Friday, November 30, 2007

Ideas For a More Meaningful And Cheaper Christmas

Every year there it seems that there is more and more commercialism and the meaning of Christmas becomes more and more diluted. While your paycheck or other circumstances might have made you think that you want to limit your spending on the holiday, you still want a memorable and meaningful Christmas with more emphasis on the presence of Christmas and less on the presents. Here are some ideas for more meaningful and cheaper Christmas.

Review and pare down the list of people that you give Christmas gifts to. Chances are that there are probably some people that have been added to your list that might not truly belong there. Like any other list that has been created over time, your list of people that you give Christmas gifts to should be reviewed for relevancy and that it is still aligned with your relationships.

Choose quality over quantity. Instead of giving a lot of gifts to those people on your list, you can focus on fewer presents but things that mean more to the recipient. Why give a bunch of stuff that will just end up in someone’s garage, basement, or closet and not be used and/or enjoyed.

Know your recipients. This is an extension of the point about quality. Giving a gift that reflects their interests is more likely to be enjoyed than a thousand gifts that don’t have meaning to them. It also shows that you put thought into the gift.

Apply the secret Santa principle where possible. This is where there is a group of people and you draw names, so that everyone participating gives something to one person. This can work well if have a large extended family, a close group of friends, a club, or at work. I’m not saying that you should add more people to your list of recipients (unless that is your choice), so by participating in one of these exchanges you might buy a gift for one person compared to 20 that you might have before. These exchanges can be a lot of fun if done right. There is a lot of curiosity about who has drawn my name.

Have a Christmas potluck. A potluck is a meal or party where everyone brings something to share. At a Christmas potluck, you would probably have some pasta dishes, various salads, perhaps a Christmas dish that comes from an old family recipe or tradition. If the potluck is organized well, you can have a very nice meal and the burden of making it doesn’t fall on any one person. The potluck could be part of other activities and you could have a nice Christmas party.

Give white elephant gifts. This where you give a silly or gag gift. White elephant gifts are something that you would like to discard anyways (maybe a vase that you received in the past that you find terribly ugly. This is often part of a Christmas party and is generally known up front. Often the gifts are wrapped and you don’t know who will receive your gift (when this is part of a party). It can be fun to see what you end up with. I don’t recommend giving this type of gift to someone unless it is known upfront or you know that they will truly appreciate the gift. In general, you don’t want to give a gift that isn’t going to be appreciated.

Do something for someone. You could offer to watch the kids of your brother or sister, so that they can have a nice night out with their spouse or just some good alone time. Maybe you have a friend that needs something fixed around their house, you could offer to fix it. This can mean a lot more than buying a gift that doesn’t mean anything to them.
Send them a card or letter. You can write a letter or a card and let someone know that the mean a lot to you. You want this person to realize that they mean more to you than some gift bought without any real thought behind it. This should let them know that you took time out of your busy schedule and thought about them.

Give them a call. Maybe you don’t see this person that often. This could be a chance to re-connect and re-establish or renew your relationship.

Buy them a coffee. There is probably a friend (or family member) that you haven’t seen in a while or would just like to spend some quality time with. You could also treat them to lunch or dinner or maybe go shopping with them.

Give them a book. Books are a wonderful gift. Here is another chance to show that you know the person. You can buy them a book from their favorite author or about their favorite subject. You can also give them a book that you have enjoyed reading. There are also a lot of used bookstores, so your book doesn’t have be brand new.

Board games make great gifts. Not everyone likes games, so you should know that they like games. There are a lot of games out there to choose from, so you there is a good chance that you can find one on a subject that they like. A few years ago we were given Ticket to Ride, which we have really enjoyed. Every year a game of the year is selected in Germany (note the site is in German). These games are usually pretty good as well as the ones that are nominated. Even some of the old standbys have been remixed, so to speak. There are so many different versions of Monopoly, you can buy one that has a team of a sports team, university, movie, and many other themes. If your recipient likes trivia, you could buy one of the many editions of Trivial Pursuit, with topics such as “the 80s”, silver screen, and so on. Then there are some of the old standards like Risk and Sorry. I have put some links to some of these games toward the end of this post.

