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.