Easily limit e-mail access while on vacation

I love Lifehacker because 1.) Gina, Adam, Jason, Kevin, and newbie Jackson are rock stars, and 2.) I constantly find ways to improve my life from reading the site. Recently, Gina wrote about AwayFind, and this post has revolutionized how I approach e-mail.

Here’s how AwayFind works: When you set up your auto response message in your e-mail client, you write a few words about how you aren’t really checking e-mail. Then, you stick in a final sentence that explains if there is an emergency that you can be contacted via AwayFind. You put a link to your AwayFind page in the text of your away message, and then people receiving the e-mail have a way of getting emergency messages to you without you having to publicize your cell phone number.

If someone believes that they can’t wait until you return from your vacation to get into touch with you, they click the link and are taken to an online form where they can customize their emergency message to you.

I like the program because you don’t actually have to go on vacation to use it. If you need to do some heavily focused work for a few days, set up an away message and only receive emergency messages. Once your schedule returns to normal, you can weed through all the non-emergency messages that came in for you. You stay focused, but not out-of-contact when you’re truly needed. You remain in control of your e-mail with AwayFind.

10 Comments for “Easily limit e-mail access while on vacation”

  1. posted by Pete on

    This would work, were it not for the fact that everyone always thinks that their email is urgent.

    “You have received a message via AwayFind from Bill Lumbergh: How are those TPS reports coming along?”

  2. posted by Jared Goralnick on

    Hi Erin,

    As a long fan of your site, you just made my day by writing about AwayFind. Thank you! And happy Thanksgiving!

    Pete, as the found of AwayFind, I thought that might be the case, but in a year of testing it, we haven’t seen that happen. Fewer than 2% of messages ever turn into “AwayFind emergencies”–the secret sauce is just making it clear why you’re using AwayFind. So most users get at most 3 messages in a week, assuming they say something to the effect of “I check my email a couple times per day, but if you need me fast, click here” or whatever. And fortunately, getting a text message from someone you don’t want to hear from yet is still a easier to ignore than a phone call (if you end up picking up!).

    Anyhow, thanks again, Erin, for writing about this. I’m thrilled that you took the time, and hope it keeps working for you!

    Jared Goralnick / Founder, AwayFind

  3. posted by Bob (zohngalt) on

    Aside from the more obvious benefits, if Dagny Taggart is using it (see example), I’m a believer.

  4. posted by Jessica on

    So I’m not the only one who caught the Ayn Rand reference. That had me laughing SO hard.

    The email message should read:

    A is A

  5. posted by Laura on

    Best. Book. Ever.

  6. posted by Jared Goralnick on

    Dagny was our first customer, she’s all about efficiency! (And forgive me for the typos before!)

  7. posted by JefferyK on

    I don’t get it. Sorry. If I’m not checking e-mail, I’m not checking e-mail. Anyone who would need to reach me for an emergency has my phone number.

  8. posted by alfora on

    You are talking about “limit e-mail access while on vacation”.

    While I am on vacation I DON’T WANT to check e-mails.

    Besides, what exactly should I do in “an emergency” while I am away from home? Without the documents the “emergency” is referring to? And if my house burns, I can’t do anything against it when I am more than one hour driving time away from home, can I?

    Much better solution IMHO:
    * use e-mail rules to assign categories to incoming e-mails
    * use rules to sort messages into appropriate folders (great for newsletters, order confirmations of online shops)
    * forget about “auto response” messages. They just confirm your e-mail address for spammers.
    * if you go on vacation, GO ON VACATION

  9. posted by Jared Goralnick on

    Jeffery, not everyone has your cellphone number. This helps those people to reach you without giving it out. That feature alone is why many AwayFind users tell us they use it :-). Plus if someone calls you, there problem is now your problem–text messaging a problem lets you decide if you want to deal with it

    * Every idea in your “better solution” I completely agree with, and you’ll find a dozen ideas like those in the 26-page Guide to NOT Checking Email (it explains the exact steps to setting up those rules in Gmail/Outlook, etc) that comes with the product. Those are hugely important and I’m totally in favor of them. They just solve a different problem.
    * when you go on vacation there might be an emergency that you would want to know about–someone can’t find a password for the payroll system and it’s time to pay people (happened to me), a major newspaper is looking to quote you in an article they’re running (happened to me), or even a friend who wanted to meet you in the far off place you’re in (happened to me). When you’re traveling you may not have a cellphone (or you have a different number), or you’d rather check in on JUST the time sensitive stuff but not the office minutiae. Also, I would argue that many if not most emergencies don’t require documentation. And if they do, it’s often pretty easy to get ahold of in this often-electronic/online world we’re in. I’m not saying this “solves the problem” but when I was abroad much of this summer it got me out of a jam a number of times. Most of our users find this additional method of communication to be filling a neat gap between email and telephone, especially in places where neither are practical.

    Hope that helps to explain. And hope that your house doesn’t burn down…but if it does, you’ll find out about it sooner than later ;-).

    Cheers and happy holidays!

  10. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    My husband has a colleague whose vacation message reads something like “I will be away for x time. If you absolutely, positively must reach me, you need to reexamine your priorities.”

    This was viewed with great amusement by everyone–until the gentleman missed out on a great opportunity (a free trip to Europe to speak) because he was away. Ha!

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