5 Great Ways to Sort Your Contacts

Messy file cabinet

Most people choose to sort their contacts in the classic alphabetical order. Is this the only way, though?

By Memory or Software

If you were asked to write down all the phone numbers you knew by memory, how many could you recall off the top of your head? If you’re like most people, probably no more than a few.

This is in great part because our phones and apps can take the burden of memorizing our contacts and their information off of our shoulders. Nevertheless, this can also quickly become problematic.

As you grow your network and begin to store more and more phone numbers, emails, and social accounts, what’s the best way to sort them so you don’t forget who these people are? It’s never a bad idea to go through your contacts and see how you can organize them better.

How Do You Sort Your Contacts?

There are, of course, a couple of things we need to clarify before finding the best way to sort contacts. For instance, where are you keeping them? Are you saving your contacts in scattered places or do you have one go-to spot where they’ve all been saved for your searching convenience?

Are they on your SIM card, your phone’s memory, your Google account, another cloud service you’re subscribed to, or in a pile of business cards in one of your desk drawers? Regardless of how you’ve been keeping your contacts, it’s always better to have them all in one place.

This way, you can simplify the process of finding contacts, updating contact information, or deleting old contacts with whom you’re no longer in communication. We would suggest, however, that you save them all somewhere that’s easily accessible from multiple devices (in case you lose your phone).

5 Ways of Sorting

Now that we’ve settled these few preliminary details, it’s time to move into actually improving your ‘contact sorting game.’ Here are five different ideas for better sorting your contacts:

1. Alphabetically by Last Name

Ok, this first one is the “default” option. Regardless of where you’re saving your contact list, it’ll probably have this format as its go-to preset. Though a classic, per say, this method is still not without issues.

Traditionally, keeping your contacts by last name made perfect sense, when we lived in a time where you could readily remember everyone’s first and last name. The issue now is that we often meet far too many people to keep track of everyone. Similarly, if you meet enough people, names tend to repeat themselves.

2. Alphabetically by First Name

The first alternative to ‘the classic’ is actually a modern take on basic human psychology. Though it’s probably more intuitive to find someone using their last name, we intrinsically remember first names far easier.

Have you ever remembered someone’s first name immediately but then had no clue what their last name was? Well, this is actually very common these days, especially because when you’re introduced to someone, it’s usually not with both names, rather just their first name. “Hey Bob, this is Sally, Sally this is Bob from work.”

Though it may seem a bit strange, it may actually be more intuitive for your contact sorting to have the first name as the default categorizer.

3. Labeled Groups

Moving further away from the traditional, it may be easier for you to employ a technique that psychologists refer to as ‘chunking.’ Chunking requires you to group a set of similar things, in our case it is your contacts.

Sometimes names don’t immediately come to us. Especially for visual learners, grouping contacts into settings might make the search easier. You can create groups that help you recall people from work, college, a networking event, or any other setting you may have met more than a few people in.

You can imagine the thought process occurring something like this, “what was the name of that developer we met in Napa Valley? Oh right, let me check my ‘vacation’ group… Aha! Jerry Webb, we can ask him to help us with the project.”

4. Frequency Groups

When sorting contacts, it’s also important to note which contacts you may have to check more often. Even if you’ve ordered them in your preferred alphabetical strategy and placed them in the appropriate groups, there are some contacts you just need to have more readily accessible.

Here you can create a group that you’ll check more frequently, like a ‘close friends’ group or a ‘work team’ group. This way, whenever you need to reach out to one of these contacts, it’ll be much easier to find them.

Some apps, like WeChat or Sidekick, have actually taken this sorting one step further by allowing users to pin their most important conversations to the top of their list. This way, as soon as their messaging window opens, these chat take priority.

5. Take Notes

Finally, our last recommendation for an easier contact managing strategy is probably the most underrated, taking notes. In hindsight, it’s probably the most obvious but surprisingly many people don’t do this enough.

Rather than saving a name with just a phone number or email, take advantage of the note section to write something that will easily help you recall exactly who this contact is. For example, “Jerry from Napa Valley, Senior backend developer, loves Merlot,” “Bob from Human Resources, married to Marie, engineer from Microsoft,” or “Sally, the wife, mother of your three children.”

Writing just a few keywords that help you immediately recall the person and how you’ve met them can help you save time and the possible embarrassment of seeing an incoming call from someone who you’ve completely forgotten!

Find a System That Works FOR You

As one of history’s best salesmen, Joe Girard would put it, “The most important thing you can do with your time is staying in touch with your contacts.” Most people take this for granted and assume that once a contact, always a contact.

However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The longer you wait to get back to someone, the more time passes since your last message, the more likely that person is to forget who you are or simply assume you don’t care enough to reach out.

Keeping your contacts in order may not turn you into a sales expert, however, it’ll definitely be a step in the right direction. We hope these 5 ways of sorting will help, the rest is up to you.

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