How to manage your personal relationships

Keeping track of the people around you is hard. There are some apps which help you organize this information though. This article helps you choose the solution which one is best for you.

Do you remember your cousin’s birthday, or even the name of that guy you met yesterday? In today’s world it’s almost impossible to keep track of the people around you. There is a lot of distraction, thus we often even forget reaching out to the ones most important to us.

Relationships are everything, and still most of us find it hard to memorize all of our social interactions. We struggle at the most simple tasks like remembering names. Evolution just didn’t think that one person could have hundreds of contacts.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. To be interesting, be interested.” — Dale Carnegie

Showing interest in others isn’t just good for them, it also benefits you. You could for example stand out by remembering everyone’s name or their interests. But we all know how easy it is to forget such things.

The fact that many interactions are digital makes remembering even harder, but ironically there are a couple of online-services that help to solve that problem.

Since the brain isn’t capable of remembering everything that’s important and easily forgets things, some folks tried to set up systems that help you doing that.

“The people in your life are too important to keep in spreadsheets, inboxes, and, worst of all, your brain” — key

One obvious place to start is using your contact book. You can add everyone’s name, their addresses, and even events like birthdays, which automatically sync to your calendar and so on. You can even add notes for the things that don’t fall into the schema of your contact-book or app.

But for a lot of people that’s not enough. A contact book just doesn’t help you staying connected and could easily become overcrowded if you really enter information about every social interaction. There are solutions one could use, like keeping documents for every single person, or using spreadsheets. Some use pumped up spreadsheets or AirTable, or just better contact-books like FullContact.

A natural place to store information is the place where you have digital conversations, like email or social networks. There is even a Chrome-Plugin that lets you write notes to facebook profiles.

There are professional tools to keep track of customers, it’s called Customer Relationship Management (CRM), but as their name suggests, they are not really suited for personal use, although I have to say that there are plenty and some come pretty close to the solution one is searching for.

Cloze is such an example. It lets you keep track of all interactions with people and even integrates into other tools, so that you don’t have to store information manually that you already entered somewhere else. But Cloze is still close to being a CRM. It’s oriented towards professionals and has quite a lot of features that are not necessary for keeping the most important information.

That’s where Personal Relationship Managers (PRM) come in. They are made for the exact purpose of storing the information that you’d otherwise forget. They are made for everyone’s day to day lives. And since they are made for that specific purpose they offer exactly the right featureset.

Well, obviously not all of them have the same functionality and that’s where your personal preferences come in.

PRMs range from Google Contacts on Steroids to very heavy, structural systems. Some feel like a database, where you enter all the information you have, whereas some are as light as a diary. Let’s compare some PRMs:

Friendsome

Once you visit Friendsome’s homepage you see what PRMs are about. The bright illustrations tell you that it’s not about keeping a perfectly organized database, but to have joy in writing down what you did with other people.

Friendsome is a beautiful iOS-App that focuses on people, dates and places. You can make very quick entries, add a place and people, and later see everything that you wrote about a specific place, about that person, at that time. That way you feel prepared for your next conversation. Like most other PRMs, Friendsome is searchable and lets you add reminders.

“Friendsome gives you the details so you can easily pick-up conversations where you left off.”

Monica

Monica is more like a full-fledged personal-memory-database and yet feels very light. You can enter people into the system and add typical metadata (like birthdays, addresses, …). Monica also lets you log phone calls, notes, activities, reminders, tasks, gifts and debts. In short: It’s a contact book on steroids, offering the right features to remember things about others.

It can be a bit confusing what category you should put information into, and it can happen that you leave a piece of information at two places. Monica does have plenty categories, but if you were to add your own, you’re stuck. At least if you’re not a programmer. Monica is open source, meaning that the software is 100% transparent and you can theoretically code your own version or just contribute to the official one. Once you are set up with Monica you sure are more connected to the ones around you.

Monica reinforces the fact that they are not Facebook. Like every other PRM it’s for you eyes only.

Votre

Votre takes a very different approach than many other PRMs do. It’s based on a diary, which lets you enter data way more free of form and feels less like keeping a database. You just write into your journal every day, and @-mention people. Votre then organizes all your entries and shows you exactly what you wrote about a specific person. You can also upload photos to Votre.

It still has the features that most other PRMs have, like adding birthdays,or even adding gift ideas.

Writing a diary can make you a more self-reflected person, and the magic behind Votre lets you also be more interested in others and gain a much deeper understanding.

Choosing the right one

After all every app has its own featureset and you have to decide what matters to you. There are PRMs with focus on places or events, like socialite, which lets you create entries in the categories places, people and events and create connections between them. Some put a strong focus on how often you connect with people and help you stay connected, like tinyblu or ntwrk.

The state of PRM

Many of these PRMs are still in their early days. Some promising solutions aren’t even out yet, like ryze or key, so one could say that this is just the beginning of PRMs. The truth is that keeping logs about what you did with people isn’t a new concept. There is even an article from 2007 which describes what a PRM should look like and even Microsoft tried to create such an app a while ago, which is discontinued. So PRM has been around for quite a while, but lately a lot of great solutions have popped up which make the process of managing your relationships much easier.