The 2012 Productivityist Holiday Gift Guide

We're almost two weeks away from Christmas, and now's the time where we're racking our brains trying to figure out what to get that particular person that's on your list who is difficult to shop for each and every year. Well, if this person is a productivityist -- or at least needs to look at becoming more productive -- then you should give The Productivityist Holiday Gift Guide for 2012 a good look. It's a long read, but it may just spark some gift ideas you hadn't considered.

Before you start, I'll tell you that many of the links are affiliate links (I have written that I use them in a blanket statement over at the Start Here page, but the sheer number of them here compelled me to mention it here as well). Also, I've not listed pricing as it can vary from country to country. If you visit the corresponding links, you'll get a good idea of what it will cost you where you are -- and shipping (where warranted) can be better calculated as well.

Without further delay, here is your one-stop shopping list for the productivityist in your life.

1. The Ideaboard

This is a neat idea (pun totally intended). While the large-sized one isn’t ideal for everyone, the Mini Ideaboard is something I’d use for mind mapping and mocking up ideas to share with others. The larger version is great for team-based stuff (I’ve used it at some talks I’ve done) and for those productivityists who want to be environmentally conscious and still have a paper-based component to bringing their ideas to life, the Ideaboard fits the bill.

2. Kobo Mini

I love the size of this thing. The price didn’t hurt, either. No ads, small form factor, inexpensive, easy-to-read in the sun…and I can borrow books from my local library on it as well. But it’s the Kobo Mini’s size – and the fact it lets me focus on one thing – that makes it such a good choice for the productivityist 9and reader) in me. (Why no Kindle? I use the Amazon Kindle iPad app for my Kindle books, and the Kobo Mini for everything else.)

3. Livescribe Pen

This is one of those items I need to have on my own wish list! I’ve used the Livescribe pens before, but the latest edition – the Sky Wi-Fi – is really making waves. It has Evernote integration (awesome) and isn’t as bulky as some of the other models I’ve used (also awesome). For those seeking to marry the digital and analog experience of productivity into a finely-tuned machine, the Livescribe is a tool that can make that happen. (Corollary: You may also want to give the Evernote Smart Notebook a look. I do have one of those and am quite pleased with it so far.)

4. NeatDesk

I’m a big fan of this device. The NeatDesk looks good, doesn’t take up a lot of room, and works great as well. I’m also fond of the Fujitsu ScanSnap (mainly because of its ability to seamlessly integrate with Evernote), but I’ve managed to make Evernote and the NeatDesk get along just fine. And The Neat Company has a full lineup of products that are worth looking at as well. If the productivityist in your life is looking to go paperless, Neat is a great place to start.

5. Field Notes

Field Notes notebooks are so functional and they are my paper capture notebooks of choice. Available in a variety of styles and colours, they look great and yet are meant to be used for rough capture because they are durable and the ideal size to be with you wherever you are. You can even get a Field Notes archival box to store all of your used (or soon-to-be-used) notebooks.

6. Levenger Lap Desk

I received this last Christmas from my wife, and I’m using it right now as I put together this gift guide. Recommended to me by my friend Patrick Rhone (more from him later), the Levenger Lap Desk is a pleasure to use and is both sturdy and elegant. I alternate between this desk and my standing desk (and I’d recommend you use this desk in a similar manner – sitting all day is never good). I’m so happy I have it, and I bet any productivityist on your list would be happy to receive it.

7. Sooner

I first saw this over at The Next Web and it reminded me of my old MUJI Chronotebook that I’d used for a bit (sadly, they seem ot be discontinued). On sale for just 99¢ for a limited time, if you like to structure your day using the clock as a method of blocking out time, then give it a look. i’m playing with it now and it looks great so far. I’m thinking this would be the ideal complement to an app like Clear, another very visual to-do list app.

8. OmniFocus

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention OmniFocus on this list. With the recent news of the MailDrop feature now in beta – which is very slick, I might add – there’s a lot to like about this powerful task management app. You can get it for the Mac, the iPad, or the iPhone, and each experience is a little different on one platform than on the next (by design, of course). If you – or the person on your list – is a hardcore productivityist, then you can’t go wrong by picking up one (or all) of the versions of OmniFocus.

