A Day Done in Digital

Can I Do Business Without Pen and Paper?

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Millie Olson Millie Olson
Sometime last week as we plunged into two web-only pitches, I came to my own digital tipping point. I found myself lighting my way down the hill from the bus stop with the Flashlight app on my iPhone instead of my boring analog one.

So I decided to go cold turkey and spend the next day using only digital props. No paper, no pens, no old media. Could I? And what would be my exposure to brands, to advertising?

Big deal, you might say. But then you are probably a 20-something who wrapped your chubby fist around a mouse instead of a rattle. We baby-boomers have to work at this.

5:15 a.m.: The barking sounds I've picked for my iPhone alarm startle my two dogs from the middle of the bed they have stealthily claimed during the night. I roll off the edge and dress for the gym.

My first real challenge: ignore the blue-wrapped newspaper at my door. I've been addicted to The New York Times since living in New York years ago. (Think I exaggerate? At our favorite café, a passer-by once started to walk off with the paper I briefly left unattended. Something in my reaction caused her to stop by our table the following morning with a sheaf of be-ribboned roses.)

5:40a.m. I open the NYT on my iPhone but I'm bouncing too much on the elliptical trainer so opt for music instead. I finish my workout and log it on "Lose It." 394 calories burned off. Good start.

7 a.m. I arrive at the café. My husband, who comes separately with the dogs, has thoughtfully brought my beloved newspaper. Instead, I begin to read it on my iPhone (logos: Tods, Citi)

8:30 a.m. I tap my digital card against the bus fare box and settle down with my electronic newspaper (Schwab, ETrade). Umbrellas and raincoats crowd the seats, and I don't miss folding newsprint into the customary origami.

9 a.m.-7 p.m. I whisk all paper from my office desk and tackle the morning e-mail. My electronic desktop begins to fill with virtual stickies, and I make liberal use of the "track changes" mode on Microsoft Word, leaving a bright red reminder of indecisiveness in the margins. Ugh.

I've made sure to log into Facebook and Twitter. "I'm having a totally digital day!" I announce to my "friends" and "followers." The response is thundering silence.

"It's not about dialogue, it's about broadcasting what you're doing," advises my thirty-ish colleague. Hmm, shades of "old media."

I detangle my laptop from its nest of cords and lug it to the first meeting. Next I take my iPhone, but am still so clumsy at entering notes I clutch a pad of paper stickies for emergencies.

My desk begins to fill with papers again, most brought by colleagues. I find several paper stickies I've scribbled on (when?!).

7:15 p.m. I hop on the bus and check the news (Armani, BofA) and Twitter. Nobody seems to have heard my cry into the digital wilderness. I play a word game. I put the flashlight app on multi-colored strobe (warning: can cause seizures!) and stumble home.

8-11 p.m. After logging dinner on my iPhone, I pull up an episode of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," followed by a podcast of CNN's Fareed Zakariah interviewing Hamid Karzai. This allows my husband to enjoy that music video of forensics, "CSI," without suffering my complaints about dreaming of corpses.

My calorie-minus-exercise count for the day: 1331. My brand count: about 13. I've learned how tightly I'm tethered to the geniuses at Apple (who seem to have fastened an i.v. line directly to my Visa card), that my NY Times addiction will easily survive the demise of a paper paper, and that we'd better bring a lot more creativity to online advertising.

And I wouldn't count Post-It Notes out anytime soon.

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Follow Millie Olson @amazonmillie
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