AwayFind Launches, Brings New Solutions for Email Freedom

Picture 4.pngSometime late last year, I caught wind of an email productivity tool that was in development. That product, AwayFind promised to help people stop checking email.

Since then, I’ve gotten to know the founder and CEO, Jared Goralnick who has been approaching the product with a very head down, listening approach. I have used AwayFind for some months now, providing feedback and soliciting advice from Jared on the best ways to use the tool.

Yesterday, they launched with big coverage from LifeHacker.

The idea behind AwayFind is simple. Check email when you can (this is a behavioral modification that AwayFind doesn’t tackle, but many GTD-style discipline/productivity systems do. While it is well and good to only check email twice a day, there is always that urgent one that needs attention right now. AwayFind provides a mechanism for senders to get urgent email through to you via an SMS notification.

I’m proud of Jared for his tenacity and vision for this product. I’ve certainly seen it go from a loose idea to a reality. Congratulations to him and his team for launching, but also doing it completely bootstrapped. Save your valuation, keep your company.

Even During a Recession, Small Businesses Still Should Consider Macbooks

I was talking to someone recently who just took a new job at a small web-company. She has been a Windows user all her life but she asked me what she should get in her new job. They were buying her a new computer.

Naturally, I suggested the new Macbook that Apple announced yesterday. The same thing occurred when my dad took a new job with a non-profit and considered getting a Mac, but it was nixed due to concerns over business application and utility.

To be clear, there is no better time to look at Apple laptops than now because the total cost of ownership is usually lower given that in most business environments, the selling point is Microsoft Office and Exchange/Active Directory integration.

Most purchasing managers will get caught in the trap of looking at the higher price tag for the hardware and assume that means that the TCO is higher as well. Let’s break it down though:

Dell Vostro 2510 Apple Macbook 2.0Ghz
Initial Pricepoint $899 $1299
CPU Equivalency Upgrade (2.0 Ghz) $75 $0
Office Software MS Office Pro 2007 – $320 iWork ’08 -$79
Extended Warranty ProSupport (3y) – $268 AppleCare (3y) – $249
PDF Creation Adobe Acrobat – $449 Built in Support – $0
Total Cost of Ownership $2011 $1627

Five Hundred Dollars in difference for the average small business. Not everyone needs Adobe Acrobat, but a lot do! Some companies are inclined to buy MS Office for Mac, but it sucks and iWork has almost universal compatibility. Mail.app has Exchange capability, or the Exchange server can turn on IMAP functionality to make mail clients other than Outlook work better across the board.

If IT purchasing managers take a step back and look at the reality of the purchasing, a hard look at Apple products is a strong move to tighten those belts.

Weekend Productivity Tip: TripIt Calendar Feeds

I just posted my August travel over on my personal blog. If your schedule lines up, give me a shout and let’s get together and talk about WordPress, or tech world gossip, Lijit, or Technosailor.com, or anything. Doesn’t matter. I like meeting people.

But as I’m coming in to land on this Friday, I thought I’d leave you with a productivity trip. If you don’t use Tripit and travel a lot, as I do, then shame on you. Start using it. You won’t be sorry.

If you keep all your travel arrangements in Tripit, you can of course use it from the web or mobile device like a Blackberry or Treo, but you can also pull all your travel arrangements directly into iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook or any calendar you use that supports the ICS data format (almost all do).

Here’s a look at what my calendar looks like for August as I’ve subscribed to my Tripit Calendar.

Picture 9.png

Have a great weekend.

Bonus Productivity Tip in regards to Tripit: Using Tripit is as simple as forwarding confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com. Really. That’s it. 99% of the time, Tripit can parse those confirmation emails and plot your entire trip for you.

The Aaron Brazell Show: Episode 2: The Quest for Email Ninjahood

Fun show tonight.

Jared Goralnick, the CEO of AwayFind joins guest co-host Jimmy Gardner, joined us to talk about email management and productivity much like I’ve been talking about in my Email Ninjahood series.