9. Flow

If you’re into a cross-platform task management app that looks as good as it performs, go with Flow. It can be pricey for some, but productivityists know that by paying for the service they’ll get great support throughout. I’ve been using it more and more these days – as its “Do Later” web clipper is simply stellar – but there’s a lot to like in Flow and it keeps gaining ground in the “task management wars” with every update. Also check out Ballpark by the same folks behind Flow (MetaLab). It’s my invoicing solution of choice, beating out both Billings Pro and Freshbooks by virtue of its elegant interface and – truth be told – the fact that they are based in my hometown.

10. Evernote Essentials

Brett Kelly has assembled quite the tome here, so if you’re new to Evernote or simply want to get more out of it, then Evernote Essentials is a book that you need to have in your digital library.

11. AeroPress

The coffee device for productivityists – especially for those who like to ritualize the experience. I use my AeroPress (almost) every day and it makes a great cup time and time again. And with the ABLE metal filter that I’ve now added to the mix, I’m being more environmentally conscious to boot.

12. Jawbone JAMBOX

A lot of powerful sound comes out of this tiny speaker. I love how portable the JAMBOX is, and yet it kicks out the jams (or podcasts) with superior sound. Now that I’ve got one, my poor M-Audio AV30 studio speakers barely get used. This thing is as versatile as they come and packs quite a punch – and all for a pretty reasonable price.

13. A booq bag

I have two of these, (a Taipan Shadow and a Boa) and use both a lot. If you’re looking for a quality bag that is well-made and looks great (and has Terralinq enabled so you can have a better chance of finding your bag if gets misplaced), you can’t go wrong with booq. (If you’re in Canada, you can get booq gear from Sozo Distributing.)

14. NeuYear calendar

I’m big on visuals, and the NeuYear calendar gives me a bird’s eye view of my year in one place. It’s ideal for planning out the big picture items for your year and would work exceedingly well in a team environment, The academic edition is great for students in that it has both the form to be considered art and the function to be much, much more. (By the way, if you use the promo code MikeTechniques30 when checking out, you’ll get 30% off.)

15. Rdio

The sounds coming out of my JAMBOX are usually from this app. Rdio is an awesome streaming music service that I simply can’t imagine being without. I’ve talked about it several times here in the past, and I’ve found that I’m listening to things on it more and more with each passing day. I have it for all of my devices – iPad, iPhone, and Mac – and it’s a killer productivity tool (for yours truly).

16. WakeMate

While I’ve used Sleep Cycle in the past to help me with my waking time, I keep coming back to the WakeMate. You put the band on your arm, it syncs via Bluetooth to the app on your device (iPhone or – gasp! – Android) and it monitors your sleep patterns and helps you rise when the time is right. For a night owl like me who still needs to get up at decent hour, the WakeMate is a solid gadget to have in a productivityist’s tool chest.

17. Frictionless Capture Cards

When I’m not using my Field Notes notebooks and I want individual cards that I can easily, these are my go-to capture cards. I date them in the upper left grey box, write things down in the white space, and then use the lower grey box to mark the “Processed into task manager” date. The pink box is generally used for, well…doodling. Get yours here and put a bunch in a binder clip to assemble a Hipster PDA stocking stuffer that’ll make a productivityist’s day. (Don't forget to check out the Frictionless Freelancing ebook, also offered by the man behind these capture cards, Aaron Mahnke. Here are my thoughts on the book.)

18. Kuru Toga

The Kuru Toga is a mechanical pencil that sharpens itself. ’Nuff said.

19. Moleskine notebooks

They look good. They feel good. And when used regularly they can help you work, er…good as well. My favourite are the red hardcover ones.

20. Easy Button

I’m a big fan of visual touchstones, and this simple, big button that is emblazoned with the word “easy” on it is one of those I have on my desk. Here’s how it works:

  1. Finish a task.
  2. Hit the button.
  3. It responds, “That was easy.”
  4. Smile.
  5. Move on to the next task.

In my mind, this is an “easy” choice for a stocking stuffer.

21. Coleto Multi-Pen

I picked up this pen a few months ago and have found it to be indispensable when I’m working on paper and need to differentiate between workspaces and projects. I’ve even gone so far as to order a 10-pack of different colours for refilling it down the line. It’s sturdy and it works.

