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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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