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10 Affordable Pens Geeks Love

10 Affordable Pens Geeks Love

Look in the pocket or bag of any self-respecting geek and you’ll find a pen. Or two. Or 12. I have about 40 pens within a 3′ stretch of me where I’m writing this.

Of course, I don’t use all of them. They’re the detritus of years of experimentation, checking out new pens all the time, in my ever-present quest to find The Perfect Pen – or at least my next one.

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The right pen is important, as Lifehack contributor David Pierce recently told us. As with all tools, the better it feels to use a pen, the more likely you are to do so.

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And pens have personalities. Some pens might make you feel creative and free, while others make you feel formal and official — which explains why I take roll in my classes with a different pen from the one clipped to my Moleskine.

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Now, it’s easy to spend a fortune on a pen — $200 is chicken feed in the world of premium pens, a world far beyond this poor writer’s means. But there are plenty of affordable pens out there that have gotten the “seal of approval” (signed with a flourish, of course) from pen geeks everywhere. Here, then, are ten decently-priced pens that bring a flush to the cheeks of even the snobbiest geeks.

(Note: All prices in US dollars.)

  1. Pilot G2: Cheap, comfortable, and wonderful to write with, the Pilot G2 is especially favored by Moleskine enthusiasts because its gel ink flows nicely on the notebook’s ultra-smooth pages and it doesn’t soak through to the other side. The G2 sells for about $2.00 each in black and comes in three thicknesses (0.5mm, 0.7mm, and 1mm) and a variety of colors (colored pens cost a little more). They’re even refillable! A variety of Pilot pens use the same refills, including models with much thicker barrels, metal barrels, and the G2 mini which is a little over half the size of the standard G2.
  2. Staedtler Pigment Liners: Often sold in the technical drawing section of the office supply or art store, pigment pens are fiber-tipped pens with archival-quality liquid ink. They’re available in a variety of widths, from 1mm all the way down to 0.05mm for incredibly detailed work. Preferred by artists and drafters, pigment pens are also great for things like writing “cheat sheets” of information onto index cards or Post-Its. They’re sold individually for a few bucks each, but are commonly available in sets of 4 sizes for under $10.
  3. Zebra Telescopic Brights: A comfortable pen with a wolid-feeling metal barrel, Zebra’s telescoping pens collapse to about half their length, making them great for keeping in a pocket or wallet. They’re refillable, come in 6 colors, and cost under $5 for a 2-pack.
  4. Lamy Logo Multi-Color Ballpoint: Most multi-color pens look like kids toys, but not the Lamy Multi-Color Ballpoint. Lamy pens are the height of style, and the Logo Multi-Color is no exception — it fits black, red, and blue ink cartridges into a barrel no wider than most single-color pens. It’s a tad pricey at $35, making itthe most expensive on this list, but Lamy pens are well-made and a joy to write with — a lot of cheaper multi-color pens (or multi-function pens, for that matter) feel cheap, even when they’re not.
  5. Inka: For people who don’t like to keep pens in their pockets, the Inka’s got you covered. This collapsible pen has a keyring at one end so you always have it with you. The two-piece design screws together to form a typical-length pen, with a pressurized ink cartridge that will write upside-down and on wet surfaces. The pen closes sexcurely (so the pen won’t fall out ofthe cap when notin use) and is even waterproof. Inka pens run $20.
  6. Fisher Space Bullet: Is there anything cooler than using the same pen that astronauts use? Designed to write in any conditions, the Fisher Space Pen’s pressurized cartridge write upside-down, across wet or greasy surfaces, and in extreme cold — perfect if you ever find yourself needing to add a “next action” while in orbit. The Bullet pen closes to about 3″ long, with round ends, so you can keep it in your pocket easily. Fisher makes other pens that use their special ink cartridges — I have a 4-function pen my brother gave me for my birthday last year — but the $22 Space Bullet is the classic.
  7. Sharpie Pen: Not just for packing labels and toilet stall graffiti anymore, Sharpie’s new line of pens get almost everything right. The ink doesn’t bleed (it’s not the same ink you find in Sharpie permanent markers), the barrels are not too thick nor too thin, and the fiber-tip draws a line that’s fine but not invisible. And they’re cheap — $6 or $7 for a pack of 4. The only drawback is that the writing on the barrel chips off if you keep it in your pocket for months. (Obviously not enough of a problem to keep me from keeping one in my pocket for months…)
  8. Flair: Often overlooked in favor of newer, fancier markers, Flair pens are great for tasks like mind-mapping and taking notes where several colors are useful. As always, they have that funky-feeling grooved body and quick-drying fiber tip that squashes flat over time. But if you treat them nice, they’ll treat you nice in return. A little over a buck a pop, the thing to do is to buy sets of 12 colors for around $15 and keep a handful in your bag all the time.
  9. Rotring Expandable Pen: The official GTD pen, this one is discontinued but is available exclusively through David Allen’s store. Like the Zebra pen above, but classy — a brass barrel with lacquered finish gives it that substantial feeling that I love. Rotring is a premium brand, but these can be had for $19.
  10. Pilot Varsity: I started with a Pilot pen and I’ll finish with a Pilot pen: the Varsity. This is a strange beast — a disposable fountain pen. Ilove fountain pens, but cheap ones tend not to write very nicely and and expensive ones are, well, expensive. Plus, nearly every fountain pen I’ve ever had has blackened my fingers something fierce — except the Varsity. For only a bit above $3 apiece, these little plastic pens write nicely (and the ink flows immediately every time) and don’t leak. Used normally, the line is about 1 mm, but you can flip it over and use the tippy-tip (I’m sure there’s a technical name for it…) for a great fine line, too. Be careful, especially if you’re left-handed – fountain pen ink smudges.

What are your favorite pens? Feel free to share your own favorites, and the reasons why, in the comments — like I said, I’m always on the lookout for a new great pen.

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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