With less than a week left before Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to list some of lifehack.org’s favorite gift ideas. Everything on this list would get a hearty smile from the productive person on your gift list. Most of the items shown here are available through Amazon, for fast delivery by Christmas if you hurry. Links here lead to Amazon.com and prices are given in US Dollars (insert deflating US dollar joke here, e.g. “divide by 48,000 to get price in your local currency”).
Gifts that Get Stuff Done
Getting Things Done: Unabridged Audiobook by David Allen ($27)David Allen reads his productivity masterpiece. Perfect for introducing the disorganized people in your life to GTD principles, or for periodic inspiration for committed GTD’ers.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy FerrisAudiobook version of Timothy Ferris’ acclaimed book. This was easily the most inspiring book I read this year, and will be greatly appreciated by the entrepreneurs (and would-be entrepreneurs) in your life.
Limited Edition Moleskine 2008 Daily Planner ($24)It’s RED! Everyone loves Moleskine products — the creamy paper, the high-quality feel of the covers, even the hokey backstory. The planner has dated pages to help keep your loved one organized next year. And it’s red!Couple it with the red limited edition pocket diary for collecting thoughts on the go!
Bullet Space Pen ($17)Capture your thoughts anywhere with the GTD-approved Space Pen. Cap clicks to back end to make a full-sized pen, writes at any angle, all-around useful pen. Also in chrome.Also check out the Lamy Pico pen, which expands to full size with a click and is recommended by David Allen.
Brother P-Touch PT-18R Rechargeable Labeling System ($102)Forget “label makers”, this is a Brother P-Touch PT-18R Rechargeable Labeling System and demands to be known as such. Sits in its recharging cradle when not in use, ready to be taken anywhere to make labels. Two-line preview, templates, symbols, everything a labeler needs, quick at hand. Connects to a PC, too, for specialty labeling.
David King Leather Porthole Brief ($110)Gorgeous Italian leather bag with room for a 15″ laptop, organizer pockets, id window, magnetic snap closures, and removable shoulder strap. Available in black or cafe (light brown).
Leather Business Card Case ($22)This high-quality Napa leather business card case has two pockets and holds up to 30 cards. Available in 9 colors, from the professional to the playful.
Bosca Old Leather Front Pocket Wallet ($50)This is the wallet I us — I got one for my father for his birthday last year, and liked it so much he gave me one for Christmas! Soft, buttery leather (in dark brown or cognac) makes it a pleasure to handle. Has three credit card pockets, an ID card window, and a flap inside for keeping receipts, post-its, business cards, and other small papers; the back has a money clip for holding your cash. Perfect for anyone with a 6″ thick wallet ripping the seems out of their back pocket, Bosca’s front pocket wallet helps get rid of the clutter and carry only what you need.
Nicole WeatherTac Computer Messenger Bag ($69)Stylish, cool messenger bag with foam laptop compartment and plenty of other pockets for digital accessories, notepads, pens, and everything else. Intended for ladies, but I would totally carry this!
Jimi Wallet ($15)The wallet rethought! Stripped-down, molded plastic in several colors, carries a couple cards and some cash, and can be carried in your front pocket or on a lanyard around your neck for security.
For the Productive Person’s Office
Wood Block Clock ($20)I love this clock that looks like a block of wood with the date and time (it switches back and forth) appearing to float inside. It would look great in anyone’s office; since it doesn’t have an alarm, it’s probably not as useful as a bedside clock.
Canon imageCLASS MF4150 Laser Duplex All-in-One ($200)A 21 ppm black-and-white laser printer, a scanner/copier with 35-page document feeder, full duplex printing so you can print on both sides automatically, and it’s under $200? Buy one for your sweetie and buy another for yourself!
StowAway Bluetooth Keyboard for BlackBerry/PDA ($30)A full-size keyboard that folds up to about the same size as a PDA. Connects to most recent BlackBerry, Palm, and Pocket PC PDAs and SmartPhones, though you may have to download drivers from iGo.
The Lapinator Lap Desk ($30 – $35)Thin and lightweight, the Lapinator is specially designed to block laptop heat without being bulky. A great gift for anyone who uses a laptop outside of the office — on the sofa, in the park, in bed, etc.
Chrome Stapler ($19)Forget the red Swingline from Office Space — it’s old news, now (unless you have matching Moleskines). This is a chrome-plated, heavy-duty, 20-sheets-at-once, serious monster stapler! Imagine your gift partner’s look of satisfaction when she or he loads it up and gives it a hearty *whack* — brings tears to your eyes, don’t it?
Asus eeePC ($400)The tiny eeePC is perfect for working on the move — it’s longest side is less than 9 inches and it weighs 2 lbs. The 4GB flash hard drive might seem small, but the idea is to make use of web-based storage; the Linux-based desktop includes direct links to web services like Google Docs and Skype, which works perfectly with the integrated webcam.Lifehack.org leader Leon Ho has one, and he thinks it’s the bee’s knees! Perfect for mobile workers and your favorite lifehack.org gift list compilers :-)
Eye-Fi Card ($100)Install the included software on your home PC, put this 2GB SD card in your camera, and start taking pictures. The Eye-Fi uses your wireless network to automatically transfer pictures to your PC — as you take them, if you’re within range of the network, or as soon as you get home and turn on the camera if you move out of range. It will also automatically upload pictures to your preferred sharing site, if you want.Great gift for photo enthusiasts (but make sure their cameras use SD cards!)
Logitech Wave keyboard ($49 -$10 rebate)With it’s slightly padded body and keys ergonomically placed to conform to the hand’s curve and fingers’ spread, the Wave is a super-comfortable keyboard. This is what I want beneath my fingers when I have to spend long hours typing, instead of torturing my hands and wrists on the cheapie that came with my PC.
Der Kindle ($400)The most divisive gadget of the year, and also the second-hardest to get (after the Wii), but what a great gift for the über-reader in your life. Unfortunately, they’re backordered until after the first of the year, which means you have to do the picture-of-the-gift-in-the-card thing; for people who read a lot, it’s worth waiting a few weeks to get their cool new Kindle.Or you could get them a Sony Reader, which is also pretty cool but lacks the wireless link to Amazon’s store.
Olympus VN2100PC Digital Voice Recorder ($50)With 64MB of built-in memory, this digital voice recorder can record up to 36 hours and download to your PC. Great for making quick voice notes on the go or for dictation.
Just Plain Fun
UglyDoll Wage ($18)Keep in the office for when it’s all too much. Perfect for your wage slave friends who dream of freedom someday.
Spy Video Car ($115)Remote control car with wireless mounted night-vision camera that broadcasts to included LCD goggles. Find out what’s happening anywhere in your domain!
Lightwedge LED Booklight ($22)Perfect for readers, the LightWedge covers the whole page in even, bright light — with little glare or leakage. Maybe not as fun as an RC car with a spy camera — unless you’re a hardcore reader!
“File Under T for Trash” Stamp ($7)Give this to your fellow GTD’ers to help them keep up with the “delete” part of their inbox processing. Other stamps are available, but not all of them are as, um… family-friendly as this one is.
Nuns Having Fun 2008 Wall Calendar ($15)Let me make myself perfectly clear, here: this is a 2008 wall calendar, which people need. It has pictures in it of nuns, having fun. Swinging, running, dancing, just being gosh-darn jolly. Which, as far as I can see, you also need.Buy one for yourself and one for every other person you know. Unless they’re a nun — nuns don’t need the calendar, they live it.
Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?
Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:
Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!