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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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                                                        How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works) Building Relationships: 11 Rules for Self-Promotion

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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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