could save a lot of time if you collect tons of cards, for example if you attend trade shows and plan to follow up by doing a big mailing. But they can be thrown off by graphics, unusual fonts, or speckled card stock, so you'll need to proofread after inputting.

    Beam Me Up, Scotty
    If you meet someone and are ready to exchange business cards, the newest and fastest way to get their contact information into your iPhone* or Droid* is to beam it wirelessly between your handhelds. You'll still need to proofread the results for accuracy. And, just like with the old-fashioned business card, you'll want to add notes to the beamed contact information as to where you met the person, who introduced you, what you discussed, etc. Until we have silicon chips implanted in our brains to ensure that we never forget anything, you'll need to record some details or the contact information will be of little use to you. Remember, the point is not to just park the contact information somewhere, but to make it easy to use in the future. If you don't expect to use it, they why save it at all?

    *The usual disclaimers apply. My mentioning these products is not a guarantee of any sort. Obviously, you should not change anything until you've completely backed up your files. You already do that, right?

    This article is available for a one-time reprint or one-time internet posting if you include my copyright notice, provide a link to www.janjasper.com and identify me as follows: "Jan Jasper, a productivity expert in the New York City area, is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press)." Read Terms and Conditions for details.
    Learn how the right technology can save you
    tons of time!

    About the Author:
    Productivity coach Jan Jasper has been helping busy people work smarter, not harder since 1988. Her customized approach guides clients to manage time, tasks, and information more effectively. She also provides Microsoft Outlook customization for clients. Jan is the author of Take Back Your Time: How to Regain Control of Work, Information, & Technology (St. Martin's Press). She recently completed a North American media tour as the national efficiency spokesperson for IKON Office Solutions, Inc. She has appeared on radio and TV all over North America and is quoted regularly in print. Jan is an adjunct instructor at New York University.

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