22. Macbundler Holiday Bundle

Featuring well-known apps like TidyUp 3 and RapidWeaver, the Macbundler Holiday Bundle is one of the latest in a line of software bundles we’re seeing for the Mac in recent years. It may not be chock-full of productivity apps (per se), it does have some useful apps that can make your Mac experience a more efficient and effective one. (Corollary: I really wish we’d start to see some more of these bundles for iOS, Android, and Windows machines. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this.)

23. DODOcase

My daughter bought this for me when I got my first iPad. I love it. It make my iPad appear to be a Moleskine day planner and is assembled with both craftsmanship and care in mind. DODOcase has since expanded its lineup, but I still have my trusty original iPad encased in this case much of the time.

24. ZAGGmate

When I’m not using the DODOcase, I’m using this. In fact, when I break this out my family knows that I’m in for a long writing session on my iPad. It syncs via Bluetooth and with my tiny fingers the keyboard actually works rather well (again, I’m using one of the original designs). If you’re in the market for a case that also doubles as a keyboard for your iPad, the ZAGGmate does a great job. (I’m also fond of the Origami, but I do have an Apple Wireless Keyboard as well, so there’s that.)

25. Bloc

This station – made of a variety of wood types – can serve to fancy up your Apple TV or Mac Mini setup. I’ve got the cherry bloc for Apple TV, and it sure does look good. Why is it for productivityists? Because it has a spot for the remote, meaning no time spent wondering where the thing wandered off to, right?

26. Dollar Shave Club membership

I was waiting for Dollar Shave Club to arrive in Canada for what seemed like ages, and now that it’s here I no longer have to go razor blade shopping. I’m going to save a ton of cash over the next year because of it, and that’s a big bonus.

27. OM Products

While the Dollar Shave Club sends me my blades, they don’t send me products. Luckily, I’ve already got that covered. I’ve been using OM products from UOMO Modern Barber for a while now, and their quality is second to none. Their online store takes a variety of payments methods, they have products for both men and women, and they ship anywhere. All of personal grooming needs arrive at my door. That’s taking efficiency and effectiveness to a whole new level.

28. Blockless

Canada’s Netflix is crippled by comparison to the U.S. version of the service. And I can't get Hulu up here, either. That’s where Blockless comes in. With some slight modifications to my router and/or devices, I can now achieve American awesomeness when it comes to digital media (and that’s just what I like about it – Americans can get UK goodness, etc. if they want, etc.). At $4.95 a month, Blockless is a no-brainer for fellow Canucks who want to enjoy what we can’t for some ridiculous reason or another.

29. David Allen’s Getting Things Done

Widely considered to be the seminal book on personal productivity, this book is one that should be on the bookshelf of not only every productivitiyst, but anyone looking to take their productivity to new heights. Getting Things Done reads differently every time I pick it up, so this book has (perhaps ironically) a timelessness to it.

30. Read and Trust Magazine

Some people love Marco Arment’s The Magazine (count me as one of those people), but i’m an even bigger fan of Read and Trust’s regular magazine. It looks great and works on my Kobo Mini (mentioned above) and the content seems to be geared more towards the productivity slant than anything else out there. Send it to the productivityist in your life and you’ll not only be helping them with some great content – but you’ll be supporting a great network of writers.

31. Any of Patrick Rhone’s books

Patrick has written several books, and all of them are fantastic. I think whether you pick up Keeping it Straight, enough, or What We Believe In, you’ll be doing the recipient of the gift a huge favour. They’ll be getting some great work – and thoughts – in each and every one of those books. Highly recommended.

32. Creating Flow with OmniFocus

If David Allen’s Getting Things Done is the seminal productivity book, then Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with OmniFocus is the seminal OmniFocus book. If you want to squeeze every last drop out of it, then this book is the best at helping you do just that.

33. A Selection of Books

I’ve reviewed a slew of books here (both of the "e" and "non-e" variety) and think that any of them would be a worthy addition to a productivityist’s library. Here are just some of those I suggest (beyond those mentioned separately), and they vary in terms of deep reads and more leisurely reads.

34. Sodastream

AeroPress in the morning, Sodastream in the afternoon. I’ve got a Sodastream Jet unit (thanks to Mr. Schechter for the recommendation) and it’s an indispensable kitchen staple at this point. My family has saved a huge amount of money on the cost of soda, and it also makes an excellent addition to the home bar. Go and get it.

