The holidays are here and it’s time to rack your brain once again to think of the perfect gifts for all the special people in your life. To save you some time and much stress this year (and maybe as a not-so-subtle hint to our own friends and family), we got together and brainstormed the best, thoughtful, guaranteed-to-please productivity gifts for pretty much anyone on your list.
(You’ll notice we took some liberties with the word “productivity” in this guide. We’re of the opinion that anything that A) increases your caffeine consumption or B) inspires you to follow what your passions totally counts).
Good luck spreading the productive spirit this holiday season!
For the Coffee Lover
If the coffee lover in your life truly cares about coffee, you can’t go wrong with “The World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing”. It explains the origins of coffee, the varietals and how variables in the growing and processing of coffee can affect the flavors you taste in your cup. At around $25, it’s a perfect coffee table read.
Mistobox Coffee Subscription – $20-$240
The coffee lover in your life probably also likes to try different coffees. Seeking out new coffees to try can be time consuming and difficult. With a Mistobox subscription, you can put a hand-curated coffee on their doorstep as often as every five days or as seldom as once every 45 days. You can pre-pay for up to one year and let the recipient customize their subscription themselves.
No one wants lukewarm coffee, so keeping hot coffee hot or cold coffee cold is rather important. No travel mug does that better than the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug. After testing over 60 travel mugs for nearly 50 hours, The Sweethome says, “… we have no doubt that this is the best travel mug you can get.”
Manual brewing is the only way for some coffee fanatics. But not every day allows for the ritualistic process of heating the water, grinding the beans and slowly and carefully pouring hot water over the grounds to produce a perfect cup of coffee. That’s where the OXO On Barista Brain 9-Cup Coffee Maker comes into play. It’s capable of brewing a cup of coffee equivalent to that of a precise manual brew at the press of a button, for those mornings you just don’t have time to.
For That Person Who Just Won’t Give Up Pen and Paper
Action Method Notebooks – $16
Getting ideas on paper is a fantastic way to wrap your head around everything that needs to get done. The Action Book notebooks from Behance help you capture notes and ideas from meetings or your busy life with designated areas for listing action items, focus items, ideas, sketches and backburner ideas.
Someone who writes a lot will always appreciate pens, especially multi-packs of their favorite pens. One of the most universally loved ballpoint pens for quality and price is the Uni-Ball Jetstream. Just do your homework and pick the right pen and tip size before gifting a die-hard multiples of the wrong pen.
Moleskine Smart Writing Set – $199
If they want all the advantages of paper and digital at the same time (and you don’t mind spending quite a bit more), the Moleskine Smart Writing Set makes for a unique gift. The Paper Tablet and Pen+ capture your pen strokes on paper and automatically transfer your handwriting to the companion app where you can save, edit, organize, and share your ideas digitally.
For the Software Developer
Sublime Text – $70
Developers spend a lot of time staring at text editors. Having one that does everything you need does a lot for one’s sanity. While there is no shortage of options available, Sublime Text is cross-platform, flexible, fully customizable and has a powerful plugin API for third-party extensions.
If you know an aspiring programmer, you can’t go wrong with gifting a book like The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master. Just don’t insult a professional with this book, as it’s mostly aimed at newcomers.
A subscription to Safari Books Online – $39/month, $399/year
For the more advanced developer, Safari Books Online offers a vast amount of technical books for what seems like every platform ever. This gift will help any developer stay on top of the latest in their field, or explore new technologies. But can you really put a price on knowledge? Yes you can, it’s $39/month or $399/year. Yikes! Knowledge is expensive, but we guarantee that if the developer on your list is passionate about growing in their skills, they’ll love this gift.
WASD Mechanical Keyboard – $150
For people who spend 8+ hours a day using their keyboards, the typing experience is of utmost importance.There’s typing on crappy keyboards. There’s typing on good keyboards. There’s typing on Apple’s pre-2016 keyboards. And then there’s typing on a proper mechanical keyboard. The WASD Keyboard (v2) (keyboard of choice for Doist developers Gonçalo and Pedro) are extremely solid and pleasant to use. Definitely a must for people that can afford some privacy (they’re noisy). The downside is that they are not portable and might annoy nearby people, but we think the tradeoffs are well worth it for the bliss of typing on a good, old-fashioned mechanical keyboard. Bonus points: they let you customize the color of the keys.
