A new productivity tool, AwayFind, launched yesterday. I had the pleasure of getting in on the beta and, simply put, AwayFind will change the way you think about email. As a general rule, most of us check our email religiously. We’re all scared that a time-sensetive email will come in and we won’t see it in time — but what if we were notified of the most important emails by text?

AwayFind does exactly that: after a quick set up process, anyone who emails you will receive an immediate response. That response is whatever standard “I’m out of the office” message you choose to use, but will contain a link to your AwayFind page. If someone needs to contact you in a hurry, they can select that option and AwayFind will send you a text message immediately. You can also choose to have certain messages automatically redirected to others — tech support requests to your technicians, for instance.

The application has a free basic version as well as a professional version. While the basic tool is the same between both, the premium version has some nice touches: your own logo on the contact form, improved security and international support are about those features. The premium plan, by the way, is being offered at a significant discount until the end of next week.

The Guy Behind AwayFind: Jared Goralnick

Jared agreed to answer a few questions just for LifeHack, discussing his inspiration for AwayFind:

Where did you get the idea for AwayFind?

When I was reading The 4-Hour Workweek I was excited about Tim Ferriss’ ideas for managing email expectations. He specifically suggested using auto responders that included a phone number of emergencies, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of escalating things from email (an asynchronous means of communication) to phone (which makes the client’s emergency your emergency when you answer the call). I thought there had to be some middle ground. The more I considered it, the more I realized that alerting people of important messages through text messages…or silently delegating them to co-workers would be effective.

How has AwayFind changed or improved your own communications?

I definitely eat my own dogfood! AwayFind’s given me the confidence to not check email in the mornings (when I’m committed to real work rather than the minutiae of email). It makes travel (especially abroad) much easier by giving people a way to reach me or the rest of my staff. Most importantly though, it was the missing piece to being able to practice serious email batching techniques—I’d always been a fan of Merlin Mann’s and David Allen’s ideas but was afraid/unable to step away from my emails for even a few hours. Now I can go a few days without email.

Who do you consider the ideal user for AwayFind?

The ideal user has been trying to practice the email management advice on websites like Lifehack.org and 43folders…but has needed a little more confidence to really step away from their email. I’m trying to provide them that security so that they can step away, batch their email, and still get notified of important stuff right away. Other ideal users are those who get insane amounts of email (and want to be alerted of urgent messages/opportunities) or those who would like to travel without regularly checking their email.

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I really hope I get to try other products, but I need people to sign up and spread the word or I’ll run out of money and return to consulting!

Any special recommendations for first time users?

We provide a lot of templates for making polite and professional auto responders and email signatures…but I hope new users will think through what they write there. A good auto responder or email signature will be both effective and well-received by their contacts, so it’s worth thinking through.

My Recommendation

Jared mentioned his consulting work above. His business card reads ‘Productivity Evangelist’ and he’s good at his job. I think that AwayFind is a great tool, but not just because of technical aspects. The real value is in the educational materials Jared has put together to make ignoring your email inbox even easier. One such piece is Jared’s e-book, The Guide to Not Checking Email. I think every productivity guru has suggested cutting back on email consumption. That’s the whole point of AwayFind, after all. But with email tools that can delay how often you need to check your actual inbox, it’s hard to tell when you actually need to log in. Among other things, The Guide tackles that question. It offers an introduction on how to manage email without getting overwhelmed. The e-book will be available for free with sign-up through Friday, November 21. After that, it will only be available with the paid plan.

I think that the addition of this sort of educational materials really makes AwayFind a great tool. While it’s a simple enough application, it changes the way we respond to email significantly. AwayFind creates a lot of new questions about email even as it solves older problems and the fact that Jared provided materials to help users through those questions is great. I’d suggest checking out AwayFind and seeing just how well it works with your own approach to email

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