Brad Patterson, Intercultural Communicator and Social Media Manager at WriteThat.name, discusses speaking five languages, trying to spend less time online, and how he uses Boomerang to work internationally.
“I think I could’ve been a geek when I was in like, fifth grade. A couple of friends and I learned the command lines for MS-DOS, but then I started playing football and lost the geekiness. I didn’t really get back into technology until I started to work with startups.
I went to Indiana University and was a Sociology, French, and Italian major. I started on the academic path for learning languages, but pretty quickly I realized that living in countries was a better way to learn. I’ve spent about five years in France; I started when I was seventeen and in an exchange program, then worked in French restaurants for a while, and now I live in Paris. I’ve also spent a year in Italy, a year in Mexico, and three years in China. Living abroad and using language actively is what’s worked for me.
I’m currently a Social Media/ Community Manager at WriteThat.name. Our software analyzes the information in email signatures and automatically updates your address book. It runs in the background so you don’t have to do too much, and it saves people time by keeping all their information up to date.
Boomerang is definitely my go-to application. Because most of our clients at Writethat.name are in the US, I work internationally. I love the ‘send later’ function because it allows me to get the email to clients early in the morning or right after lunch, and it also makes it look like I’m working normal hours. It’s not just about timezones, but about getting an email to someone when they’re most likely to read and respond to it.
I also have Boomerang on my personal email that I use for my business with China; I help a Chinese wholesale violin company with their production, importation, and quality control. The Chinese tend to prefer “hot” forms of communication, like talking on the phone, to “cold” communication, like email, so I use Boomerang on almost every email I send to ensure that our purveyors saw the message, because they don’t always respond. I juggle going back and forth between email and the phone to get the job done, but if I’m placing a complicated order with twenty specific requests, I really have to send a document. It just can’t happen over the phone.
I tend to dedicate the first hour of work to things that are creative, like a blog post or slides for a presentation. The early morning juices are very creative and I try to use those before I hit email. I’m big on Inbox Zero, so I process my email about 4-5 times a day. I still have to work in email because I do a lot of outbound work, so I use Baydin’s Inbox Pause function to avoid being distracted. In collaboration with Baydin products, I use RescueTime, a time-tracking software. It tells me how much time I spend on Trello, on specific Google docs, in my inbox, in Photoshop, and so on.
Personally, I try to avoid push notifications because task-switching really eats up my productivity. If I were to get a notification every five minutes, there would be 96 times during the day where I’d have to pause what I was doing, manage the email, and then come back. The only thing I use notifications for are “hot” methods of communication, like Skype or Yammer–if someone on my team has an immediate need. The app AwayFind is great for getting notifications for VIPs, like if you’re in contact with a journalist, or if you want to be notified every time your CEO emails you. Otherwise, most things can wait.
Unroll.me has been a big change for me as well. It’s kind of like Gmail’s new promotions tabs, it filters out anything that’s not directly sent to you and only you, cutting my inbox down by about 30-40 percent. It’s made processing my inbox much easier.
I do use social media for fun. I’ve been a community manager for about four years now and so I’ve connected with people over the years that I like to keep in touch with. I’m pretty active in my professional pursuits, so there’s not a whole lot of extra time. When there is extra time, I’ve found that after four years of being online 50-60 hours a week, I’m starting to back off a bit–my free time is less online than it was before.
Have you ever heard of the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death? It was written in the ‘80s and talked about how people were moving towards “living” through a television screen. One thing the author specifically said is that lots of people watch news on television, yet anything that’s really important–that will have a direct effect on your life–you’ll hear from another person. I don’t actively seek out news because I don’t think most “news” really is news. Importance is based on context, so if something’s truly important, people around me will talk about it or I’ll see it on social media.”
Brad was interviewed in Paris (via Skype) on Wednesday, August 14th. Neither Brad nor Baydin, Inc. received compensation for mentioning products in this testimonial.
If you’re a Baydin products user willing to share the technology you use to stay productive (online or in person), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m very Caltrain-friendly.