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6 Mother’s Day Gift Tips for the Productive Lady in Your Life

6 Mother’s Day Gift Tips for the Productive Lady in Your Life

Mother\'s Day Gift

    The problem with picking a gift based purely on productivity is that most people like gifts that they won’t buy for themselves: people want something fun, something special — and your mother is no exception. And Mother’s Day is almost here: it falls on the on the second Sunday of May, which just happens to be this weekend. We each have only a few days to make sure that we don’t try to give Mom something as that drags down her productivity, clutters up her workspace or generally makes her wish she swapped us for more grateful children.

    Navigating the mall displays of gifts “Perfect for Mom!” can be incredibly difficult, But these tips can help simplify that last minute shopping spree you might be considering for Saturday night. Heck, with these tips (aside from the card), you might be able to check Mom’s gift off your to-do list right now.

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    1. Give the Gift of Time

    When I was a kid, I always made my mom coupons for Mother’s Day: she could cash them in on a couple of hours of babysitting for my little sisters, some help around the house — that sort of thing. And I still give her the gift of my time: right now, I’m working on teaching her how to run a blog. Offering up some of your time to help your mother complete pet projects can be an ideal way to give her something she’ll actually be able to use. A nice dinner out or a family get-together can fall into this category as well: just remember your time is valuable — valuable enough to make a good gift.

    2. Ditch the Gift Cards

    Conventional wisdom seems to say that everyone loves a nice gift card: you don’t have to worry about getting the right sizes or picking the right movie. But there are plenty of options that make for better gifts. After all, what’s the use of money that you can only use one place? Or money that you have to make a special trip to spend? There are some gift card options that allow you to provide money that can be used anywhere that takes Visa (or whatever card company you purchase through). It’s not a perfect solution, but it will save you from finding that gift card you purchased in your mom’s junk drawer sometime next year — a friend cleaned out his grandmother’s house and found, literally, a stack of gift cards. Her family had sent them for a number of occasions and she never used a single one.

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    3. Check for Gadgets They’re Lusting For

    Anyone who thinks that ladies don’t have just as much gadget lust as guys seem to is sadly mistaken. And, unless your mama really does enjoy spending time in the kitchen, skip the domestic gizmos. In the last month alone, my mother’s dropped hints about an iPhone, an iPod and a DVD player she can take in the car. I may not want to get my mother every gadget under the sun, but she’d be happy to get them — and she’s not all that into technology. She doesn’t follow it closely but she does hear about cool toys. If your mother has a favorite hobby, consider checking if there’s a gadget or tool she’s lacking for her pursuit. Sure, your gift may not make your mother anymore productive, but she’ll still enjoy it.

    4. Make a Donation in Your Mother’s Name

    My grandmother has made dire threats towards anyone thinking of bringing ‘clutter’ into her house. She doesn’t necessarily need anything and certainly would rather we spend time with her than mail off some present she doesn’t really want. We do want to honor her in some way, though, and she has directed us to her favorite charity. If you want to acknowledge your mother’s efforts in turning you into the wonderful individual you are today, consider making a donation to her favorite cause.

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    5. Share Your Memories

    This is the moment for all those family photos, recipes and everything else memorable that you’ve had stashed away. Pull out the photo albums and frame a few for your mother’s walls — or scan them and make a screensaver for your mom’s computer. There are so many possibilities you can try: turning a few favorite family recipes in to a cookbook, writing down a few favorite family stories and finding the accompanying photographs. Just a few fond memories can bring a smile to your mother’s face (and maybe remind her why she didn’t swap you in for a better behaved kid).

    6. Go in Together

    I have two sisters who I can team up with on a Mother’s Day present for my mom. I have seven cousins who I can go in with if I want to do something for my grandmother. To put it simply, not only can I get the benefit of my relatives’ ideas for gifts, but together we have more buying power as well. Mother’s Day isn’t (or shouldn’t be) about which relative can get the biggest, fanciest present. Instead, if you do want to get a relatively large present, it makes sense to make it a group effort. If it’s something nice and that Mom will like, your relatives will be glad to not have to worry about a gift on their own. (And, for those of us with the bad habit of waiting until the last moment, finding a relative to help out with the bill can cover your butt!)

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2019

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

    I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

    One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

    Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

    The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

    And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

    What to Write Down

    Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

    Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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    Dates of Events

    Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

    For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

    Names of People

    Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

    Theories or Frameworks

    Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

    Definitions

    Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

    Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

    Arguments and Debates

    Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

    This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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    Images

    Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

    Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

    Other Stuff

    Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

    Your Own Questions

    Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

    3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

    You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

    1. Outlining

    Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

    Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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    For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

    2. Mind-Mapping

    For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

    Here’s the idea:

    In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

    The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

    If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

    You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    3. The Cornell System

    The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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    About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

    You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

    In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

    You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

    The Bottom Line

    I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

    I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

    More About Note-Taking

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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