On your journey to becoming a thought leader and influencer, you've probably amassed thousands of contacts over the years. The burning question: is that address book you've built lying to you? You may have plenty of contacts, but do you have real connections?

The heart of the matter is that the head count in your address book is probably giving you a false sense of confidence and feeling of social overload. As a result, you may stop connecting and relating to people, thinking that you have a strong community and network of connections. Meeting but one more person and forming a new relationship will seem like a chore. As a result, consciously and unconsciously, you'll start to isolate yourself. This can kill your momentum.

If you're operating on a falsely inflated sense of your connections or friends, it's keeping you from reaching out to new people, thereby keeping you from creating deeper, meaningful connections, making lasting impressions, and unlocking new and more opportunities. And there is a fix.

1. Triage your current contacts.

Take a look at your address book, contacts on your phone, or CRM and ask these two questions for each person:

  • Who in your database knows you, remembers you and cares about you?
  • What do you know and remember about that individual?

If they don't remember you, you'll have a hard time reconnecting and getting any of their coveted, focused attention to your cause. If you can't remember the contact, and the context of your connection to them, you'll be starting from scratch. So first, isolate the contacts whom you can remember a strong, positive  story that connects the two of you.

2. Create a new group for strong connections.

Start a new contact group and give it a name like "relevant" or "connections" or something that resonates for you. If you can remember who the contact is, how you met, and the context of your relationship, add them to this group.

What you'll find is that one by one, what you thought of as thousands of connections will probably shrink into a few hundred at most.

3. Add the story and context of your reason for connecting.

For each contact you add to that group of relevant connections, add the context, the story of what connected you to them in to the notes section of the address book.

This may sound like common sense, but it's uncommonly practiced. All too often, our minds trick ourselves into capturing just the essential contact information, a first name, a phone number, and maybe an email address. The more context we have associated and saved with the contact information, the longer the shelf life of that connection. Even after years pass, you'll have the context of the connection to trigger your memory, or at the least give you some common ground and reasons to reconnect.

4. Try to rekindle other contacts, and let go of the strangers.

Acknowledge that the other contacts are strangers, be honest, and try a few times to rekindle the connection. You are human. And for the most part, so are the many contacts in your contacts app. You can send a message to reach out to the people that are strangers, and it can be written as simply as this:

"Subject Line: Let's reconnect. What's going on in your world?"

Hey there,

I want to reconnect with you. What are the top two things going on in your life right now? I want to hear about them.

Here's are the two big things going on in my world.

  • Thing 1
  • Thing 2

I'd love to hear from you. "

If they don't answer back, you can try again and add the subject line "Seriously, second time - let's connect."

After you've given it a few tries, be willing to delete the contact. If you can't remember who they are, why you connected, and cannot reach them, there is little value in keeping a personal copy of the yellow pages. The extraneous contacts only fuel the false sense of connection and anxiety associated with social overload.

So, you weed down your contacts to your real connections, you may even rekindle a few that were forgotten, and here's the cool part. This provides some much needed digital therapy and self help that will provide relief from social anxiety associated with overload, and unlock possibilities for new meaningful relationships. All that room you created in your mind, allows you to focus on the true connections you have, and the opportunity to develop new ones.

Published on: May 15, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.