How do you keep up with information about the people in your life? Your “people” notebook could be the answer.

Think about the people with whom you work. Do you know the name of each person’s spouse or significant other? What about the names of their children? Extra credit if you know in what year each child was born.

When you have a significant conversation with a friend, do you keep any notes about that conversation? How do you manage that?

When a conversation doesn’t really pertain to a specific project, but is just a conversation, how do you keep up with what you talked about? How will you reference it later?

If you had an easy way to trap all of this information and summon it at just the right time, how valuable would that be?

Adopt a note-taking app

For the information in this episode to work, you’re going to need some type of note-taking app. You have lots of options. For me, it’s Evernote. For others, it might be Notion, OneNote, Apple Notes, or Google Keep. You could also use Google Docs or One Drive.

Within your tools of choice, create a notebook or folder called something like “People.” Inside your people notebook, you’ll be creating a note for each person of significance in your life. The title will be simply the person’s name.

I’m not saying you need to sit down right now and start creating blank notes for everyone you know. What I am saying is that you start creating them as you need them.

A practical example

I’ll give you an example. You have lunch with a buddy from college. You haven’t seen each other in a few years. You talk about your respective families. He mentions his wife by name as well as their three children. He talks about a couple of new hobbies.

Maybe you even take a few notes. You wouldn’t pull out your laptop, but you might jot some things on a memo pad or even on a napkin. If you were asked about the conversation right after the lunch, you would likely remember much of it without having taken any notes.

But just how much would you remember about that conversation a week later, a month later, or a year later? With a good system, the information is yours forever.

Take your notes in the moment and on whatever tool is easiest for you. To this day, I carry a memo pad. It serves as a place to keep my driver’s license, credit cards, proof of insurance, medical cards, a few business cards, and a memo pad on which I can write. Again, a napkin is fine if that’s all you have.

The notes you took become a draft that will go in the trash can by the end of the day. Throw those scraps of paper in your inbox.

Later in the day, those notes in your inbox serve as the trigger to put them in your system. This is where you will create a note for that person if you don’t already have one. If you do already have one for that person, you’ll simply add to it.

The person’s name becomes the title of the note. Towards the top of the note, include other information that is permanent, such as the name of the friend’s spouse and children.

You’ll likely put your friend’s phone number and email address in your Contacts if it’s not already there. If your system allows, copy the link to that contact record and paste it into the note.

Next, enter into the note the date of your conversation and the details. You are done for now!

If the lunch was with a new acquaintance, in addition to everything else, you might go to LinkedIn to grab some other information. Paste it in the person’s note. Copy and paste a headshot into the note. Copy and paste the link to the LinkedIn bio if you like.

Here’s where it begins to pay off

Three months later, your phone rings, and it’s your friend. Go to whatever tool you are using to keep up with people in your life. Now you see all the details. You can ask how his wife is doing…and mention her by name. You can ask the children by name as well. You’ll see notes from your last conversation together with the date you took them.

Add today’s date and start taking notes. If your keyboarding skills are good, it’s fine to add to the note right there on-screen. If you prefer pen and paper, that’s fine. After the conversation, throw the paper into your inbox. It becomes your reminder to enter the draft into your system.

Here’s a little trick I use: Read your draft into your digital tool. On your phone, pull up your friend’s note. Tap the spot where you want the new information to go. Touch the microphone key on the keyboard and begin speaking. The phone turns the speech into text.

My preference is to add these additional conversations bottom up. That way, the most recent conversation is at the top.

The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note

If your friend sent you a handwritten note and you wanted to save it, how and where would you do it? Likewise, if you sent your friend a handwritten note, what sort of record would you have?

I have a video for you that details exactly how I handle it. Come over to:  Evernote: How to Keep Up With Those Important Interactions. You’ll hear me refer to my notebook as “Journal.” It includes both notes for the many people in my life for whom I have created a note as well as notes for the random things that happen…the kinds of things one would want to “journal.”

When you reach my age, quite a few people in your life are no longer with you. Teachers from my high school and college days, church members from my generation on up, friends who are gone too soon. The obituary serves as an excellent short biography. Copy and paste it into their note. It becomes the most recent entry. And, when I send a sympathy card to the family, I open the note on my phone, tap where I want the photo to go, and take a picture of what I am sending. That card becomes part of the permanent record.

Your call to action

This technique is something you can start today. It won’t make a big difference…today, or tomorrow, or even next week. But if you keep doing this, it will make a huge difference down the road. You will amaze yourself at the information you have about the people in your life. You’ll be able to recount memories in many wonderful ways.

And when people talk about what a wonderful memory you have, share with them the process that’s letting you do what you do.

So, here’s your action item for today. Go into your digital notetaking tool of choice and create your own “People” notebook or folder. What were the conversations of significance that you had with other people today? There’s your start.

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