For the Tech Junkie
The techie in your life has a lot of gadgets — more than they’ve ever had. Not only do they have a phone to keep charged, but likely a watch, power bank, tablet, camera and who knows what else. Rather than using a separate charger, gift them a single charger that can charge everything they have, like the Anker 60W 6-Port USB Wall Charger.
Tylt Energi Backpack – $149
A wall charger is great for charging at home or when there is power nearby. When there isn’t, something like the Tilt Energy Backpack is the next best thing. It’s a backpack with a power bank charger built-in. You can charge up to three devices at the same time with its 10,400mAh battery.
Amazon Echo Dot – $50
If the tech obsessed in your life has yet to get their feet wet with a smart speaker, now is the perfect time. The Amazon Echo is now fully-featured and can control virtually any smart home. However, it’s a whopping $180. However, the Echo Dot, the Echo’s smaller next of kin, is just $50 and packs all the same features, making it a much more viable gift this holiday season. (It also integrates with your Todoist so you can add and manage your tasks using voice commands.)
For the Teacher
Ask any teacher, their lives are hectic. Always. One of the best presents you can gift the teacher in your life is a lesson planner. Take it one step further and give them a personalized lesson planner with their name, school or a personal message on it.
Desktop calendar – $7
Even with a lesson planner, it’s nice to have a calendar that’s quick and easy to reference. What better place to have a calendar than right on your desktop? These are cheap and extremely handy for teachers.
One can never have too many Sharpies, especially teachers. This 24-pack of assorted colors will ensure the teacher in your life has a color for any situation and will find Sharpies in random places for years to come.
For the Student
Focus – $20
Focusing as a student can be difficult. After you finally find the time to sit down and begin working away on homework or studying for your next test, you’re faced with all the enticing distractions on your computer. For Mac users, the app Focus by Brad Jasper is a godsend. It allows you to block distracting websites and apps (or games) that might keep you from getting your work done. What’s to keep you from simply closing out of Focus? There’s a Hardcore mode that can’t be deactivated until the timer runs out, even if you force quit the app.
Every student needs a solid office suite. While Google has come a long way in making a great Microsoft Office alternative for free, the real deal is still king. Gift this year subscription to Office 365 to a student and they’ll also get 1TB of OneDrive storage, as well.
Starbucks Gift Card – $5-$50
One gift you can’t go wrong with for a college student is a gift card to Starbucks (or their preferred local coffeeshop). From early mornings to all-nighters, this gift will keep on giving … until it runs out.
For the Minimalist
Go on an adventure – Free
A minimalist doesn’t need things in their life. Unless you know they need something specific, it’s unnecessary clutter that they won’t fully appreciate. Instead, take them on an adventure. Go camping, hiking or on a vacation to somewhere you know they want to visit. Make it an experience and something they won’t forget, and they’ll cherish far longer than some nick-knack they didn’t really want anyway.
Donate to charity in their name – $20-100+
If the minimalist in your life is passionate about something, find a related charity and make a donation in their name. It’s a nice gesture that keeps you from racking your brain over a gift they’ll eventually toss.
Give them your time – Free
Best of all, offer your time to them to help them with something they need or are working on. Help them with yard work or on a project. Build something together. Create something memorable. And minimalistic, of course.
For the Late Sleeper
Philips Wake Up Light – $170
If you know someone who has trouble waking up on time, they may just need a better alarm clock. The Philips Wake-Up Light is just that. It simulates the sunrise and wakes you slowly with natural sounds. Being pulled from the depths of a warm sleep into the cold light of day has never been so pleasant.
Jawbone UP – $30-$200
Another option is gifting a fitness tracker that also monitors sleep. Here’s what’s nifty about this: The tracker can wake the wearer up with gentle vibrations at the optimal time during the sleep cycle (based on their movements), not to exceed the time they really need to be up. It makes for a much less jarring wake-up experience, and should help the late sleeper on your list get going a little bit faster.
GO Cubes – $35 for 20
4-packs Once the late riser is up, they likely don’t have time to fiddle with making coffee or stopping by a coffee shop on their way to work or school. They’ll thank you for gifting them chewable coffee bites, which come in packs of four and pack about as much caffeine as a half a cup of coffee in each cube.
For the Photographer
The perfect gift for the creative photographer who likes to experiment, the Triggertrap Mobile kit essentially turns your smartphone into a remote trigger for your SLR camera. It helps you achieve cool (and somewhat intimidating) photographic techniques like long exposures, timelapse, or high-speed photography. And for fun, they make it super easy to set up a photo booth at any event. They sell kits compatible with 350 different cameras, so make sure to get the one that fits your photographer’s model.
