Last minute Christmas — part 2

So, it’s December 23 and you still haven’t managed to finish shopping or send any cards. Maybe you want to be frugal about it. Maybe my suggestions in my prior blog about getting quick shipping from Amazon Prime don’t work for you because you don’t need it any other time. Not to mention that it’s kind of expensive unless you use it year ’round.

Not to worry. I’ve got even quicker and cheaper solutions to your last minute woes.

More on Greeting Cards

For holiday cards, just Google “print greeting cards for free.” You’ll get an endless list of printable cards sites. Many of these sites will allow you to customize the cards with photos and text. Others will just give you fixed downloads. Almost all of them will allow you to print either a regular half-fold or quarter-fold size. (Note: you’re best advised to get the printable cards you can download. If you print from the web, you may not be able to adjust the print resolution.)

So, you’ll be able to print your own predesigned cards on your printer. You can use regular letter paper for quarter-fold cards, but you’ll need card stock for half-fold cards. Other than the cost of paper and envelopes, assuming you have enough ink in your printer, you have a free solution to your need to send cards.

As with any craft-like project, you’ll have to try this out a bit to get nice results. But, let’s face it, if you just don’t have the time to go out and get cards, this is a fast solution. And the cards can be printing while you’re doing another project on the computer. If you’ve got to work, you’ve got to work.

More on Last Minute Gifts

Once you print up your holiday cards, you can use them as the vehicle for last-minute gifts. (Of course, you don’t have to print your own cards for the following gift-giving method. You can actually buy them.)

I mentioned using gift cards and certificates in my last post. But I wanted to say a few more words about them, because earlier I talked more about having them emailed. This time I want to encourage you to think of stuffing cash into greeting cards in addition to thinking about physical gift cards or printed certificates.

You know this already. Or you should. Christmas cards with money or gift certificates inside make for easy last minute gifts. Many folks just give cash gifts to their entire lists. Kids and teens especially appreciate getting money or the equivalent and being able to choose their own gifts.

Yet, I’ve been amazed by the number of folks who have forgotten about it or think it’s somehow a second-rate approach. I think that even though you can find racks of gift cards in supermarkets, it just escapes their notice in favor of the tradition of buying and wrapping (and sometimes shipping!) physical gifts.

And, since when did cash money gifts become déclassé?

Just remember, mail is too insecure for cash gifts. You need to reserve cash gifts for those you hand deliver. In fact, I seldom send even gift cards by mail. They aren’t assigned to specific recipients and anyone can steal and use them. That’s why I suggested sites like giftcertificates.com combined with email as the primary way of sending gift cards in my prior blog on the subject.

There is another way to use a “gift certificate” approach that isn’t as obvious as the common ways suggest above. If you haven’t yet been able to get the gift you plan to give someone, get a picture of it from the web. Print the pic, put it in a Christmas card and write on it, “This is the gift I’m giving you. It just won’t arrive until Tuesday.” Or whatever day it will arrive. Then you can just give them the card. Psychologically, it’s the equivalent of handing them the actual gift.

You can also use this approach when you are personally creating a gift and it isn’t finished yet. Get over the notion that it has to be a surprise until it’s complete. Give a picture of what the gift looks like and let the recipient enjoy the anticipation. (Only do this if you can be counted on to finish the gift. )

Too Busy for Christmas? Last Minute Holiday Shopping and Card Ideas That Work

Every year I do an article or post about making holiday shopping and other activities easier and/or faster. I wait until the last minute to do the post because it’s most helpful when it’s timely. Each year I mention some of the same old standbys and some new stuff.

Today is December 20. Some of you out there haven’t sent cards. You probably think it’s too late. You are probably right. Here are my solutions for card tardiness:

1. E-Cards. Yes, this is obvious. You’ve already thought of it yourself. But, as a recipient of some of the lame last-minute e-cards myself, I want to give you a couple of suggestions on sending good e-cards.

a. For goodness sake, stop going to the online vendors with cute animated cards that your recipient has to go fetch. Blech. Use your own mail program with stationery to make brief, personal greetings.

b. Ditto on the above stationery suggestion to make a Christmas email newsletter.

You can get plenty of Christmas theme email stationery for free from vendors like Cloudeight Stationery. Their Christmas Collection is at http://thundercloud.net/seasonal/christmas/. And there are others. Like Jumsoft for Mac (http://www.jumsoft.com/goodies/). Just Google “email Christmas stationery free.”

c. If you have the skills, just make a one-sided card in Photoshop or GIMP and send it to your Christmas email list.

