Gift Ideas for the International Jet-Setter

gifts

Secrets of buying for the most difficult gift recipients.

My nephews have every kids’ dream–they’re from a family of mixed religions, so they celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas. Needless to say, they get a lot of presents. So many, in fact, that they often forget to even open them all.

Thus, it’s often hard for me to give gifts that they will find special amongst the plethora of Xbox games, sports equipment, and train sets they receive. Last year, though, I nailed it.

I was in South Africa and saw these handmade drums. They were beautiful, so I knew they wouldn’t be stuffed in a closet by their parents but instead put on display. And, they were functional. I could see the boys having jam sessions for hours. And, (bonus!) the money I spent went back to help a local community in South Africa.

I’m sure we all have those people that are difficult to buy for–including family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Instead of trying to buy the latest gadget or trend, try opting for something with meaning, sends a message, or has a positive impact.

Here are a few international gift-giving hints for the notoriously most challenging people to buy for.

People who have everything.

People who have everything don’t need more stuff, so don’t even try.

Instead, give a gift that gives back. Here are a couple of ideas–give a microloan in that person’s name. You can loan a small amount of money to someone in a developing country to help jumpstart their business.

A hundred dollars can help a woman in Africa, for example, open a store in her community. The recipients have to pay the loan back over time, but the small amount can make a huge difference in helping them self-sustain.

You can also make a donation on someone’s behalf to a cause they care about or to a charity that supports global issues such as Oxfam or Children International.

Gifts for people who care.

Many people are becoming more aware of where their goods are coming from and are careful not to support unfair labor practices or production that negatively impacts the environment. Thankfully, it’s easier now more than ever to consume responsibly.

There are many companies out there that share where their products are sourced and have a mission to not harm the environment, like Uncommon Goods, for example.

Also, most cities have stores that only sell sustainable and organic products. (I love my hometown of Phoenix’s Local Nomad shop which sells jewelry, clothes, and collectibles). Go this route, and you’ll feel good instead of guilt with the things you buy.

Gifts for the people who want unusual things.

Not everyone wants to be part of the latest trend. They want something that’s unique and different.

To get ideas, tap into the experiences of your friends who travel. Ask them what they’re seeing on their trips that may be popular in other cultures or indigenous to other lands. If they’re close enough friends, they may even be able to make some purchases for you that you can reimburse them for later.

Gifts for the globetrotter.

Speaking of people who travel a lot–it seems like they can get anything they want since they seem to go everywhere.

Instead of trying to dazzle them with something unique, make what they do more pleasant.

This holiday, I’m giving essential oil sniffers as stocking stuffers to my fellow global travelers to help revive themselves when crossing many time zones. Other ideas include lightweight travel blankets, compact luggage, and silky soft pillowcases. Check out this past post for more ideas.

Gifts for everyone.

Finally, food is always a crowd pleaser. To add a twist, go international.

Shop at a local foreign restaurant or food market to assemble a basket of interesting treats from around the world. I like to hit a local Mexican restaurant to share with friends the Mexican Christmas tradition of tamales (knowing they can enjoy them during the holidays or freeze for later). Even chains like Trader Joe’s feature special European cookies and chocolates that you can sort and share with colleagues or clients.

When in doubt, go for the stomach. Food is a gift that is universally enjoyed. It can be fun, neutral, and shareable.

Make this holiday season special, fun and unique with gifts that give back or presents with a multicultural flair. Your colleagues, friends, and family will appreciate the extra effort and thought put into your holiday giving.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

8 Secrets to Getting Organized This Holiday Season

stay organized this holiday season
These tricks will help you have more time for what matter this holiday season.

Almost every holiday season, I often find myself feeling less than merry.  And, I know I’m not alone. With all the extra responsibilities on our plates, both personal and professional, it’s easy to feel more like curling up on the couch than caroling with your cousins.

But after talking with my dear friend and professional organizer Lori Krolik from More Time For You, I’ve learned the secrets to solving 8 common holiday-induced problems–and they all have a common theme, organization.

As my gift to you this holiday season, I’m sharing her wisdom so you can have more time for what truly matters, especially this time of year.

Your Christmas list is freaking you out.

