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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 September 28, 2020

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

    At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

    Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

    One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

    When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

    So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

    Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

    This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

    Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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    When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

    Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

    One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

    Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

    An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

    When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

    Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

    Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

    We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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    By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

    Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

    While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

    I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

    You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

    Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

    When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

    Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

    Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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    Con #2: Less Human Interaction

    One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

    Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

    Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

    This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

    While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

    Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

    Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

    This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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    For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

    Con #4: Unique Distractions

    Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

    For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

    To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

    Final Thoughts

    Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

    We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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