35. David Lorenz Winston’s print “Solitude”

The one large print we have in my work area (aka the master bedroom) is a plaque-mounted version of this piece of art. In fact, I mentioned this print to CM Smith a few months back and he said he recognized it. Then he realized he has it in his own home (albeit framed differently). So when I get stuck and need a mental break, I can always look up and see this print and it gives me a focal point to get clear once again. I love this guy’s work.

36. Launch Center Pro

I’ve written at length about this app. Here, here, and here. Here’s where you will go to buy it for the iPhone-toting productivityist in your life.

37. Postbox

This is my email app of choice, and it’s cross-platform. Check out my thoughts on it here and then go and get it here.

38. Byword

Byword eventually won out when I was whittling down my writing apps of choice (nvALT did initially, but Byword is now what I use for online writing), and I use it both on my Mac (I’m writing this guide using the app) and on both the iPad (where I use it often) and iPhone (where I’m starting to use it more).

39. Scrivener

If I’m doing any real long-form or book writing, it’s done in Scrivener. Scrivener is available for both Mac and Windows, so if the productivityist in your life is a writer as well, get them some Scrivener goodness.

40. Agenda Calendar

My iOS calendar app of choice. Available for both the iPad and iPhone, I just love the look and feel of the app – and the custom message templates within it are a key selling point. The ideal calendar app for the productivityist who uses iOS. (On the Mac, Fantastical is my huckleberry.)

41. Gear from Jet Pens

The best place to get stationary on the Internet. Bar none.

42. Hazel

Hazel is an essential app for the Mac-using productivityist. Set it up (and my friend David Sparks has oodles of info on how to do this including an episode of Mac Power Users with Katie Floyd that dives deep into Hazel – and another that dives deep into Hazel 3.0). This is one app that needs to be on your “to buy list”.

43. Microcone

Conduct a lot of group meetings? Doing a podcast where you need to separate audio tracks and also may need to transcribe? The Microcone won one of the Best in Show awards at this year’s MacWorld|iWorld , and for good reason. It’s a revolutionary device and – while pricey for some – is an excellent device to have handy for those times you need it. (There’s even a handy Microcone Remote iPhone app.)

44. Alfred

Alfred has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for all the right reasons. It is an incredible launching app, and has a ton of power under the hood. While Quicksilver and LaunchBar have been my apps of choice in this area before, Alfred has usurped them in a big way. It saves a ton of time and improves effectiveness – and that’s exactly what a productivityist looks for in a tool.

45. TextExpander

If you’re a productivitiyst and you don’t have this time-saving superstar app from Smile, then you’re missing out. Also available on the iPhone and iPad, it’s the Mac version that will really take time off your day (and chronicle the time saved to boot).

46. The War of Art, Do The Work, and Turning Pro

All by Steven Pressfield. All amazing. I have the metal plaque that I got in my special edtion of Do The Work on my desk, staring me in the face every day. It says “Beat Resistance”, and it – and these books – serves to help me do that. Get The War of Art here. Get Do The Work here. Read my review of Turning Pro here – and buy it here.


This app helps me prioritize – whether I’m using the app on my iPhone, on the web, or using one of their paper pads. I mentioned it in my iOS workflow apps roundup over at The Next Web, and it’s become one of the most-used apps during the week.

48. 30/30

Another one of my workflow apps, 30/30 is what I use rather than the Emergent Task Planner. It’s versatile, ubiquitous (available for both iPhone and iPad), and helps me with my whole “time chunking” process. A worthy addition to a productivityist’s arsenal.

49. Brain Toniq

The energy drink that is caffeine-free. If I want to steer clear of the Sodastream and I want something with some flavour (I’m looking at you, water), then I’ll reach for a Brain Toniq. The folks behind it are productivtiyists themselves, making it the ideal choice for those of us who want something that will help us get more done and not go the Red Bull route to do it.

50. The Kickstart The Year Bundle

This isn’t available as of this writing, but on 12–12–12 it will be. Craig Jarrow and I have assembled a team of 10 top-notch contributors who will help you get 2013 off to an amazing start. Called Kickstart The Year, this bundle features digital products from the following people:

I’ll also be part of Kickstart The Year, as I am launching my first digital “non-ebook” product that is initially only going to be available through this bundle offering.

For more information on Kickstart The Year – which will be priced at just $88 for all 10 products – you can head over to the website and get even more details.

I wish you both a happy – and productive – shopping trip!