Later in the show, we enjoyed an open line surrounding a segment I’ve heard over at Ron Smith’s WBAL show occasionally. The segment was “Someone Had to Say It” and gave everyone a chance to gripe about things like friends wanting free consulting services, etc.

Listen to the Episode 2. Also, you can subscribe in iTunes.

If you like what you hear, consider reviewing the show on iTunes as well.

Also, congratulations to Shaun Farrell for winning the one year subscription to Shuttlebus from our friends over at Freshbooks. Congratulations and thanks for listening, Shaun.

The Aaron Brazell Show Tonight: Productivity and "Someone Had To Say It"

It’s Saturday night and that means The Aaron Brazell Show is back. Last week, there were fireworks but tonight… there just might be more fireworks.

With Shel Israel and Robert Scoble interviewing Tim Ferris of the 4 Hour Work Week a few weeks ago, and my own quest for email ninjahood, I wanted to bring on Jared Goralnick of AwayFind to talk about productivity. As AwayFind is an “email productivity” service, it will probably largely revolve around that, but there are certainly all kinds of other methods to make sure you GTD (Get Things Done). Jared is going to be joining us from PodCamp Boston 3, so maybe an update on the cool happenings going on up in Beantown too.

In the second hour, it’s your time. Introducing, Someone Had to Say It, which is inspired by a similar segment done occasionally at a local radio station here in Baltimore, it’s your chance to bitch and moan about whatever ails you. It doesn’t matter how obscure it is. In fact, the more obscure the better because then we all learn something! I don’t want to hear about iPhones! :-)

Twitter users: include hashtag #abshow
FriendFeed users: Comment here
Utterz users: Respond to this and tag abshow.
Or email me: aaron@technosailor.com

Joining me to co-host the show is Jimmy Gardner of East Coast Blogging who always has something obscure, yet bitchy, to say. :-)

And of course, we’re giving away a one year subscription to Shuttlebus from our good friends at Freshbooks to one listener – that’s $168 value. You’ll have to listen to the show though as you don’t know when the giveaway is going to happen. Incidentally, we’ll be using the Privnote technology to do the giveaway so score one for them.

Listen in at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. Preshow at 8:45 on Talkshoe. Or if you can’t be by a phone, call in to (724) 444-7444, Call ID 22406. Press *8 to request to talk if calling in from a phone.

The Quest for Email Ninjahood: Consolidate Email

Before we got a little distracted by other things, we began a series on email ninjahood. Because email bandwidth continues to be a problem for many people with the ubiquity of Blackberries, smartphones and email anywhere you turn.

The recommendations I’m offering in this series work for me but they may not work for everyone. There are lots of productivity wizards out there able to recommend different approaches. Find what works for you and run with it.

For me, I have five different email addresses (probably more if I think about it but five that I need to pay attention to). Before embarking on the quest for email ninjahood, I would login to gmail, multiple other webmails, check my Blackberry, etc. all before rolling out of bed in the morning.

Crazy.

Instead, I’ve gone into the settings for email addresses and forward everything to Picture 3.pngaaron@technosailor.com EXCEPT for Gmail which is on record with probably a dozen different mailing lists. Most of my actionable email goes to aaron@technosailor.com.

This is not the only action I’ve taken but it is first stem. Having all my email in one place allows me to not be going everywhere looking and ensures that everything I need will be in one place.

Next time, I’ll talk about filters and rules, “need-to-know” emails, and leveraging a dedicated email address for your smartphone.

The Quest for Email Ninjahood – I Admit That I Have a Problem

I’m beginning a short series here that, on one hand, I hope to use to educate and on the other hand I hope to expose myself and the flaws I have in how I deal with email.

Email quite simply is a problem. Some people are blessed to have little email traffic so they squander that luxury by creating email by sending chain letters or otherwise. I however, have a much bigger, and much more deadly problem.

