The productivity system I built to stay in touch with people

Ramit Sethi

I love crazy nutcases who email me 5,000 times/day asking, “HEY RAMIT. WHAT SYSTEM DO YOU USE FOR STAYING IN TOUCH WITH PEOPLE??” As if some software is going to do all the work for them.

I built a really simple system for staying in touch with people in different cities. It uses a magical tool called “email.” I like it because it’s easy and it works with less than 5 minutes/month of maintenance.

Here’s how it works:



Here’s a closer look

What you’ll notice:

  • When I find out where someone lives, like a real creep, I just type “L” then the city, and Gmail auto-tags it. Takes less than 2 seconds
  • When I visit Austin, or Hong Kong, or LA, I go to the tag, look at all the people, and decide who I want to meet
  • I use Rapportive so I can automatically learn more about them in less than 2 seconds. A side benefit is you can see if they’re attractive or not. Oops, did I write that to this email list of over 200,000 people??
  • Sometimes, I’m only “internet friends” with them…but being in someone’s city (“Hi, I’ll be in town for 3 days”) is an awesome way to meet people in person

Why I’m telling you this

This is the Year of Unapologetic Mastery. When you look at someone who’s a master at their craft, you’ll notice that they’ve always built routines for the ordinary parts of life, so they can focus on what they’re best at.

For example, Steve Jobs wore turtlenecks every day so he didn’t have to worry about clothes. And professional athletes stock their fridges with vegetables and lean protein so they don’t have to decide between cake and celery.

These “micro systems” take a tiny amount of time to create, but you reap the rewards forever.

Very rarely does someone say “I’m going to improve myself” and the clouds part, the angels sing, and the heavens award you magical and unending willpower. Success is a series of small, systematic steps towards becoming better every day. And when others give up, you keep going.

Notice in the example above, we all have a friend who’s amazing at keeping in touch with everyone. In the past, it would’ve been easy to say, “Wow, I wonder how he does it” or even imply that he was a better person because he kept in touch with everyone.

Now you know. He just used a small system and improved it day by day.

I’ve been building these systems year after year — to earn more, find a dream job, improve social skills, become more focused — and I want to give them to you so you can live a rich life. This year, we’ll improve ourselves from the inside out (including yesterday, where we learned the psychological frameworks to stop feeling guilty).

Leave a comment below. What’s one thing I could help you with? Don’t just say “starting a business,” tell me the specifics, like, “Ramit, I have 3 ideas but I’m not sure how to tell which one will work. How would I know?”

I read every response personally, and I’ll let you know if I can help in tomorrow’s post.

By the way, I’ve mentioned that this year is about unapologetic mastery, and one of my core requirements is expecting you to take action in exchange for the strategies, frameworks, and tactics I provide.

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  1. The productivity system I built to stay in touch with people | Enjoying The Moment

    […] The productivity system I built to stay in touch with people is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. […]

  2. Jason

    Hey Ramit! One thing you could help me with? Wow. I will be specific and concrete. I need to know how to publish as article
    On amazon for sale.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Please tell me this is a joke

    • David Hunter

      I don’t think he was joking. hahaha
      Please don’t jump off a bridge, Ramit. We need you!!!

  3. Tim

    I’d love help building out a framework for rejecting (or delaying putting effort into) new and exciting ideas that I come across or come up with.

    Last year I built out a system for generating ideas that works really well. Like many people I get excited about a shiny new idea and once in a while I jump into one feet first, usually to the detriment of my other work.

    Eventually the new project loses its luster, proves to be unprofitable, or I realize it’s not even something I want to do. Shit. It goes on the pile of abandoned projects.

    I don’t need help finishing, I need help *not starting.*

    • Ramit Sethi

      Your wish is my command. Click here for the Iceberg Method.

    • tim

      Thanks Ramit. I’ll be digging into that today.

    • Aimee

      Thanks Tim for asking this. My problem was exactly like Rick’s.
      Thanks Ramit!

  4. Angie

    Hi Ramit,

    Last year, I heeded your advice to stop merely absorbing information and making plans, and began taking action to start a side business.

