Friday, September 23, 2011

Finding Love After Loss: Organizing Your Dating Life

When dating becomes your full time job,
it becomes necessary to use the right tools 
to keep track of your prospective dates.

Sixteen years ago, I found myself a young widow with two sons to raise on my own. At first the world was a dark place, and I needed to learn how to survive the slings and arrows of everyday life as a single, bereaved parent. After mastering that task, next, I set out to learn how to thrive in my new situation and environment … or what had become my new normal.

Dating was the last thing on my mind, although the occasional thought that it might be nice to have a new partner with whom to share my life did cross my mind. Many years down the road, I took the plunge and started Internet dating. Through this venue, I found a new happily ever after.

Let’s rewind, though, to the beginning of my adventure. And an adventure it was, which is the only way to think about dating in order to be successful! 

Diving into the dating pool was a big leap of faith for me because I knew NOTHING about how to date. My late husband was my one and only boyfriend, for I met him at the tender age of 15 and married at 20 upon our college graduations.

However, what I did know was how to be organized and set goals. As I excitedly embarked upon my new journey, I decided I would use my organizational skills and business tools to keep track of my dates. After all, at this point in my life, dating had become my new job. Consequently, I thought the best course of action would be to use the business tools at my disposal! 

Brenda Spangrud of S.O.R.T.E.D. suggests using systems that are accommodating, easy to use, and which don’t require weekend catch-up sessions to get things back in order. And that is exactly the type of program I implemented.

For those of you who have never Internet dated, upon posting a profile with a dating site, you immediately become a target for a tremendous amount of e-mail contact. You are the “new kid on the block” and everyone is anxious to meet you … at least in cyberspace. It can actually be overwhelming, if you are not prepared for the onslaught. And, if you have signed onto multiple sites at the same time, you exponentially increase the communications you will receive.

Thinking organizationally, I pondered what would be the best way to handle this situation and which tools would provide the most expedient result. I decided to use both Word and Excel. 

There is usually an introductory get to know you e-mail that is sent to prospective dates. I thought, “Why should I write basically the same paragraph repeatedly?” Instead, I penned a response in Word and then simply copied and pasted it into my correspondence. This gave me the opportunity to have a few extra moments to personalize the salutation and add a few lines at the end that showed I actually read the person’s profile! 

My master file also included a recap of personal tidbits I thought appropriate to share with prospective dates. I could then pick and choose which were applicable and the timing in which I would send them. 

Additionally, I had the standard rejection note in my Word document, which read: “Thank you for connecting with me. I don’t believe we are a match, though. I wish you the best of luck in your dating endeavors.” I am a big stickler for courtesy, so even if I wasn’t interested, I felt it necessary to acknowledge a contact. Cyberspace can be a cruel place, and it only takes a minute to respond – especially if it only means copying and pasting!

Using “stock” answers may seem cold, but when your mailbox is filled with queries, there is no possible way you could answer each one if you had to start from scratch every time. I’m not suggesting this procedure be used for long – only at the inception of the contact. This way you can review your correspondence and figure out which ones spark your interest enough to continue communicating.

So, here I was corresponding with many men at the same time and sometimes having a coffee date, a lunch date and a dinner date on the same day! 

As an aside I chose three places where I always scheduled my first meetings. If it was just coffee, then I suggested a French cafeteria, Le Madeleine, where there was the option of getting a snack also. For lunch or dinner, my choice was Sammy’s, a California Kitchen-like restaurant, which had a nice variety of very reasonably priced salads and light fare. If we were meeting for a drink, I chose Z Tejas, a comfortable place to have a drink, and, if things went well, the date could progress to a meal. These were conveniently located near to my home and all in the same well-lit shopping plaza. 

I frequented Le Madeleine the most often, and I always wondered if the staff thought I was a “working girl” who never came in with the same man twice. It made me chuckle to myself every time and was one of the things that kept a smile on my face throughout the date!

However, I digress … so how was I going to keep track at which stage I was with each man, for example, was I on date two or three or which information about me had I already sent by e-mail? This is where the use of the Excel spreadsheet was invaluable.

I had a master list that included those with whom I had initiated contact and the ones who had contacted me first. Excel also gives you the option to copy a profile picture into your file. This helps to link names and faces. The master list is important because many people are on multiple sites and sometimes use different “handles” as a user name. You want to make sure you are not contacting the same person more than once or they you. If one rejection is hard enough, two from the same person is certainly not twice as much fun!

You can also utilize the multiple tabs Excel offers. There are many people with whom you will only interact once. There are some that will make the cut for a second or third date.** By the time you are at your third date, you can discard the spreadsheet because your interactions will be more personalized. However, if the relationship goes further, you may want to copy and paste the e-mails exchanged into a Word document. This lets you remember what you said and the response you received. Reading these more than once can give you added insight into a person who you don’t know well. It is also easier to have them in one place, rather than having to refresh your memory by flipping back and forth between past e-mails. 

**Note: In my dating career, I did institute the “Two-to-Three Date” Rule, which says you should give a date more than one chance (and preferably three) before writing him or her off completely. These are strangers you are meeting and you don’t know what is going on in their lives that might cause them to be nervous, shy, tongue-tied, etc. on a first date. By a third date, you should be able to determine whether the relationship is worth pursuing further.

Utilizing both Word and Excel for tracking purposes in the manner I have outlined will allow the dating process to be less intimidating and time-consuming, as well as provide the opportunity to meet many more people. Dating is really a numbers game; the more people you meet, the better your chance of meeting someone special with whom you can connect on a deeper level.

It is possible to be organized AND have lots of fun! It worked for me, and it can work for you! I met my husband only after 11 months of Internet dating, and we have been happily married for 8 years.

Rather listen than read about organizing your dating life? Watch the video.

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