At last count, across all my various email addresses, I receive about 900 emails every single day. Much of this is junk email (not necessarily spam, but still very Bacn). Another large chunk is mailing lists for WordPress, or Twitter or various different other mailing lists. I read all of it.

When I was at b5media, Jeremy lectured me (not just me) about email management. We instituted various techniques to get our Blackberry usage under control. It was best practice kind of stuff like turning off notification on all emails except ones with certain tags in the subject line. That worked, kind of. It worked for the more disciplined, but I always just figured that I was looking at my email anyway, no need to worry about stupid little additional things.

I left b5media and my email load did drop significantly. For awhile. Then it picked back up again as I was putting quotes together and talking to prospective clients. Much of my communication shifted from email to Twitter direct messages where potential clients often approached me asking if I could help them with a project or something.

My messaging got to be a real problem and my Blackberry had to be cleared regularly. There was just too much mail hitting it and I really didn’t want to see it all on my Blackberry.

Again, I read all my email. Suddenly though, I realized what people like Jared and Jeremy had been telling me for years: I didn’t need to be seeing every single email on my Blackberry. Not even close.

Over the next few articles, I’m going to tell you some of the things I’ve already done in the past two weeks and rules, literally and figuratively, I’ve put into motion in my email life. Everything that could be done has not been done, however the plan is ongoing and, as I’ve loved the results, I expect you probably will too.

Job Search: Define Your Goals

A friend of mine just landed a job. Congratulations to her as the job market is shriveling up. I won’t mention her name for fear it could cause complications at her new job but many of you know her.

She hasn’t worked for a company in 17 years, give or take, and has lived quite successfully as a consultant. However, she became enamored by the possibility of helping companies directly in her line of expertise.

She gave some thought to what she wanted to do and wrote this document, republished with her permission.


Overall function
I want to provide strategic direction that integrates new and social media opportunities for a dynamic organization. I see this function as working collaboratively with many departments and functions such as marketing, communications, PR, recruiting and retention, customer service, community management, investor relations and product development.

About new media and social media
I’m defining these terms not just as technology and communication tools, such as blogging, YouTube, Flicker, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, social bookmarking and social networking, but also as a new realm of communications with a distinctly different culture that includes activities such as ““

    User-generated content

  • Conversations and comments
  • Personal branding and online profiles
  • Personal and personable content
  • Community management
  • De-institutionalizing of information
  • Rating content
  • Tagging
  • Link, links, links “¦ and more links.

My ideal job looks like –

  • Working across a number of departments ““ marketing and communications, sales and business development, HR for recruiting and retention, IT, customer service and PR.
  • Providing strategic direction, internal consulting and project management.
  • Interacting with staff at many levels, including executives, managers, creative teams, technical staff and admin.
  • Designing, implementing and managing projects.
  • Keeping abreast of emerging new media technologies and trends.

I am less interested in work defined by digital media maintenance, e.g.

  • Keeping a website current.
  • Managing online advertising and email campaigns.
  • Handling technical functions of a company’s digital communications.

I am more interested in —

  • Being at the forefront of new media.
  • Identifying opportunities and developing strategies using new media.
  • Designing, implementing and managing projects.
  • Internal education, integrating new media and expanding an organization’s capacity.

Company / Environment
The environment in which I want to work is an organization that —

  • Already has a strong brand, marketing department and PR component.
  • Values creative business strategies supporting both short- and long-term goals.
  • Has leadership that is open and pushing to be an adaptive and dynamic company.
  • Has leaders who know they need to do something different ““ and fast, but may not have any strategy or plans yet.

The type of organization I want to work for is —

  • A large corporation, even a national brand.
  • Military organizations and federal government, or a government contractor tasked with bringing social media functions into the government.
  • A small municipality with robust funding for creative economic and community development.
  • I am less interested in nonprofit organizations.
  • The industry in which I work is of less importance to me than the job function.