Bake some cookies. This is something that your kids might want to help you with, so feel free to enlist their help with this. While there is cookie dough that is all ready packaged and ready to be spread out on a cookie sheet in the oven that you could buy, there are a lot of recipes for cookies to be found. You can get creative with shapes and decorations. You can also take this opportunity to bake healthier cookies (especially for those people that are concerned about their health or waistline).

Make a photo album. If you have a lot of pictures of the recipient, you could print off some of them and put them into a nice photo album. It would be nice if you could show the relationship that you have to that person. Maybe you have a lifelong friend and you could put in pictures of you and them over the course of your friendship. Parents would probably enjoy pictures of you and your kids. You can be very creative in putting together photo albums. It also shows that you really thought about that person when you created the gift.

Make a gift basket. One time I received a nice basket with various teas and cookies and I thought that was a really neat gift. Maybe you could make up a nice coffee basket for the coffee lovers in your life, it seems that there are a million different varieties of coffee out there. You can get very creative in making gift baskets.

Make them a gift. If you like to do arts and crafts (maybe your kids could even help you with this), you could knit a sweater or make a quilt. I received some hand made picture frames as a present in the past. This is a chance for you to be very creative and show that you really thought about the person that you made the gift for.

Ask them what they want. Especially with your kids, they might want everything under the sun, so it is good to find out what they would really want if they could only get one gift. Of course you don’t have to get them just one gift but you want to get their focus away from the “gimme gimme” attitude that a lot of kids have this time of year. This is also really good for a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, parent, or anyone else that is hard to shop for.

Follow some of these ideas and you’ll bring more meaning back to Christmas, enjoy the holidays more, while not breaking your piggy bank.

Lord of the Rings Monopoly

Monopoly Disney Pixar Edition

Memory Game - Disney Princess Edition

My MLB Monopoly

My NFL Monopoly

My NBA Monopoly

Late for the Sky Productions Michiganopoly Game

Dallas Cowboys Monopoly

Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly

James Bond 007 Monopoly


Dog Lover's Monopoly

Simpsons Monopoly


Late for the Sky Productions Irishopoly Game

New York Yankees Monopoly

Boston Red Sox Monopoly

Chicago Bears Monopoly

New York City Monopoly

Green Bay Packers Monopoly

Los Angeles Lakers Monopoly

Harley Davidson Monopoly

John Deere Monopoly

My NASCAR Drivers Monopoly

Trivial Pursuit 1990's Edition

Trivial Pursuit: Totally 80s

Trivial Pursuit Disney Edition

Trivial Pursuit (Silver Screen Edition)

Trivial Pursuit Star Wars Classic Trilogy Collectors Edition

Trivial Pursuit: The Lord of the Rings Movie Trilogy Collector's Edition

Monday, November 26, 2007

Communities and Groups

To those of you celebrating, I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving. Due to holiday activities, I didn’t publish a post last week. Maybe some of you had a chance to do a Thanksgiving Review.

One of the biggest potential positives of the internet is the ability to communicate with people with similar interests and hobbies. There have been a variety of social networks built (and being built) around a variety of subjects. Some of the more famous ones include MySpace and Facebook, however new ones are starting up everyday. In addition you might remember that I did a post about Mashable a little while ago. Mashable provides the latest news about social networking (in addition to their lists that I wrote about previously). They also have groups as well, and while their network is smaller, you’ll find many savvy members there.

Within the popular MySpace, Facebook, and Mashable are groups that you can join. These allow you to find people with similar interests and hobbies and range from fan sites of musical bands, television shows, to a variety of other subjects. All three offer a search to help you find the group that you’re looking for. I must admit that the search could stand some improvement or they could be organized a little better.

One of the potential benefits I see with these groups is that you can exchange information with other members of that group. This allows for novices to get some answers from those members with more experience. It also allows the more experienced members to be mentors to the “newbies”.

If you are into blogging then you might think about joining the following groups. While these groups are small at the moment, I hope that they will grow and provide the exchange mechanize that I have mentioned previously. In addition, I think that this can be another way of promoting your blog.

MySpace the Bloggers Community

Facebook the Bloggers Community

Mashable the Bloggers Community

Since one of the biggest themes of my blog is productivity and GTD, below you’ll find some groups on this subject. In these groups you”ll find a people with varying degrees of experience with GTD and productiviy.