Every great photographer has a collection of tripods, but you can never have too many tripods for travel. One of the best packable tripods on the market is the GorillaPod by Joby. Just make sure to get them one strong enough to hold their DLSR.
For the outdoor photographer who doesn’t like neck or wrist straps, the SpiderHolster Black Widow is a must. It’s compact, lightweight and will keep the camera secured to a belt. Keep in mind that it’s meant for lighter-weight DSLRs, micro four-thirds and point and shoot cameras.
For the Outdoors Adventurer
MSR Windburner Camp Stove – $130
Anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors and in the woods knows that cooking can become a slog. The MSR Windburner is a camp stove with a built-in cozy and bowl that cooks fast and packs down quite well. It’s a must-have on the trail or for car camping.
Leatherman Wave Multi-Tool – $100
You do not want to be out on a trail without a handful of helpful tools. You never know exactly what tool you’ll need. Any multi-tool is better than nothing, but the Leatherman Wave or Leatherman Charge are the tools to beat.
ENO SingleNest Hammock – $60
Nothing tops off an outdoor adventure like strapping a hammock between two trees and getting off your feet for a while. ENO’s SingleNest Hammocks are the gold standard that any adventurer will appreciate. Just don’t forget to pick up a pair of slap straps while you’re at it.
The Outdoor Adventurer in your life will thank you when they need to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom armed with their new headlamp. It’s an outdoor essential to say the least. The Wirecutter says of the Black Diamond Spot: “Nothing this affordable can burn brighter or longer.”
For the Fitness Fiend
Fitbit Surge – $250
If you’re looking to give a fitness tracker that goes above and beyond, PC Mag suggests the Fitbit Surge, calling it “the best all-day fitness tracker to date.” It not only features the standard step counting and sleep tracking you’d expect, but also crosses over into the running watch category with continuous heart rate monitoring and GPS.
No matter their exercise of choice, it will be 10x better when they can listen to their pump-up jams without wires getting in the way. JLab’s Epic2 earbuds hit the perfect sweet spot for price, quality, and battery-life in the wireless sports headphones category. As an added bonus, these earbuds will fit anyone and stay put no matter how much you move.
The runner in your life will thank you for upgrading their Runkeeper account from Basic to GO. It includes the ability to compare your workouts, view progress, view live tracking and see weather insights, as well as training plans.
TriggerPoint Grid Foam Roller – $36 + a Lacrosse Ball $10
The tools of the trade for do-it-yourself massages, these are two essential items in any fitness fanatic’s arsenal to speed recovery and stay injury-free. A foam roller is great for loosening up bigger muscles while a simple lacrosse ball lets you get at specific pressure points. Spring the extra $10 and get both.
For the Writer
iA Writer – $10
Take it from me, writers are a distracted bunch. Tapping away at a keyboard all day, every day can be a slog. But distraction-free writing is a godsend and iA Writer does it best. There are apps for macOS, iOS and Android, which can be synced with Dropbox or iCloud (macOS- and iOS-only).
Scrivener – $45
Scrivener will be an organizational godsend for anyone attempting to write anything longer than 3,000 words. This minimalist app is so much more than a word editor. It’s designed to give writers a big picture overview of their work and help them organize and reorganize storylines and research as they go. It’s what Tim Ferriss, the productivity guru himself, used to write both The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef.
Write or Die – $20
A little aggressively named, yes. But Write or Die is a highly effective tool for writers who tend to put off the actual act of writing. The idea is simple: Set a word goal and don’t stop writing. If you do, the app becomes unbearably noisy. A great gift for the procrastinating writer on your list (especially if they have a sense of humor).
For the Designer
Apple Pencil – $99
The standard to beat in digital pens made for artists and creative professionals. According to PCMag, it’s “more comfortable to hold, easier to pair, and more reliable to use than any other Bluetooth stylus.” Doist designer Wallace says it “simulates drawing pressure perfectly” – we’re inclined to believe him. It’s a bit pricier than other styluses, but if the person on your list is serious about design (and already has an iPad Pro), the Apple Pencil is a must have.
Pattern for iPad – $3
This app “focuses on simple design tools rather than fancy brushes and effects.” Whether it’s ideas for a logo, a new concept for an illustration, or a UX mock-up, this app will help the designer on your list explore their creative ideas and iterate quickly. (You can gift this app directly from App Store or get them an iTunes gift card. More info here.)
