How to organize your phone or directory book

Over a couple of decades, our family had changed a phone book 3 times- due to changes in numbers. The third and most recent change was done by me- and it took me about only 2 to 3 hours to complete the entire exercise. In this post, I would share with you how I did it…. as well as some learnings I have done.

Why it is not a good idea to only store contacts in your phone

Nowadays we tend to store all our contact numbers on our mobile phones. But the problem arise when we lost our phone, we would end up losing our entire contacts.

And then there is also the option to store numbers in either your SIM, phone or email. We could lose our contacts not only when we lost our phones, but when we change phones, change our mobile plan (for example changing telcos) or accidentally delete our contacts from our gmail acounts (or our emails got hacked into).

Therefore, I still feel having the old fashioned phone book as a ‘backup’ helps. This is especially when you also want your family members to have access to these numbers and to be able to contact your contacts (or you could call their contacts) in case of emergency.

It is not as troublesome as you think to create a physical phone book. Recently, I was cleaning up the contents of an older phone book that is more than 10 years old with lots of outdated numbers and transferring some of the records to the new book- it only took a few hours. That few hours of work makes things more organized and easy to find.

Type of book to select for your phone or directory book

In my opinion, any form of thin notebook would do. Get those with either hardcover or protective cover as you would be flipping on the book often and the book needs to be durable.

Generally I do not go with the specific address books as I find the pages are insufficient for some alphabets. I prefer to create my own from scratch where I am able to allocate more pages for certain alphabets.

Should you write using pen or pencil?

The reason why we had to migrate the records once every 10 years or so is because most of the contacts were written in pen. The page gets very cluttered and messy as you are striking off records or updating numbers.

In my previous phone book- with all the strike off, and arrow pointing here and there, it got a bit confusing hence I decided to make the switch.

I updated this time using my mechanical pencil so that the records are erasable. If the book is only placed in your home and not hot places like in your car, you can also consider using Frixion pens. Frixion pens write like normal pens do but are erasable. However the ink can disappear when expose to strong heat. I use Frixion pens a lot in my calendar and planners.

How I created my physical phone/directory/ address book:

1. Identify the book that you need to use and count the pages

First, find a notebook with either hardcover or protective cover that you wish to use. For me, I took a spare hardcover book that contained 100 pages. I kept the first 4 pages for labeling, and table of contents. Then I proceeded to number all the pages.

2. Identify how many pages I would need for each alphabet

In my book, I have 100 pages. There are 26 alphabets in total from A to Z.

26 + 26 + 26 = 78 pages for each alphabet. That leaves me extra about 12 pages (I also kept some extra pages at the back). The extra pages are used to fit in alphabets that I know from past experience would have more names on it.

With that, I wrote my table of contents as per below:

Organize phone book

Then I proceeded to write the alphabet on the corresponding pages. Example for pages 5, 6 and 7, I would write the capital alphabet A on the top right column. I use a marker pen as I am quite sure of the page.

3. Transfer the contact details

This is also a good time for you to purge off old records and those people who are no longer in contact with you. For example, my brother was the one who did the transfer of the second phone book and he transferred over the contacts of my high schoolmates. I have not been in contact with some of them for years and years. And I know they have already shifted. Hence, I did not transfer the number over.

Also, we have engaged services like those of plumbers, contractors, electricians who we did not transfer because we are no longer using and also some have already retired.

You do not need to write down each and every contact person that you know

If the phone book is a family shared book, you need not write down the contact numbers of everyone in your mobile address book. Just list down the important  friends, agents and colleagues. Also numbers like the family lawyer, dentist and relatives.

For example, I did not list down most of the ex colleagues in the phone book. I only list down a few who are still in contact with me (you would be surprised, once you resign from a job, especially without a job… many people would not find the time the contact you so no point of listing down the contact).

How to keep contact number of people like plumbers or electricians?

Unless I know this person very well, then I would write by the name. If not , I tend to write under alphabets like P for Plumber, G for grass cutter (I have contact details of 3 grass cutters whom I use) or E for Electricians. I would also write by alphabets if I know my family members are not familiar with their names.

4. Feel free to decorate or spruce up your address book

For those of you who are into stickers and washi tapes, you may want to spruce up your book a little. Let your creativity roll.

5. What to do with the old phone book

We would keep our old phone book for a few years- just in case we have left out an important contact.  If we find we do not need to use it anymore, we would then dispose the book, mostly sending it for paper recycling.

For my case, I cannot dispose the old book immediately because my mom has written some contacts (in her handwriting) of names that I am not familiar with. Now that she has Alzheimer’s, she also does not remember who are these persons. I kept the old book in case I need to reference it later but I store the book away together with my filling.


We have always kept a phone book in our home- even though it is so convenient to store contact information on our phones.

Having a shared family phone book comes in handy as a contingency and backup in case you lost your phone or when you need to contact someone from your family. For example, you may not call your spouse’s bosses and colleagues hence you would have no need to store their numbers on your phone. But at times during emergencies, you may need to get in touch with them.



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