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The Lifehack Last-Minute Gift List for Productive (and Potentially Productive) People

The Lifehack Last-Minute Gift List for Productive (and Potentially Productive) People
Last-Minute Gift List for the Productive (and Potentially Productive)

    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”).

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    Gifts that Get Stuff Done

    gtd
      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.
      4-hour-work-week
        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.
        red-moleskine
          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!
          space-pen
            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.
            labeling-system
              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.

              Style

              leather-messenger-bag
                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).
                business-card-case
                  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.
                  front-pocket-wallet
                    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.
                    bella-messenger-bag
                      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
                        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
                          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-laser-printer
                            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
                              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.
                              lapinator
                                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.
                                stapler
                                  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?

                                  Gadgets

                                  eeepc
                                    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
                                      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!)
                                      mogo-mouse
                                        Mogo Bluetooth Mouse & Bluetooth Adapter ($67)This credit card-sized mouse is surprisingly comfortable to use. It fits inside your laptop’s PC-card slot, allowing you to store it easily when on the go and to recharge it in minutes when the batteries run low.Available for a few dollars less for people who don’t need the bluetooth adapter.
                                        cordlesswave-flat-400
                                          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.
                                          kindle
                                            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-voice-recorder
                                              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

                                              ugly-wage
                                                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
                                                  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
                                                    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!
                                                    t-for-trash
                                                      “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
                                                        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.


                                                        That about wraps up (pun not intended, but heartily appreciated!) the 2007 Lifehack.org Last-Minute Gift List for Productive (and Potentially Productive) People. Be sure to check out the excellent responses other lifehack.org readers are giving to this week’s “We Ask, You Answer” question: What advice do you have for someone looking to find something for that one difficult person on their list, the one they’ve been putting off until now, it’s almost too late?

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                                                        Have a happy holiday (if your significant holiday has already passed, then have had a happy holiday)!

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                                                        Last Updated on August 20, 2019

                                                        Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                                                        Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                                                        Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

                                                        This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

                                                        The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

                                                        Curiosity

                                                        Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

                                                        People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

                                                        Patience

                                                        Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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                                                        When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

                                                        Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

                                                        A Feeling for Connectedness

                                                        This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

                                                        A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

                                                        The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

                                                        With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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                                                        1. Research

                                                        Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

                                                        Learning the Basics

                                                        Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

                                                        Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

                                                        What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

                                                        Hitting the Books

                                                        Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

                                                        Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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                                                        Long-Term Reference

                                                        While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

                                                        My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

                                                        2. Practice

                                                        Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

                                                        A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

                                                        Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

                                                        3. Network

                                                        One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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                                                        These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

                                                        Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

                                                        4. Schedule

                                                        For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

                                                        Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

                                                        Final Thoughts

                                                        In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

                                                        If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

                                                        At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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                                                        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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