September 5, 2008

AwayFind – Living Outside Your Inbox


Whether you get 30 messages a day or 330, email can be overwhelming. Today, many of us spend all day in the inbox, replying to requests the moment we hear the ping of email notification. The pressure to deal with bloated email inboxes with increasing speed has hit workers hard in recent years. Some high-profile professionals have even had to declare “e-mail bankruptcy” when their inboxes get out of hand. It’s not just the stress of dealing with email that’s a problem, though. The habit of checking email 10, 20, or 50 times a day hurts productivity and makes it tough to get the real work of the day done. In fact, a 2005 study found that workers distracted by incoming email scored, on average, 16 points lower on IQ tests than those who weren’t distracted – a score lower even than study participants who were exposed to marijuana. But what can we, as workers, do when the world expects immediacy? Should we hire an assistant to help us get through that inbox? Should we work through the night to get the inbox to empty each day? Not necessarily. Instead, we might try an innovative solution called AwayFind.

AwayFind is a simple, but effective way to separate urgent email from messages that can wait. Once you register, AwayFind will create an online form for people to use when sending you an urgent message. This form is shared with your contacts either in your email signature or as part of an auto-response. When the form is submitted by a contact, you’ll receive an urgently-marked email or text message from AwayFind, alerting you that someone needs your help right away. It’s a simple, but brilliant way to let your contacts know that you’re not in your inbox 24/7 but that you will respond if they need you urgently. When I first tried the program, I was hesitant about sending an auto-response to my contacts – and worried about appearing non-responsive to the needs of those I work with. Surprisingly, I found that my contacts were not only tolerant of the AwayFind system, but relaxed in knowing that their messages were received and that there was a trusted way to reach me, if they needed to speed up the response time. My inbox may still be full, but I know that messages there can wait at least a little while, as I make some serious headway on other projects.

Practical Uses:

  • Handle truly urgent issues immediately, without having to wade through the entire inbox
  • Manage the expectations of those who email you about when you can be available
  • Arrange for urgent messages to reach you while you’re traveling – without hiring an assistant to field messages for you
  • Use AwayFind to create a general contact form for your company. AwayFind can route and notify different departments and workers, depending on the type of message

Insider Tips:

  • If you’d rather not send an auto-response to everyone who sends you an email, try using your personal AwayFind link in your signature line instead
  • Do customize your contact form and auto-response. This helps your contacts know they are really reaching you and understand which types of messages count as urgent
  • AwayFind is still in beta – and currently available via invite only

What we liked:

  • AwayFind is designed to work with gmail, Yahoo!, MSN, Outlook, and other email providers
  • The program includes specialized email templates to help you explain AwayFind to others
  • You can personalize your contact form and your auto-response to meet your needs
  • Quality screencasts make AwayFind easy to set up
  • For users of the professional plan, AwayFind can route messages to different numbers for delegation to others or categorize incoming messages for easier response

What we didn’t like:

  • AwayFind provides lots of tips and tools to help your contacts get used to the system, but there is still a learning curve, for those emailing you. When I first tried it, I found that, while most people see the difference between an urgent and a non-urgent message, some contacts will treat everything as urgent, and others may think they have to fill out the form each time they email you, just because it’s there. Keep in mind that you’ll need to educate your contacts, so they understand how the process works


There are no services similar to AwayFind at this time

Company Info:

  • Launch Date: AwayFind is still in beta but will launch in the next few months (as of 9/08)
  • Privately Owned
  • Headquarters: Washington, DC
  • Founded by Jared Goralnik
  • Web site:


  • There is a free plan and a Professional plan, at $5/month. The professional plan includes SSL security, message routing by category, and a place for your logo on the contact form

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