Recently, I realized I’m about to end my college and grad school years, which means I’ll be moving about four hours away from family and friends. Naturally, this is just another thing on top of other grown-up things I’ll have to deal with, such as taking care of my own car, saving for retirement, etc. etc. (otherwise known as “adulting”). I decided I needed to do a better job of staying in touch with friends and sending them cards on special occasions. Also, it means I’ll have an excuse to shop at stationery stores and pick out some cards for friends (or myself? LOL idk).
The system I’m using is different from normal address books because you’ll build it as time goes by and you make more friends. The benefit is that you won’t run out of space in certain sections (for example, I have a lot of friends whose name start with “J”, and the “J” section of my address book might fill up really fast). However, because of this non-alphabetized system, it’s much more difficult to find entries, so I’ll show you how the system fixes that. I also wanted a way to incorporate remembering my friends’ birthdays and planning ahead for them, since relying on Facebook often means I discover it’s someone’s birthday the day before.
Take a look at the following steps, but feel free to adapt them to suit your needs. Be sure to subscribe in case I ever update this system. Share this post with friends and family to possibly promote more snail mail in your near future 😉
1. Choose a notebook
- Leuchtturm1917 is a quality brand with 80gsm thick paper, 10gsm up from Moleskine. It’s thick enough to feel sturdy, but not inflexible. It won’t do well with thick pens or inky fountain pens, but it’s great for my Muji pens with just a tiny bit of ghosting (which I actually like and think is inevitable). It also comes with a pocket, indexing/archiving stickers, an elastic band, page numbers, TWO bookmarks, and table of contents.
- A6 is a handy, pocket size that is easily differentiable from my larger A5 Leuchtturm1917. It also has fewer pages (185) as opposed to the A5 (249) because to be honest, I don’t have enough friends to fill up all those pages (at 4 people per page). I mean, 185 is already a stretch…let’s face it. It also has 27 rows and 16 columns, which you’ll see how it fits my needs. You can get the exact one I used here!
- A dot grid is easier to make edge indices, tables, and boxes, which I’ll need!
- Again, it has page numbers, which is super important to use this system. However, you can always write in page numbers yourself if you’re using a different kind of notebook!
2. Label the notebook (optional)
This part isn’t crucial since you probably won’t forget what your notebook is for, because you’ll be using it all the time, right?! I do it just to make it look more official or to easily find it if it’s sitting on a shelf with other books. Or maybe someday I’ll get another exact pocket-sized notebook and I don’t want to get them mixed up!
3. Set-up the edge index
I showed you my old edge indexing system in a previous post and in an updated post, and this one is similar! It allows you to quickly search something just by glancing at the page edges. This is less important than step 4, so if you want to ignore this, you can!
Start by flipping to the last page, as shown below. Lining up the rows of your notebook with the edge, mark the 26 letters of the alphabet. My notebook has 27 rows, which is just enough to squeeze it all in with a title. For fun, I also added an edge index along the top edge to track birthday months quickly. If someone has birthdays coming up, I can search quickly and find out! The 16 columns fits this as well.
When I input someone into my address book, I simply mark a black box on the edge of the page next to where their first letter of their name is on the index, plus next to their birthday month! You’ll see a photo of this in step 4.
4. Set-up the main index system
This part is crucial to making your address book even more searchable, since it won’t be alphabetized. Once you have your close friends and family inputted, it will be SO quick and easy to add future friends.
Start by flipping to your next last four pages (adjacent to the edge index page), which are pages 182-185 in my book. This will be your “index”, what you need to reference to find people in your book. I was inspired by philosopher John Locke’s system for indexing his commonplace books (common place books are a build-as-you-go collection of quotes, inspirations, and reading notes). The beauty of this system is that it functions when you don’t have a search engine (as was in Locke’s case — he lived in the late 1600s). In my case, it means less dependency on my phone, which my roommates claim I am hopelessly addicted to.
Let me explain how this works. If you take a look at the photo above, you’ll see each letter in the alphabet at the top left of each big box, followed by five vowels. The letter at the top left is someone’s first letter of their first name. The vowel is the first vowel following the first letter of that name. You’ll also see numbers. Those are page numbers inside the address book. Here are some examples:
- My brother Eric’s name starts with an “E” and his first vowel after that is an “I”. You can see here he’s listed on page 1. I added a “family” signifier in red, but that’s totally optional.
- There are two others on that row, on page 6 and 8. They are my friends Eeshin and Emily. I might not know which one is on which page, but at least I only have to search through two pages to find out.
- My friend Amy’s first name starts with an “A”, but her first vowel is actually an unconventional “Y”, so I placed her page number (3) on the first row, instead of by the “A E I O U”.
This index follows to the end of the alphabet, followed by some blank boxes for overflow purposes.
If you make this grid, count the boxes carefully and make sure there are 6 rows for each first letter!
5. Add some collections
These are also optional, but I really wanted to try them out. They are placed in the back of my notebook, adjacent to the edge index page and the four-page John Locke index pages. In my case, they are at pages 178-181, but i can always add more if needed.
This is loosely based off of The Alistair Method, which you can read about on the official Bullet Journal website or on the author’s website here. At a quick glance, I can find friends with birthdays and start planning ahead what to send. This might be more useful than the edge indexing system I have for birthdays, which I talked about above…we’ll see! The top edge are months and the numbers next to the names are the dates. If you choose to do this, count the number of boxes carefully to make sure you have enough space for all the months!
For example, my mom’s birthday is June 25 and my dad’s is October 1! Fun fact: My dad’s legal birthday is February 1 because he lived in a rural setting and his mom wasn’t able to get him registered until four months after he was born!
This is a page I made if I needed an excuse to mail a card to a friend. Sometimes I’ll go into a stationery store and find a card that suits a friend perfectly, but there’s no major occasion coming up I can think of. So I can refer to this page to come up with a good excuse 🙂 One time, I found a card with a mermaid and orange fins. It was perfect for my friend who is obsessed with mermaids and whose favorite color is orange, so I sent it to her as a housewarming card!
That’s pretty much it! Let me know if you have suggestions or if you have special ways you use your address book! Be sure to subscribe to get more updates if I change up my system in the future. Share it with your friends, just so you might get some snail mail yourself! 🙂