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Utilizing Google Contacts’ Labeling System to nurture my friendships

I’ve been living in San Diego since 2014 and I'll be the first to tell you I'm the worst when it comes to nurturing relationships. Here's how I got a little bit better.

Acknowledging a deficit

I’ve been living in San Diego since 2014. When I first moved here, I had one friend. It stayed that way for nearly 6 months. You won’t hear any excuses from me, I just suck at making new friends. I could partially blame my naturally introverted nature or perhaps I’m just lazy for not making a better effort. To be honest, it’s probably a bit of both but for all this time, I’ve at least been aware of my responsibility in my plight.

For all this time though, I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do about it. I live in a city full of transplants so it’s not like my situation is unique. Running my business in 2021, I spend 6-10 hours on the computer most days. Between that and trying to work out 5 times per week, I’m not left with much time or energy to foster the friendships I’ve made over the years.

Life restarted after vaccination

Over this last 15 months between my return to San Diego in February 2020 and now here in May 2021, I’ve just been reaching out to the same 4 people or so. Part of the reason why was that I was terrified of the threat of SARS-CoV-2 so I stayed home out of fear for my own health but also that of those I’m usually in contact with. I think many of us all experienced the anxiety that comes with the prospect of seeing people whom you have no idea how seriously they’ve protected themselves against the virus. But I’ve been fully vaccinated since mid-April and I’m more than ready to start living my life again after doing my part to stay at home, read books, grow my business, and nurture the mental health of my friends and family with a steady stream of memes.

The only issue is now I’m not sure who to reach out in my friend circle. When I open up my phone, There’s nearly 300 contacts saved in my phone/Google Contacts. Many are business associates of some kind, some are family, some are friends, some could qualify for multiple classifications. The issue now is not that I don’t have friends to reach out to, it’s that I’m almost presented with too many options in my phone. I’m experiencing the Cheesecake Factory menu issue. It’s too much to mentally ingest and make a decision. For this reason, I’ve gravitated towards reaching out to the same 4-5 friends this past 15 months. It’s just easier socially and mentally to see the same 4-6 people often than it is to see 15 people sporadically. It’s not out of spite or malice, we’re all just busy pursuing a living and living our day to day lives. Just like our bodies, our mental energy and social batteries have their limits.

A CRM for friendships?

Of course, it dawned on me while I was in the shower but I was thinking to myself, what could I do to help improve the situation? It finally dawned on me that I almost need a CRM system but for my friendships. I myself do sales and marketing consulting; I help my clients implement CRM systems effectively so they know which prospects to reach out to and when and with what message. It finally occurred to me that perhaps I should do the same but for my personal life. Granted, I’m not going to reach out to someone just so I can tick the checkbox next to their name but if I was presented with a “short list” of my friends, it would remind me more often of the people whom I should be reaching out to more often.

Here’s the thought process behind this. During the work week, I might scroll through my phone’s contacts looking for Kim’s phone number and in the process, I see Joe’s name. Mentally, I instantly think, “Joe is great people, I miss Joe, it’s been a while, I gotta reach out and set something up with him when I get the chance.” But of course, I’m right in the middle of something so I forget to once I’m done with work. His name not only gets buried in the sea of contacts saved in my phone but also in my mental sea of contacts/friends. So the next time, I’m looking for a friend to go grab a bite or go to the gym with, I gravitate towards the usual 4-6 suspects.

But what if I took the time to go through my entire Google Contacts list and tag each of my contacts with Family, Business Associates, Friends, or Close Friends. This would allow me to create a short list of contacts in the Close Friends list and this short list is what I would use as my CRM system of sorts. Rather than scrolling endlessly through 300 contacts trying to figure out who I should reach out to each week, the Close Friends list is short enough that I can easily review and determine who to reach out to.

My hypothesis in this experiment is that I’m not reaching out to these people because I don’t like them or not care about them. It’s just that in the madness of contemporary life with all it’s responsibilities and duties, I just forget who I should reach out and nurture a friendship with. I have to believe that by creating this short list of friends and viewing that every time I’m trying to make plans, I’ll reach out to more of them rather than just the usual handful. This is me trying to convert my personal contacts list from a Cheesecake Factory menu into an In-N-Out menu. Less is more.

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