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The Lifehack Last-Minute Gift-Giving Guide

The Lifehack Last-Minute Gift-Giving Guide

20091217-gift

    Christmas is just over a week away, and no matter how organized you are, I bet there are a few people on your list that you just can’t figure out a gift for. In the spirit of giving, then, I offer these suggestion – each of which is, as of 12/16, available to ship in time for Christmas. (All prices are in US dollars.)

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    kindle
      Kindle
      It’s no secret that we’re fond of the Kindle ‘round the Lifehack halls. A single device that can carry a library of books, magazines, newspapers, and blog content? What’s not to love – and what could be more Lifehack-y? This year, the Kindle got improved battery life, PC and iPhone companion apps (with a Mac app on its way), native PDF support, and a big brother in the form of the Kindle DX. If you really love someone, you’ll get them a Kindle! (You reading this, dad?) ($259; $489 for the DX)
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        Flip MinoHD
        Shoot incredible-looking high-def video with this camera that’s so tiny you’ll never have a reason not to carry it along with you. With 8GB of built-in memory, you can shoot up to 2 hours of video; downloading to your PC is as easy as plugging in the flip-out USB jack. ($229 list; on sale for $199 at Amazon right now)
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          Lilliput Mini USB Monitor
          This 7” monitor is so cool I can’t even stand it. Powered entirely by USB, the monitor sits next to your main monitor to hold… well, whatever you want. Photoshop tools, Windows gadgets (or widgets, or whatever they’re called these days), your todo list, notes, your media player controls – I’m sure your loved ones can think of something to do with the extra real estate. Works with Windows PCs or Intel Macs. ($79.99)
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            D-Link DIR-685 Xtreme N Storage Router
            You know what’s ugly? A wireless router, that’s what. Who wants that thing sitting on their bookshelf or entertainment center? Well, this router solves that problem with a built-in 3.2” digital picture frame, showing off your favorite photos as it serves up your web pages and print jobs. Oh, by the way – you can also add a 2.5” hard drive, making it into a network-attached storage drive that can backup files from all the computers on your network, or act as a media server sending music and video to any PC, Xbox, PS3, or other plug-n-play device on your network. You’re forgiven if by now you’ve forgotten that it’s still a router. ($249.99 list; $214.17 at Amazon)
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              Logitech V550 Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks
              I’ve been using one of these for about 6 months now, and I’m absolutely in love with it. It’s on the large side for a notebook mouse (which is good, since I’m on the large side for a person) but still quite a bit smaller than a typical desktop mouse. The USB dongle is literally a USB plug and about 1/4” of electronics, so it doesn’t stick out of the side of my notebook and get in my way. The scroll wheel is a hefty metal job which you can press down on (hard) to release a clutch that lets it roll freely – so you can shoot up and down long documents with the flick of a finger. The scroll wheel also tilts left and right (which I have set to go “back” and “forward”, which is AWESOME for web surfing) and a little button behind the scroll wheel can be set to your choice of about a dozen different functions. Some kind of secret Santa’s elves technology allows it to go for a year on a single change of batteries, which ain’t half bad! ($39.95)
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                OGIO Hip Hop Messenger Bag
                I’ve been lusting over this bag at my local Best Buy for a while (‘cause I’m fly like that!) but can’t convince myself I need yet another shoulder bag. (Yet. I’m weak, I’ll cave eventually). Made to hold a 15” laptop (and I just happen to have a 15” laptop…) this messenger-style bag has about a million pockets and sleeves to hold just abut everything – pens and pencils, airplane tickets, your media player, a water bottle, a kazoo (what, you don’t carry one?), a Yeti, tractor tires – everything! (OK, maybe not quite all of that; still, it’s impressive.) Available in a bunch of colors (there are several listings, you might have to click around to find the one that has the perfect color for your geek sweetie). ($45.99)
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                  Powermat
                  The dream is here – wireless charging! Just set an iPhone, Blackberry, or other device on the Powermat and it charges wirelessly, using the power of children’s dreams (I assume – I’m a little fuzzy on the science). Of course, you also need receivers for each device, so here’s the deal: get this for your spouse with a receiver for their phone, and you know, just happen to order an extra one that fits your phone, and it’s like a double-Christmas just for you! ($99.99, plus $30/receiver)
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                    Swiss+Tech Utili-Key
                    The perfect stocking stuffer, this key-shaped (and key-sized) multi-tool opens to expose a Phillips-head and flat-head screwdriver, a super-tiny glasses screwdriver, a bottle opener, and plain and serrated cutting surfaces. Naturally, it slides onto your key-ring so you have everything you need, any time you need it. I bought a stack of them for all my family members who scoff at the idea of carrying a Swiss army knife. ($7.95)
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                      Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk
                      Gary Vaynerchuk of WineLibraryTV shares the secrets of his success in this slim, accessible volume. In two words: CRUSH IT! Find your passion and just go for it, all out, no excuses. Of course there’s a little more to it than that, or it would just be an inspirational poster. Perfect for anyone in your life facing the consequences of the economic downturn, or just looking for a little more meaning in their lives than pushing papers for the next 30 years. ($19.99 list; $11.69 at Amazon)
                      Underwear Repair Kit
                        Men’s Underwear Repair Kit
                        What could be more productive than getting every last bit of use out of your underwear? The Men’s Underwear Repair Kit contains iron-on patches, replacement elastic, safety pins, white-out, and 32 pages of instructions – everything you need to get years and years of wear out of your tighty-whities. ($10.95)

                        Got any special gift ideas of your own? Share them with us last-minute shoppers in the comments!

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                        More by this author

                        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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                        1 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results

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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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