Location

  • Company location is not important.
  • Willing to travel.
  • Looking to work in a creative and flexible environment, where technology and online
    communications are robustly supported; meeting space is beautiful, and productivity and
    results are valued over face time.

Notice how she defines exactly what she does and does not want. She knows specifics, down to the detail, on the principles of her employment. She knows that she may not be able to detail specifically which company or organization she wants to but she knows specifically the role she is looking for and what she wants to accomplish.

As unfortunate as this is, the economy is growing worse and more people are looking for work. You may be one of them. Instead of hitting the job boards with dervish-like ferocity, take a day or two alone and in a quiet place and write your own roadmap.

Knowing specifically what your goals are will greatly increase your chances of finding meaningful employment where you can do what you love and love what you do.

Como Vencer la Sobrecarga Informativa

La sobrecarga informativa es algo a lo que muchos estamos expuestos en Internet. Vamos abriendo artículos para leerlos más tarde y cuando nos damos cuenta tenemos 50 pestañas abiertas en el navegador. Aparte de saber que no las vamos a leer ahorita, todas estas pestañas ocupan memoria y tiempo de procesador, interfiriendo con nuestro trabajo diario.

Luego, mientras esperamos que comience una reunión, que llegue el tren, salga el avión o nos atienda el doctor, quisieramos poder leer algo más que las revistas del siglo pasado disponibles en la sala de espera.

Las herramientas que veremos a continuación te permiten agregar contenido rápidamente a tu biblioteca de lectura y te dan fácil acceso para leerlos despúes, actualizando automáticamente lo que has leído o no.

LaterLoop:

Una nueva herramienta para guardar tus links de lectura que pareciera estar muy bien pensada. De entrada te permite importar tus listas de lectura creadas en otros servicios (por ejemplo, Del.icio.us o Instapaper) así que de una vez le ves la utilidad. Ofrece una extensión para Firefox que te permite guardar artículos con un sólo click o tecla, un bookmarklet e integración con la extensión ScrapBook para lectura fuera de línea. Además, ofrece versiones para iPhone y otros celulares, archivo, ratings, y feeds públicos y privados de tu lista de lectura.

Instapaper:

Usando un bookmarklet permite añadir páginas instantáneamente a tu lista de lectura. Despúes, navegas a la página de Instapaper desde tu navegador o celular y escoges lo que quieres leer. El artículo será automáticamente marcado como leído y retirado de la lista de lectura. Es posible también ver una versión ligera del artículo (haciendo click sobre el botón de “Text”) para evitar bajar el website completo a tu celular. También puedes suscribirte a un feed RSS con tu lista de lectura.

Del.icio.us o Ma.gnolia.com:

A través de un bookmarklet o una extensión para Firefox, puedes usar estos servicios para almacenar links, colocándoles una etiqueta que los identifíque como “LeerDespués” (o como prefieras llamarlos). Luego crea un link que te lleve directamente a tus bookmarks identificados con esa etiqueta y listo: una lista de lectura.

Read it Later:

Una extensión para Firefox que permite guardar copias de links a páginas para leerlas después. Ofrece una función experimental que guarda una copia local del contenido de la página, para poder leerla offline en Firefox. Usa los bookmarks de Firefox, lo que permite sincronizar la lista de lectura con otras computadoras a través de extensiones como Foxmarks o Google Browser Sync.

Y tu, ¿cómo controlas la sobrecarga informativa?

10 Ways to Make Your Workspace More Productive

After Jason Calacanis wrote this about saving money with your startup, I thought I would republish something I wrote on Startup Spark about a year ago. It is workspace focused but it is funny how many of the things he says match up. Enjoy…

10 Ways to Make your workspace more productive
I was motivated by Anne Zelenka’s article “Redo Your Workspace for Productive Web Working” to evaluate my workspace and since I can’t change the Starbucks I work out of most of the time I focused on the home office.