2. Real Cards. If you have friends or family who don’t do email, or if you just prefer postal mail, send real cards anyway. They will be late. So what? A quick and easy way to do this is to go to CardStore.com. Pick a card from their stock or use their image upload to make your own photo card. Give them your list of people to send cards to. They’ll print the cards, stamp them and mail them for you. Whether you send one or a thousand.

Now, as for last minute gifts.

1. Amazon.com With Prime Shipping. You haven’t gotten Amazon Prime yet, have you? Stop monkeying around and get it. You can buy almost anything you can imagine on Amazon.com and with great prices. If you have Prime, you can have it shipped in two days for free. Or overnight for $3.99 per item.

No, not everything on Amazon qualifies for Prime, but you can filter your search results for products by requesting that they show you only Prime products. So, when you’re strapped for time, use Prime and get it quickly.

2. Gift Cards and Certificates.

First, a warning: Don’t get them off a display rack at retailers, supermarkets, etc. There’s a new scam to add to all the others you’ve read about in gift cards. Scammers take a mag strip scanner to the cards on the rack and find the serial number. They then call in to check on the card balance until they find it has been activated. As soon as it’s activated, they use the serial number to shop online and drain the value of the card. So it’s worthless when the gift recipient tries to use it. (Read about this scam and more at scambusters.org)

If you want to get gift cards locally and hand them out yourself, get them from the issuer or from the customer service counter of a retailer.

However, a fast, easy way to do gift cards and certificates is to go to giftcertificates.com. You can have them emailed right up until December 24. And they have “superpercertificates” that allow you to let the recipient choose what cards he wants. You can also print out a “superpercertificate” to physically hand the gift to your recipient.

3. Order And Pay Online But Pick Up At The Store.

BestBuy has it. Sears has it. Target has it. Walmart has it. Many stores with both physical and online presences have it. “Buy online, pick up locally.”

Don’t spend time wandering up and down aisles and waiting through long checkout lines. For goodness sake, just shop online and have the thing ready for you to pick up later on in the day. Costs the same in money. Much less cost in time. No shipping charges. Make a list, check it twice, shop online, save lots of time.

Pink and Pinker — Two Experts Who Can Help You Perform Better and Be More Productive

If you want to learn how to perform better or produce more, there’s plenty of literature on it. A lot of it is pretty repetitive. You’ve probably heard about the importance of organization and to-do lists until you’re ready to …zzzzzzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, that probably put you to sleep immediately.

Better performance and higher productivity — the stuff I write about — does require a lot of underlying structure. So, of course you keep hearing about that structure.

But there’s a great deal of more interesting ideas and information that also help you manage and improve your performance. Ideas about how the mind and brain work, what drives behavior, how socialization brings better organization and smoother transactions, just to name a few. Each of the two men I’m going to recommend to you writes and speaks about ideas like that.

First Let Me Introduce You To Daniel Pink

It’s easiest to get to know what Daniel Pink can contribute to your progress by looking first at his 2009 TED talk. I’ve embedded it below.

The TED talk is the essence of what he covers in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

As he says, he was trained as a lawyer, not a psychologist, so recognize that he doesn’t research and analyze the literature the way a psychologist does. So, if you’re looking for deep self-help literature, don’t look for it in his books.

From what I’ve seen in reviews of his book, some readers may find his conclusions too simplistic. But regardless of how he simplifies, there’s a lot of usable stuff in what he says. If you’re concerned about the value of his books, read the articles on his website http://www.danpink.com/articles before investing in them. Judge for yourself. Also, take a look at some of his videos — http://www.danpink.com/video.

His greatest value is in the fact that he is a speculative thinker. As his works illustrate, you don’t have to be a psychologist to dig into research and find useful gems. You just need a creative mind.

Now May I Present Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker, unlike Daniel Pink, is a psychologist. A researcher. An academic. An extraordinary speaker. (And just as an aside, an amazing photographer.) In his current employment, he is Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology. He, too, is best introduced through a TED talk embedded below.

He writes and talks on how the mind works and how language and thought are related. His work has many implications for communication and socialization. If you want to understand the intricacies of social media in great depth, study his work. (No, so far he doesn’t lay it out specifically, it’s just implicit.)

He has a dozen books, 40 journal articles, 43 magazine articles and 24 newspaper articles. A visit to http://stevenpinker.com/publications will give you access to the articles. You’ll have to buy his books.

How Are These Guys Alike?

These guys are only alike in that their names have pink in them. Literally. And they both write from points of view that may shake up the way you think about work and life. Help you take a new viewpoint that shakes up the way you do things and helps you do stuff better.

They remind me of Apple’s slogan, “Think Different.”

I wrote about them in the same article because I was reading articles by or about them on the same day. I thought, “what a coincidence, Pink and Pinker.” It sounded like a great article title. So I researched each of them.