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An Interview with Jared Goralnick — Founder of AwayFind

An Interview with Jared Goralnick — Founder of AwayFind

    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.

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    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.

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    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?

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    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!

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    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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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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