In a word – depressing. No wonder I escape the house to drink coffee, talk to the regulars (including Aaron Brazell of B5) and meet with clients.

Anne’s list is the following:

  1. Lift up your laptop – DONE
  2. Eliminate wire – Yeah, right….
  3. Organize remaining wires – I tried, still a rat’s nest
  4. Arrange displays according to work activities – Multiple monitors required here
  5. Coral office supplies – Does throwing them all in a closet count?
  6. Put your daily to-do list in a special spot – Does the same closet count for this one too?
  7. Make sure your ongoing list is easily available – I guess opening the closet door counts, so DONE.
  8. Straighten your piles – gotta love that closet

So obviously I need ALOT of work on the home office. Here is my list of 10 Ways to Make Your Workspace More productive:

1. Identify “turn-off” time and stick to it

– I find that have times of the day where there are no distractions allows me to do better brainstorming and thinking. Around 3pm I turn off the phone and shut down the e-mail to do this kind of work for about an hour. You will find yourself more productive.

2. Use multiple monitors

– These are fairly inexpensive now and you should have at least two and probably three

3. Leverage the GTD methodology

– Read and re-read the book “Getting things Done”
– Read 43 Folders by Merlin Mann
– Buy 43 actual folders at Office Depot

4. Get a stand up desk

– I did some contract work at the Capital during Speaker Gingrich’s reign and when I was in his office the one thing that stuck out – no chairs. He had a stand up desk and to the left was a sofa with banks of phones sitting on top. There was a huge conference table with no chairs. What this meant it that when he was at his desk he didn’t waste time and when people came into brief him they were to the point and didn’t waste his time. If you can get one of these, you will be more productive. I guarantee it.

5. If you must sit, spend the most money on your chair

– Many of us are not able to stand all day and we must sit down to work. SO GET A GREAT CHAIR! I can’t emphasize this enough. People spend $50,000 on a car with amazing seats the sit in for an hour a day and get all cheap on the office chair they sit in 8-16 hours a day. Spend the $800-1200 on a chair. You will be more alert and you will be more productive.

6. Toys
– I love toys. Maybe because I believe everyone should find their inner eight year old or maybe because it is not how old your body is, it is how old you mind tells you that you are. Toys are a nice and fun distraction. Distractions are important and make life fun. I have a USB missile launcher. Totally geeky but fun and a nice distraction when I put something (like a bill) across the room and aim for it. Good toys include stress balls, puzzles, etc.

7. No food in the office
– Yeah, I know you eat at your desk, don’t deny it. It makes you more efficient? Right? Wrong. While eating at your desk might allow you to get that hour in of work you never quit early and you just miss an important break which can make you more productive in the afternoon. Read the book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. It is about building business relationships and keeping your network fresh. Plus, when you get back to the office you will feel up and energized to be productive for the rest of the day.

8. Buy good storage containers to get rid of the clutter
– Anne mentioned corralling supplies and organizing piles. The best way to do this is with containers. File cabinets, plastic bins and rollable drawers can really get you organized and with this out of sight the distractions will help you focus and be more productive.

9. Implement Zen – music, fountain, plant or portable fan
– I am not going get all Feng Shui on you but I will say that there are merits in that concept if you do it right. If there is not a good way to do it, you should at least bring in the environment that helps you relax and becomes part of a meditative background that improves your productivity. You can accomplish this with your favorite music, a portal fountain, some plants and even a fan. Just find what works for you.

10. Get rid of the stink
Nothing is worse than an office that smells too much like, well, you. This is linked with the eating in your office thing. Trash and all kinds of stuff add the odor and when you have clients or colleagues over, they like you but they really don’t want to smell your presence – literally. Add some air fresheners and aromatherapy. Those types of scents can also help you stay alert contributing to your productivity.

I would love to hear if you have tried any of these things and they have worked or not worked. Let me know if you want more content on the productivity topic and I will make this a regular subject.