Typo Guide (ebook) – $3
Who knew so much thought went into designing the words we read? The designer on your list, that’s who. They’ll appreciate this handy, entertaining, highly use guide to making the words we read beautiful. Unfortunately, the print version is out-of-stock, but the mobile version will let them explore the wild world of typography anywhere.
Anything from ugmonk.com – $36-$75
Ugmonk makes beautiful products for anyone who loves typography and minimal design. Alex from the Doist design team particularly recommends the leather mouse pad, the Day and Night print set, and Letter prints for the discerning designer on your list. (As an added bonus, they’ll donate 3 meals to kids for every item purchased through Dec. 31.)
For Anyone Who Creates
Fisher Space Pen Bullet – $12-20
Ideas always come at the worst times possible, which is why it’s important to have a pen on hand at any given time. One of the best portable pens around is the Fisher Space Pen, which can write upside down, under water and in space, so you can jot down your ideas in literally any situation.
The War of Art – $12
At one point or another, anyone who tries to create anything will struggle to find the motivation to keep going. When that happens, it’s helpful to have Steven Pressfield’s “succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere” on hand. Whether they’re an entrepreneur, writer, artist, or anywhere in between, the creative on your list will benefits from Steven’s spot-on insight into the inner struggle inherent in creative work.
For the Reader
Kindle Paperwhite – $120
If you know a bookworm who is still lugging around paperbacks and hardcovers, consider gifting them a Kindle Paperwhite. It’s not the newest Kindle around, but it’s still one of the most adored for its compact size and gorgeous screen.
Kindle Unlimited Subscription – $60-$240
What good is a Kindle without some books to go with it. Gifting a Kindle Unlimited subscription is a great addition to a Kindle itself and should keep any reader busy and satisfied … for a while anyway.
A gift card to their local bookstore – $25-$50
For the discerning bookworm, what could be better than an afternoon spent getting lost in the stacks of their favorite bookstore? Plus, they and you can feel good about supporting a local bookseller. If you don’t live in the same place, do a quick Google search, find the store’s number, and see if they’ll let you pay over the phone and hold the gift card for the next time the reader on your list stops in.
For the Freelancer or Remote Worker
Sony MDR-V6 (or MDR-7560) – $80 (also great for any open office worker)
A good pair of headphones makes getting into focus-mode anywhere 10x easier, a necessary skill for any freelancer or remote worker. These beauties from Sony were first sold in ’85 and still kick ass 30 years later. The company has tried to discontinue them multiple times only to bring them back a couple months later. Due to their age, they’ve also gotten comically cheap. One downside is that you’ll have a hard time using anything else after trying these. Another downside is that they need some break-in, which is uncommon for headphones sold in 2000s. They definitely have some hipster cred, and are perfect for anyone who values quality over having the newest, shiny thing. (For anyone who likes both quality and having the newest, shiny thing, these are the best money can buy. At $350, you’ll be paying a premium though.)
A subscription to Skillshare – $9.99-$14.95/mo
Freelancers need to keep up with the latest in their field and continue honing their skills, in addition to actually growing their business. A subscription to Skillshare can help them with all three. The “Netflix for online learning”, Skillshare offers on-demand knowledge covering an insane number of topics, particularly in creative fields. Get the freelancer in your life a subscription, then send them this awesome list of courses to get started with.
Deep Work – $17 (book)
Getting the most out of every hour of the day is a constant battle for any freelancer or remote worker. This book will convince you that the secret getting ahead in today’s economy is the ability to focus, and offers keen insights into how to actually do it. It should be required reading for every knowledge worker, but will be particularly eye-opening, inspiring, and helpful for the freelancer or remote work in your life.
Better Ergonomics – The Oristand or The Roost $75
The freelancer or remote worker on your list likely spends a lot of time hunched over their laptop, but doesn’t have one set workspace. Give them a gift to maximize ergonomics and flexibility. The Oristand offers a common sense, easily stored alternative to ridiculous overpriced standing desks. Meanwhile, The (incredibly portable) Roost lets you set your laptop to the right height.
Even Better Ergonomics – Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard k810 (Windows, iOS, Android) or Easy-Swith k811 (Mac, iOS, Apple TV) – $100
The finishing touch to the perfect ergonomic set-up, a bluetooth keyboard is a must for anyone who spends most of their time on their laptop. This one from Logitech is slim enough to slip into a bag and lets you switch between 3 devices with the tap of a button. The freelancer/remote worker on your list will love the versatility and portability of this bluetooth keyboard. Make sure to get the one that’s compatible with their computer.