The list of gifts you need to get is beyond daunting. You can’t remember who you bought what and who got you something last year.

Enter, The Christmas List app.  This handy tool allows you to manage all your gift recipients. You can import contact information directly from your iOS device, plan gift ideas, create shopping lists, set budgets, share your lists, create gift lists by categories, and more.

What a great solution to ensure you don’t double buy items, overspend, or (yikes!) forget someone.

You’re out of money–and time.

Everyone has limits. Figure out what yours are NOW and stick to them. Set a predetermined amount for what you will spend on gifts and the number of people you will be buying for.

Apply limits to your time and efforts, as well.

This means, when you are looking for gifts for your kids’ teachers, ask yourself, is it really worth driving to five different stores looking for the perfect sweater?

You are ready to wrap gifts and realize you have three bags of bows but no paper.

Before you start buying, wrapping, decorating, baking, et cetera, take inventory of what you do have on hand. This includes decorations, wrapping paper, and holiday cooking supplies.

This way, before you head out to the store, you’ll know what you have on hand, and won’t make the mistake of buying more than you need.

You’d rather get a root canal than to untangle Christmas lights.

Getting in the holiday spirit often comes with a lot of stuff. It looks so festive when it’s up, but what about the rest of the year? Do yourself a favor and head to the store and buy tons of containers–and use them. They will prove invaluable when it comes to packing up all that holiday décor.

Create categories for storage–entertaining, kids’ books, or organize by room. Then store them all together in an out-of-the-way yet accessible place. This way you won’t waste time hunting for something rather than spending time with family.

And, remember when you are taking down lights or wrapping up ornaments to take a little bit of extra time now to do it right so that it’ll be easier next year.

Your holiday cards are taking over your house.

We all love receiving holiday cards from family and friends, but what do you do with them after you oogle over how big Cousin Billy has grown or how cute Susie’s family looks?

There’s lots of clever ways on Pinterest as how to display these cards or turn them into photobooks but if you don’t have the time to do that, make cuts.

Get a container for each year and apply the 80/20 rule to who makes it into your holiday card photo archive. Lori suggests keeping those from close family members and friends (especially those with personal messages or photos) and recycle the ones from your real estate agent or dentist, for example.

Unneeded gifts are cluttering up your house.

Lori has some shocking yet sage advice–Just because you receive a gift does not mean you need to keep it.

To quote Marie Kondo, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not things, but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” Embrace the joy you feel when you receive a gift, but don’t keep it out of obligation.

On another level, don’t be a “spreader of gift clutter.” Many of our friends and family members are fortunate to have enough stuff. Experiential gifts like trips or concert tickets can go a long way in terms of creating lasting memories.

You’re stressing over what to do for co-workers.

Speaking of being a “spreader of gift clutter,” talk in advance with your workplace team about how to handle the holidays.

Set standards for a gift exchange, a Secret Santa, or holiday cards. Or, in lieu of gifts, host a little celebration with the team, inside or outside the office.

Of course, for managers cash bonuses for individual team members are always much appreciated if a viable option.

The new year is giving your team anxiety.

There’s always high hopes for a new year. To get started off on the right foot and with a clean slate, initiate a team “clean up.”

Whether emotional, physical or both, encourage your team to purge bad feelings, hash out and resolve grudges and clean up work spaces. Give them some space and time to organize common areas, supply closets or break rooms, clean off surfaces, trash old papers, and clean up their desks.

Making it a team effort will inspire collaboration, buy-in to commit to sustaining it, and set you up for success in 2018.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.

12 Stress-Free Days of Christmas: The Secrets to Managing Stress at Work

stress free for holidays
It’s the time of year–the time to feel stressed! But a little awareness can go a long way.

Why is it that what’s supposed to be the jolliest time of year is riddled with stress and deadlines–personal and professional? Gifts to buy. Casseroles to bake. Family to see. Reviews to make. Quotas to meet. Deals to close…

The to-do lists get looooonger this time of year as the time to tackle it gets much, much shorter. It’s no wonder a lot of us feel like we have more in common with the Grinch than Tiny Tim. (In fact, studies show 70 percent of professionals are more stressed this time of year).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. A little awareness can go a long way.