MySpace GTD (Getting Things Done) and Productivity

Facebook GTD (Getting Things Done)

The Merlin Mann Fan Club

Mashable GTD (Getting Things Done) and Productivity

If you’re already a member of MySpace, Facebook, or Mashable, I hope that you’ll check out the groups mentioned in this post. While at any of those sites you might find another group that you’d like to join or if you don’t find what you’re looking for, why not create your own group.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Family Activities

In our busy on the go society, families should schedule some time together. You can set up some regular occurring activities to help with this. The activities that you add will have to vary depending upon the age and interests of your kids. We recently added a couple of nights that are going pretty well.

We have made Friday night, movie night. We let the girls stay up a little longer to watch a movie with us. We don’t usually start the movie late, so they don’t necessarily stay up so much later. Sometime the girls will go with me to the video store to pick out the movie, other times we’ll watch something that we already have. The girls really enjoy their movie night. If you think creatively, you can incorporate other things into you night to make it stand out. Maybe you could dress up as your favorite characters from the movie you’re going to watch. You could also make dinner or snacks that are related in theme your movie, maybe you could make Mexican food, if the story takes place in Mexico or some of the characters are from Mexico. You can also decorate you place around a theme of your movie and involve your kids in this and they’ll feel more involved.

We also have a game night. We usually do board games. The game that you pick will need to be age and developmentally appropriate for your kids. If you have very small kids, you might want to avoid games with lots of little pieces that they might swallow or lose. One of our daughters is very good at memory games, so she enjoys those. Our other daughter is at the point where she is just starting to understand rules, so we don’t play games that are too complicated. Board games are good because you can challenge your kids mentally. You can get them to incorporate strategy and planning if they’re old enough.

I have an aunt that used to have family dinner every Sunday. This was nice because her kids would all come over on Sunday and it was some good quality time spent with the family. Later on the family dinners weren’t so frequent, but this is something that your kids can look back on with fondness later in their lives.

How many activity nights should you have? That will vary depending upon everyone’s schedules. If your kids are already super busy with baseball, soccer, boy scouts, girl scouts, and all the other activities that are available to kids to today, you might not have so many slots that you can schedule in. Some parents go overboard and their kids have activities planned every day. It is also good if your kids have some time where they can do things on the spur of the moment, (maybe your kids might want to invite a friend over, but can’t do this if they don’t have any openings in their schedule). It is also important to remember that you kids are growing and developing and too many activities can hinder their development. If you don’t go over board in your family activities, they become something that you and your kids can look forward to, if you have too many of them, they aren’t so special.

Take some time and think about what you might be able to do together as a family. While you might know your kids very well, it wouldn’t hurt to ask them what they’d be interested in and involve them in the planning. So go ahead and add a family night or two and you and your kids can look forward to this time together.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thanksgiving Review

Thanksgiving Review

Thanksgiving will be occurring later this month in the U.S., with other countries celebrating their own versions at different times. Thanksgiving is not only a good time to be thankful for your family, friends, and all the blessings that you have in your life, but is maybe a good time to do a self assessment of where you are . A former colleague of mine used to conduct a review of where he was at that point every year.

In GTD, while you have your weekly review (I’ll post more on this later), this can be an opportunity to review those aspects that are beyond the runway (to use David Allen’s metaphor from “Getting Things Done The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” found under The Six-Level Model For Reviewing Your Own Work pp 51-53) and look at the 10,000 to 50,000 feet levels in your life.

  • Runway- Current Actions
  • 10,000 feet- Current Projects
  • 20,000 feet- Areas of Responsibility
  • 30,000 feet- One to Two Year Goals
  • 40,000 feet- Three to Five Year Vision
  • 50,000 feet- Life

Under your normal weekly reviews (however you might have these), you’re likely to cover the Runway (Current Actions), 10,000 feet (Current Projects), and 20,000 feet (Areas of Responsibility) but here is where you should be asking the hard questions like

  • Should you be doing this?
  • If you do this what is the likely outcome?
  • Is the likely outcome aligned with the other levels?