    Last week, I told friends and family about my burgeoning side business as a professional organizer. Trouble is, I’m not sure how to go about this with strangers.

    I see many instances where I could be of assistance to someone, but I don’t know how to approach the subject of “I can help” without inadvertently making it seem like I’m putting the person down or judging them.

    I tried explaining this to a friend, using a personal trainer as the comparison: “they can’t just go around telling people they are out of shape and then hand them a business card.” However, a personal trainer has the slight advantage of using their own fitness level as a marketing tool when out and about. Though I present a ‘put together’ image, unfortunately, I can’t carry my organized office, kitchen drawers, or filing system with me wherever I go! Nor do I have before and after photos or client testimonials to share…yet.

    I also realize that like getting into shape, most people probably already know they need to get organized, but until they’re ready to do so mentally, they’re likely not going to commit.

    How can I market my services in a positive yet impactful way, so that when the person is ready to finally make that change they’ll think of my business?

    I’d appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    • Becca

      Angie…you said that you don’t have any photos or client testimonials to share…well…start a portfolio…For example…a friend of mine is really into photography…but a lot of people would not take her seriously…so…she got some of her friends together to pose for pictures…she edited them….and gave them the photo rights on a cd for allowing her to use them in her portfolio…Even take pictures of your own house! Before and after pictures show your prospective client just how well you can do…Also…make a list of all the things your services would include…I’m not sure what it would all be, but it would be something your prospective client to look at and see you know what you are doing…hope this helps!

  5. Stacy McKenna

    Meal planning. I have the good ingredients sitting in the fridge. I adore eating the finished product. I don’t even mind putting out the effort to take the ingredients from “ingredient” to “finished product”. But the decision making of “What will I turn these ingredients into?” kills me. It stumps me all the time. Our household is not in a position where we could afford a personal chef (yet), sadly. I’ve looked into meal planning software but most of it assumes you’ll pick things you want to eat (too many choices!) and then go shopping, while our household receives a weekly produce delivery direct from the growers and has a chest freezer full of meat, so we’d love something that can just pick the best suited recipes from our standing inventory. Any suggestions on how to minimize this meal planning barrier? (Any readers out there with a better suggestion than SuperCook or PlanToEat?)

    • Michelle Keep

      I typically put the main ingredients I want into google.

      One time I put chicken + spinach + brocolli into a search engine and I got this great caserole. Sure, it was supposed to be for dogs, but it tasted amazing 😉 What kind of dog eats brocolli and spinach anyways?

      Have you tried ?

    • stacymckenna

      Michelle – the trick is, I don’t want to have to pick which two or three ingredients out of the dozens in my house I should combine. Computers are great at this kind of data crunching: spew out the recipes I can make without going to the store for more ingredients – give me the short list to pick from.

    • Sarah Kathleen Peck

      Two quick thoughts on this — first, the open-endedness of having to created things from a list of ingredients is really hard. I might turn your paradigm upside-down: pick 4 things you want to make (browse recipes, etc), and then make your grocery list based on that instead.

      Second, I had the same problem. Lots of fresh food, no idea how to make it. Solving the zero (not cooking the stuff) to one (making yummy food) problem was actually about doing some hands-on training. I took a few chef classes, an eastern asian cooking class, and a raw food class. Now that I’ve learned at least a dozen recipes, I know what to do with the food. (sometimes when you’re hungry is the worst time to try to then learn the new skill).

      Maybe try taking a day long or evening cooking workshop!

  6. Bill R.

    Ramit, here’s one for you. I got your “Find your First Profitable Idea” program and identified my opportunity: Continuous Improvement consulting for Administrative functions (Sales, HR, Finance, IT, etc). I spoke with a mentor/entreprenuer about the idea and he was very excited about it! He even suggested that I start my business with his company as his first client! Here’s my problem: I already have a full time job! My current employer is not very comfortable with flex time (as a general policy, it’s not allowed but exceptions are made).

    So my question is this: how do you provide consulting services to businesses that are there during business hours when I already have somewhere I’m required to be during those hours?

    Love your material and your blog posts!

