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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 January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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