Under the 30,000 feet (One to Two Year Goals) level you can have a look at what your goals were for this year and determine if you can still attain them, if you need to make any adjustments, or scrape them altogether. You should have a look at what you want to accomplish over the Christmas season (maybe some holiday planning,) and what resolutions you would like to tackle in the coming year. Under the 30,000 and 40,000 feet levels you’ll want to have a look at where you are in your career and determine if any training or new skills are needed in the short and long term. Maybe you might even want to look at changing positions or companies in the near future. Under the 50,000 feet (Life) level, you’ll want to look at what direction your life is going. Maybe something has happened recently that makes you question everything (which should happen every so often anyways so that you do get stuck in a rut). Now might be the time to make those changes that you’ve been thinking about (or at least, start to move in that direction)

Time to be thankful. No matter what religion you follow (of even if you don’t follow an organized one), you should take the time to realize that you have been blessed and what blessing you have. It might be a good time to let people that have slipped from your thoughts know that you did think about them and that they’re appreciated. Maybe it is time to let your kids know that you love them, or your siblings, or parents, or some friends that you haven’t talked to in a while. Rather than focusing on the things that you don’t have, you should realize that you are lucky to have what you have. Do you have a place to live with enough heat and shelter in the cold nights? Do you have enough to eat in your refrigerator (that you have a refrigerator is something to be thankful for). Do you have your health? Maybe you’re not in condition to run the New York Marathon or compete in a Iron Man competition, but the use of your limbs, your ability to get around, your beating heart, and life itself are all things worth being thankful for. When you consider the conditions that much of the world lives in, we should consider ourselves lucky and be thankful. You might want to consider donating to charity (in time and/or money).

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. Maybe with some thought and review, you can come out of the holiday recharged with a sense of purpose and a new attitude.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Today I thought that I’d write about It was recently reported that Mashable had become the U.K.’s number one blog. For those of you not familiar with the site, it is very useful for news on what is often referred to as Web 2.0 and social networking. It has also gotten some work of mouth about an almost daily posting of lists of resources that can be used for a variety of things under the sun. These lists are often selected by Digg users, and bookmarked by many people on, and other sites. The site has a social networking built in to it as well.

It really like the news that they post about Web 2.0. I have the site bookmarked and often have it open. When I opened it up this morning I noticed a story about how Google’s OpenSocial (information from the Google Operating Systems) is going to work discussing a demo that they had seen of Hi5. Here is another about Bebo joining OpenSocial as well. Mashable is also reporting that MySpace is working with OpenSocial. It would certainly seem that Google will have a big impact on social networking. I’m sure that we’ll be hearing a lot about this in the coming days. Here is another story about the New York Times launching a competitor to TechMeme.

Mashable posts some incredible lists of resources on a variety of things almost daily. I don’t really know how many lists they have posted but it is a lot. They recently did a list of 5000 things resources that you can use to do just about anything online. Some other recent lists have included: places to get free and legal music, free graphic programs, resources for U.S. politics on the web, sports social networks, tutorials for the web-minded, Photoshop tools and resources, icon and graphic generators, and tools for working with fonts are all some of their recent lists. They have indicated that they working on the way that the lists are presented and archived so that it will be easier to find what you’re looking for. While anyone can do a search in Google, the creators of the lists tend to spend hours putting them together and many of them are quite useful. When they post a new list, it isn’t usually too long before they till someone Diggs them (is there a verb to describe the Digg readers recommending an article on the web?) and they get bookmarked a and the like. Next time you’re looking for an application or web site to do something, have a look at Mashable and the chances are that they have a list of resources that will be of assistance, you will probably find some of their lists when searching elsewhere. I’m looking forward to the new archive or site search that will make it easier to find all these great lists.

While I’m not sure of the number of readers that have joined Mashable, many are using the social networking capability to varying degrees. When I looked a few moments ago, there were 1103 pages of members listed. In your profile you can link to other social networks that you belong to link MySpace and Facebook. In addition you can link to videos that you have at YouTube and pictures that you have a Flickr and Photobucket. If you would like to add me as a friend here I go by the handle FutureX, please be sure to tell me that you saw this in my blog.

So weither you’re looking for news on Web 2.0, applications and resources for your current project, or just want to do some social networking, you just might find what you’re looking for at Mashable.