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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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3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And Its Effect on Your Brain) Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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