Get alerts about urgent messages from your boss

Odds are good that your real job -- what you're paid to do -- is not just checking and sending email. Yesterday, I told you about one strategy for maintaining an empty inbox, and today I've got another tip: How to let important email find you even when you're away from your PC and not constantly checking mail. It's empowering, because you can concentrate on your job and stop worrying about looking at your inbox all day.

One common way to keep in touch with contacts is to put communication alerts in your email signature. For example, I know coworkers who put something in their signature that says, "I don't check email frequently. If this is an emergency, call me at 867-5309."

AwayFind is high-tech version of that emergency contact info -- it automatically connects you with priority colleagues so you can ignore the bulk of your email and know the important stuff will get through.

Here's the deal: You can easily set up alerts for messages from important people. When you get an email from a boss, important coworker, spouse, or anyone else whom you specify, you can get alerted any way you prefer -- via a voice message, text message or email to a different account. It's a powerful way to get notified about high-priority email even if you don't sit in front of your inbox all day long.

The service goes further. You can also set up alerts for emails that contain specific keywords, so if you're waiting for a message on a particular topic, you'll get pinged for that as well. You can even set up AwayFind to alert you when you get messages from people with whom you have scheduled appointments that day. That way you'll get notified if someone changes a meeting time or sends you an attachment to prep for a meeting.

For more routine correspondence, you can insert a message in your autoresponder or email signature like this: "Need me ASAP? You can reach me at: http://awayfind.com/davejoh." (This link works, so feel free to click it to see what it's like.)

When the recipient clicks the link, they have to fill out a short web form with contact information. You can receive the message as a text on your phone, or have it sent to a different email address (which lets you delegate the work to someone else).

AwayFind's basic service is free, but it limits you to just 10 alerts per month, which is good for little more than just trying it out. There are a few premium levels, such as the Personal plan (100 alerts per month for $50 a year) and Professional (1000 alerts for $150 a year). Even better, if you can persuade your most common contacts to sign up for AwayFind too, you can exchange unlimited alerts with them for free, whether or not you pay for one of the premium plans.