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Friday, 16 September 2011

Keeping track of contacts

Last week I put an Access database template up on my website and thought I'd better get around to actually mentioning it. What it does is keep brief notes of all my interactions (face-to-face, phone, email) with the academics, research students, and undergraduates I liaise with. (The templates actually on the website of course only have dummy data.)

My old system was handwritten notes on a copy of the welcome letter each grad student received on enrolling. This was Suboptimal for many reasons that only began with the fact that I could never decide whether to sort by first name, surname, or department... The database lets me:
  • sort by anything I like;
  • see together everything I've talked about with any given person, or everything I've talked about regarding any given course;
  • or my favourite (which I got the fantastic help of @dakvid for coding the SQL; also more generally I want to acknowledge my colleague Margaret Paterson for her inspiring beta-testing) - sorting all my contacts to show at the top the people I talked with the longest ago so I can be reminded to catch up with them.
As I said, I'm currently using it for liaison work but I suspect it could be used for other uses too, so if anyone wants to nab a copy, there it is.