Managing Contacts with Monica CRM

Mihir Sahu
4 min readDec 21, 2022

This is my first post, so bear with me.

I’ve been reading the lauded Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and I’m halfway through it — about 51% according to my Kindle — and it’s been a very interesting read. I feel like the book has made me subconsciously change my perspective on networking, making friends, and simple everyday interactions altogether. Two of the sections — Chapter 7: Do Your Homework and Chapter 8: Take Names — stood out to me because they reference three things that I’m interested in: research/planning, data, and logging.

Chapter 7 emphasizes the importance of research and preparation when trying to meet new people. It recommends sources such as Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The goal of the research, it states, is to better understand the individual and find common ground so that your interactions are “deeper and richer than what can be discovered in a serendipitous encounter.” Of course, all the information found through this research has to be stored somewhere.

Chapter 8 on the other hand encourages you to create lists of people that are in your network and those who you hope to meet in the future. Ferrazzi describes his own experience creating lists, entering them into a database, creating call sheets, and using contact aggregators.

It seems genius but sounds like a lot of work. After all, doing research and creating lists is already tedious, but now you have to manage all of this information with a variety of sparsely-related tools? I’ve been looking for software — preferably open-source software — that could help me make this process less time-consuming, and I think I’ve found it: it’s called Monica.

Monica, in its own words, helps you organize your social interactions with your loved ones. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and it seems too good to be true. It’s even open-source! I’m not going to go too in-depth into how Monica works — that’s what the documentation is for — but I will explain how I installed it and a few features that I love about it.

Installation

Monica allows you to use their servers, deploy straight to a PaaS (Platform as a Service) such as Heroku, or host it yourself. I chose the self-hosted option, and I host it on a Docker container on my Raspberry Pi 4B home server. Find out more details here.

Features

Two features that I absolutely love about Monica are the ability to import/export data and the variety of data that you can log for each individual.

Importing and exporting data is easy; simply go to Settings > Import/Export data. Monica allows you to import .vcard and .vcf files, which are implementations of a standard format for digital business cards. Applications such as Contacts on IOS store all their data in such files. You can use iCloud to quickly download a .vcf file containing all your contacts, and then upload it to Monica to import them all into the CMS. On the other hand, you can export data in two formats: SQL and JSON. Each has its own benefits, but JSON is generally much easier to work with. JSON support was added recently and is still in Preview Mode.

Monica’s strength is in its ability to handle various types of data for an individual. For a specific person, you can log conversations, phone calls, activities, reminders, tasks, gifts, debts, documents, relationships, contact information, addresses, and more. If that seems like a lot, it’s because it is.

Notes

While Monica is an excellent tool to aggregate contact information, it’s important to note that its effectiveness is dependent on the user. It’s our responsibility to keep track of our contacts and log important conversations, dates, and activities to use the full capabilities of this software.

Logging and journaling to this extent can seem strange to some people. After all, if we spend time with someone, why would we have to log it? Things like contact information and birthdays are fine, but why should activities and conversations be considered? I was new to this idea as well, but over time I’ve learned that 1) our memories are crap, and 2) the more effort you make to remember attributes about the people in your network, the more they’ll appreciate you and the richer your relationships will be. To me, my relationships with friends, mentors, and just people, in general, are everything. And I believe that investing the time to write down this information is worth it.

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Mihir Sahu

I'm passionate about tech and business. I write about anything that I’m currently thinking about. Check out my website at mihirsahu.com.