  7. Joel Greenwood

    I’m creating a web product as a side project that allows consumers to trade derivatives that impact their day to day lives and have 3 subject areas to choose to start with:

    – Weather derivatives: receive a pay-out if it rains on your wedding day or weekend/vacation
    – Traffic derivatives: receive a pay-out if traffic on your route home is extra slow
    – Celebrity derivatives: profit by anticipating whether your favorite ball player or film actor makes more money

    How do I test which one would resonate more with consumers, and prioritize accordingly.

    • Ramit Sethi

      Identify a target market, go talk to 20 people. That’s a good start.

  8. Michelle Keep

    Something incredibly specific: I want to find someone who can help me become better at online and social media marketing and SEO, however that market is saturated with people who know what SEO stands for or how to send a tweet and think they’re an expert.

    I’m afraid of being taken in, since I don’t have enough knowledge to differentiate the scammers from the legit.

    • JT

      Patrick McKenzie has some great points about SEO firms at

      The article’s right around 6 years old, but he recommends SEOMoz (now just Moz) and SEOBook as sources whose value far outweighs their cost. If nothing else, they should go a long way to help differentiate the scammers.

    • Michelle Keep

      Thanks, JT! I’ll give it a read through 🙂

  9. AM

    How to get away with starting a business in your spare time when your company’s employment contract explicitly forbids doing any other work than for them (this is quite common within engineering). Hoping some of your negotiation strategies could come in handy!

    • Michelle Keep

      I successfully negotiated this out of my contract simply by saying I’d have to speak with a lawyer about the contract before I signed. They immediately asked me what points I took issue with and removed them.

      It might be harder if you’re looking to use the same or similar skill sets in your side business as in your day job, though. It’s also harder to get it taken out once it’s been signed.

      Looking forward to future replies.

  10. Adam C


    The only thing you could help me with is providing a list of the books you’ve read that helped you come up with all of these quality systems! I can’t find any good resourceson system building.

  11. Kacie

    How to function on minimal, interrupted sleep? I have three little kids. I am tired.

    Can I pop them into a framework?

  12. Ruta

    Hey Ramit,
    I love reading your stuff. I’m so on board with this Year of UnApologetic Mastery.
    I’ve been struggling with narrowing down a list of dream jobs – I feel overwhelmed with choices, and don’t even know where to turn – this before I can even start researching and talking to people. Do you have a framework in place to rapidly to vet through industries/skillsets/areas of expertise to help me at least gain a direction to start with?

  13. Eric


    I feel like I come up with decent ideas often to start a side business, but I get caught up trying to move forward from idea to completion. I have very little experience and the whole process seems daunting. I guess I’m saying help with actually taking an idea from beginning stages to completion–the middle stages that no one really talks about.


  14. Ling

    Hi Ramit,
    I try very hard to network and get to know my superiors, my colleagues, etc. I’m ok with getting to know my colleagues, but no matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to make a lasting impression when I interact with my superiors, which is frustrating. Would really appreciate a step by step networking guide for job relationships that are not balanced (like superior-subordinate). Thanks!

  15. Umi hussaini

    Alright smart guy. How do i get an internship/mentorship with someone i admire such as yourself, or someone else such as Derek halpern who dont have a huge business but are at a point where they need some help. Also without having any previous experience. Looking forward to your advice/tips to really stand out and what you look for as indicators of intelligence

    • Ramit Sethi

      Step 1. Don’t start off by misspelling your first word and calling the person you want advice from “smart guy”
      Step 2: I’ve written about this for years and years on this site. Start here, specifically under Dream Job.
      Step 3: Find out what their burning problems are, get in touch with them, ideally solve them for the person (or at least present a plan), and do the work.

      By the way, it’s possible to get an internship with a big name like Derek Halpern without experience. But I’d encourage you to start with someone else, perfect your craft, then aim at someone like Derek’s level.

  16. Weekend Coffee Talk: Mind, Body, Business & Books (#12)

    […] Great idea from Ramit Sethi: label networking-related emails with the city that person lives in, so that you can follow-up when you head their way (via The productivity system I built to stay in touch with people) […]