In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 unique ways to keep stress at bay this holiday season.

Sleep.

If there’s only one thing you can do to manage stress—it’s sleep. If you aren’t well rested, everything else is likely to go haywire–your mood, your diet, your exercise, your work quality.

So, prioritize it.

Don’t stay up late wrapping gifts for your co-workers. People would much rather have a happy, healthy officemate than a grump with a beautifully wrapped candle in hand.

Forgo that second cookie.

Sure, sweets are a part of the season. But there’s something you need to remember–sugar can be your enemy.

There’s really nothing good about sugar except for the taste. It’s bad for your body. It can wreak havoc on your sleep. And, it can even cause depression. Oh, and it’s addictive, too.

If you have too much sugar in a day, you’ll have a high and then crash–leaving you little energy to accomplish anything and causing your stress levels to sky rocket.

So, when you find yourself reaching for another frosted reindeer, go for a walk and wait until that dopamine level drops.

Match water with cocktails.

While on the topic of the evil of sugar, it’s worth mentioning that alcohol has sugar in it.

Too many cocktails can not only lead to bad decisions, but it can mess with your sleep and cause anxiety, stress, and depression.

While at the holiday party, think before you drink–and, drink water in between each cocktail. This will help fill you up and cushion the blow of a potential hangover.

Get moving.

Yes, you have a lot to get done. But news flash, taking time to exercise may actually energize you to get more accomplished.

If you must go shopping during your lunch break, take the full hour and walk some laps around the mall, or take a few flights of stairs each time you need to hit the restroom.

Work in a little movement in here and there, and feel some big spikes in your energy level.

Create white space.

Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a really great blog post on the importance of scheduling nothing. “Use that buffer time to think big, catch up on the latest industry news, get out from under that pile of unread emails, or just take a walk,” he said.

Creating white space on your calendar for yourself is a way to seize your day back, rather than let it be beholden to to-do lists, emails, and phone calls.

This time of year, use that time to reflect on the past and what you’d like to accomplish in 2018. This will help you prepare for those end-of-year performance reviews lurking around the corner.

Resist the frenzy.

People are in a rush more this time of year than ever. The hot topic of conversation is how everyone doesn’t have time to have a conversation because they are so busy.

Don’t buy the hype. Buck it. Slow down and prioritize. Look at everything you have to get done and aim to get rid of 20 percent of it by delegating, pushing it off to next year, or simply not doing it at all. You may be surprised by how rewarding that feels.

Create a helpful culture.

If you feel like you’re drowning, chances are your team feels that way, too. Talk to them about how you recognize that everyone has a lot on their plate and tell them to speak up if they need help.

Emphasize the importance of leaning on one another, and the art and magic of true collaboration.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Don’t wait until you’re totally freaking out to start trying to calm yourself down.

Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce blood pressure, promote feelings of relaxation, and help you de-stress.

Try this simple exercise–inhale for the count of four. Then slowly exhale for a count of four. Work up to inhaling and exhaling for a count of six. Do it for five minutes a day and see how much more relaxed you are.

Manage expectations.

You have a lot to do and not as much time to do it–don’t keep that a secret. Tell your co-workers, clients, and family members about your limited availability and the potential for slower response times so they know what to expect from you.

This way you hopefully won’t be caught in a situation where everyone is making you feel like you’re disappointing them.

Tell them what’s up.

You know that saying that communication is key–well, it really is key this time of year–especially if you are working globally or in dispersed teams where colleagues and clients may not understand what holidays in the U.S. entail.

Be upfront about your schedule and capacity so they aren’t expecting to hear from you when you’re huddled by the tree feverishly trying to put together a kitchen set for your child.

Compartmentalize.

The holidays can be emotional times–the intensity of family, work, and partner interactions can be heightened. And, it is tough to leave that awful fight you had with your sibling behind as you walk into your office.

Do your best to let that friction go. People are extra sensitive this time of year so don’t take what they say personally. And, understand that you can handle whatever is on your mind later once everyone cools down.

Don’t overcommit.

Best laid plans are, well, that. Know that things will pop up or not work out, and it’s okay. Be flexible. Do only what must absolutely be done–and try to enjoy yourself.

*This article was originally posted on Inc.