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A Paperless Life, Maybe. But Voicemailess, Calless, and Cashless, too?

Author Tim Ferriss, on his blog, tries to explain how any of us can live our lives without paper, voicemail, answering calls, or using cash.  Now, I try to live my life as electronically as possible and consolidated as possible.  Makes for easy reaching, see?  I’ve consolidated all my emails into one place (Gmail, I love you so).   I also use Google Calendar to schedule my life, and just started using Google Reader to file through my favorite blogs easily.  I also use iGoogle as my browser homepage so I’m easily able to get to all these things, as well as BBC News, some movie times, and Digg.  And with my new cell phone, I can check all these things anywhere I go.

Then there’s the places where real life and the Internet meet.  I don’t have many bills, but for the ones I do have (like cable and most of my college fees), I use the Internet to pay them.  I’m also always looking my checking account statement online.  Although I balance my checkbook as well, it’s good to know up to the minute exactly how much I have in my account.  It’s also good for something to compare to if I make a mistake in the checkbook.  I DO also get a paper statement, but that’s because I believe in having a paper trail (see below).

And then there’s spending the money I have.  To date, I’ve probably written no more than 10 checks since I’ve gotten my checkbook.  Why?  I’ve got a debit card.  It’s just like cash, and since it’s linked to my checking account, I can then see online how much less I now have to spend!  I’ve only run into situations a couple times that require me to do checks, such as when my school’s housing deposits weren’t online yet, and a few checks to people who couldn’t receive larger sums of my money any other way.

Finally, the phone.  It seems to me easier to converse with others by text rather than voice (another reason why I love my new phone).  I’ve always been rather more shy (for lack of a better word) when talking to people.  I’m much more confident with IMs, emails, or texts.   Although I’ve gotten better over the last few years, and especially after Channel 3 this Summer, the way of text is still very much the way I prefer.  So, I try and balance my calling and email/im/texting as much as I can.

So, I very much have a digital life.  However, I have some problems with Mr. Ferriss’ (who’s blog I’ve now added to Google Reader) tips:

The Paper

Mail – He gives some great tips on eliminating paper mail.  Things such as getting off mail lists, and using services that send your snail mail to email are great, but what about some of the essentials?  Even if you can get most of your bills paid online, not everybody is doing it yet.  There are definitely some places out there that don’t have online payments.  Worse yet, some places require you to send certain forms back with your check payment.  What happens to those if they’re transferred to email?  Can you specify to the service which of your mail MUST be sent in paper form?

Well, looks like I just answered my own question, as looking at their site he suggest’s FAQ, seems that the way it works, you choose to whom you give your Earth Class Mail address.   So, it might work, but I think he’s a little inane suggesting you can do ALL your mail this way.  Just not possible.  Not all of us have assistants like him.  It is intriguing, though.

Checks – As I discussed in Mail, most bills nowadays can be paid online.  However, there are those that still must be paid by check.  He suggests having your accountant do it for you, by giving them power-of-attorney.  Well, great for those who have accoutants.  But how about us little guys?  Not so easy.  Sorry, but it looks like we’ll actually have to sign them ourselves.

Cash – Like I said in the description of my own life, most places now-a-days take credit cards and debit cards, and I use my debit card a lot.  Still, as many people in the comments of his blog post correctly stated, there are still those places that only accept cash or check (or just cash).  Smaller stores might only accept credit cards for purchases over $10, because of the CC company fees involved.  Some could accept checks, but it’s because rarer to see personal checks accepted.  Easy to see why, with the increase of fraud.  Yet still, the smallest stores might only accept cash.  This guy, Tim Ferriss, appears to be well traveled, yet doesn’t know this?  Ok, so maybe your Western country with its modern stores will accept CC.

Yet, I’m not as well traveled to other parts of the world, but I’ve now been outside this country.  I’ve gone to shops in Greece quite literally run by mom and pop, and it’s how they make their living.  They only accepted cash!  I couldn’t have just given them my Debit Card.  I’d have been laughed out of the shop.

Also, I prefer to keep at least some cash on me at all times.  Call me old fashioned if you like, but if my Debit Card were to get stolen or lost, and I had no cash, I’d be in a pickle.  At least having some cash will prevent me from starving on some lonely street in a foreign country.

On a side note, for managing my cash, while I like online statements, I also prefer to have something in writing  So I like getting my mailed statements, thank you very much!

The Voice

Voicemail – Here’s the one suggestion with which I could find the least flaws.  His suggestion to funnel your voicemails to email is fantastic!  I really do love it.  They’d be easily accessible, and you’d be able to save and organize them much more easily than if they’re stuck in the voicemail box.  I’d love to get my voicemails at least copied this way, if it didn’t cost so freaking much to do.

The problem comes in returning voicemails.  He suggests that your encourage your callers to leave their email address, and that you’ll respond this way.  Now, while this may work with friends or family, not so much with business clients.  Try telling that to the Fortune 500 exec who wants to hire your for a project.  See how quickly they do business with you.  More on the issue of communicating your voice by text next.

The Phone

Had to give this one its own section, since I think it’s the most important.  Ferriss suggests that you can use a service to listen to your voicemails as they’re being left.  Basically, though he doesn’t say it, it’s a new-fangled way of screening your calls.  If you want to jump in on a call, great, you can then do it.  The rest go to voicemail.  Here’s my issue with it:

This may be okay for a business exec with a lot of meetings.  However, other industries, with people who are not so much execs as they are lackeys, this kind of falls apart.  Take the television industry, specifically, the assignment desk.   Even though we’re doing television, and have email, not everybody who watches television is tech savvy.  I’m not saying you need to code a webpage to do email, but (and not to stereotype) a lot of people I talked to during my time as an intern were older.  They might not know how to use email, and many of them did not.  So, people call if they have a comment or idea.

This idea also falls apart when you’re doing some other forms of business.  Email is fast, but it’s not quite as fast as talking to somebody.  When you talk, there they are, and the only way they can get away from you is by hanging up.  You might be able to conduct some business by email, but it’s a lot faster by phone.  Take conference calls.  They could easily be done by Live Messenger or AIM chats (or some more professional looking), but it’s more easily done by phone.  So, it’s not always easy to just say, “I’m only doing stuff by email.”  Again, suggest to the Fortune 500 exec that you’ll only conduct business by email.  You’ll end up losing a contract with them for sure.

To conclude, I have what I’d consider more and more a digital lifestyle, but I know when I actually have to do things by voice.  To end this entry, consider what you’d do when trying to fix an issue your having with a product you brought, what gets the emotion across better.  Popping an email to the President of Product, or altering your voice tone with the phone rep?  The latter will probably fix your problem better and quicker.

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