A much-needed lunch date – $30
Freelancers and remote workers don’t always get out much. It’s easy to let the days and weeks pass you by without stepping foot outside. Invite the freelancer in your life out for lunch one day. If they’re not pushing a deadline — or maybe especially if they’re pushing a deadline — they will thank you for human interaction and a hot meal.
For the Busy Parent (because what parent isn’t busy)
Lego’s Creator Sets – $10-$60
How are Legos a productivity gift for parents? Doist developer and father of two, Dimitris promises these Creator sets will buy parents hours of extra time back.
Gousto (UK) £3.75-£5.25/serving or Blue Apron (US) $8.74/serving
These services ship all the ingredients you need to cook a delicious, healthy, and fresh meal for the whole family, saving the busy parent on your list the time and hassle of meal planning and grocery shopping…at least for a week.
For a more permanent solution to meal-planning for the family, try Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express masterpiece. With 404 recipes that take 20 minutes or less to prepare, this cookbook is guaranteed to save parents hours in cook time while keeping delicious meals on the table.
Childcare for a night – 4-6 hours of your time
There’s no gift more precious to busy parents than time to take care of themselves. Offer to take the kids for a night so they can go out and interact with people their own age.
For the Traveler
Small enough to be a carry-on but big enough to fit everything needed to travel across Europe, the Osprey Farpoint will be a seasoned traveler’s best friend. The 55-L model comes with a detachable daypack for quick day trips, but we recommend the 40-L model to save on weight and space with a separate pack-down daypack for shorter trips out (see our next recommendation).
This day pack weighs practically nothing and packs down so small you can keep it on your keyring. It’s the perfect minimalist companion for day trips around cities or hikes in the countryside.
This lightweight, microfiber towel packs down to almost nothing, saving precious space for savvy travelers. It’s an essential for anyone who wants to get off the beaten path where fluffy, white towels and room-service aren’t readily available.
That’s a mouthful for a nifty little wall charger that not only charges up to two devices at a time, but then uses any extra charge to power up an extra battery backup. Anyone who’s spent any time traveling knows that a backup battery to charge your phone on-the-go can mean the difference between a smooth trip and a total disaster. If you need further convincing, James Clear deemed the Bolt2 useful enough to merit space on his ultralight travel packing list.
The $100 Startup – $15
For those who want to get serious about indulging their travel bug, this book offers inspiration and actionable advice for generating your own income and freeing yourself to work from anywhere. The perfect read for the brave world traveler on your list.
For the Entrepreneur
A subscription to Julie Desk – $99.99 – 199.99/month
Ok, it might actually be cruel to give an entrepreneur a month of having a virtual assistant manage all their meetings for them; they’ll likely get hooked. But they’ll also probably love you for it. Julie Desk uses AI with human, behind-the-scenes oversight to set up all of your meetings for you. Doist founder and CEO Amir swears by it (and he’s one super productive guy). Give the entrepreneur on your list the gift of time back to spend focusing on the important things.
A subscription to Audible – $15/month
There’s a reason why entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett make time (a lot of time) for reading. But it’s tricky to find the time when your business is just getting off the ground. Audible lets you listen to thousands of audiobooks anytime, anywhere. Perfect to help the entrepreneur on your list to fit learning into their commute, while cooking, running, or anything else.
Ostrich Pillow – $99
Sleep is essential for productivity and happiness, but it’s often the first thing to go for founders. Help the entrepreneur in your life get in the best naps of their lives with the Ostrich Pillow. Yes they look ridiculous, that’s half their charm. It doubles as a good reminder to not take yourself too seriously.
Start with Why – $9.99
We’ve recommended this book before, and we’ll recommend it again. And again. This is one of those books that will make founders, leaders, and companies of all kinds rethink the way they do business. We think the entrepreneur on your list will love it too.
For Anyone Who Wants to Get More Organized and Productive in 2017
We may be biased on this one, but we wouldn’t recommend it (or spend a significant portion of our time obsessing over making it better) if we didn’t truly believe in it. Give someone you care about the peace-of-mind that comes with having all your tasks organized and aligned with your long-term goals.
What productivity gifts are you giving this year? Share your own recommendations in the comments below!
Guide Contributors: Ideas crowd-sourced from the Doist team and Taylor Martin, the human multi-tool. If you love geeking out over gear/tools of all types, check out his YouTube channel. Ask him your gear questions on Twitter > @caspertek.