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Big Ideas

20 Gifts for the Productivity Nerd in Your Life (2011 Edition)

Shopping for the discerning creative in your life? Or maybe you just need a few things to add to your own wishlist? Look no further than our super-curated holiday gift guide.

They say “it’s the thought that counts,” but everyone knows you get major bonus points for giving gifts that your special someone will actually use. So without further ado, welcome to the 99U’s highly curated and pragmatic guide to holiday shopping. Whether it’s getting organized, stimulating your brain, rocking out at your desk, or just transporting your gear, we’ve got something for that special (nerdy) someone in your life.

99U Messenger Bag ($80)
We partnered with SF’s sustainability-minded Rickshaw bags to make a supercool custom messenger bag just for 99U fans (with our old-school 99% logo). It’s got a quick-adjust shoulder strap, lots of pockets, and sweet little details like a “make ideas happen” tag and an interior zip pouch with our Edison inspiration: “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.”

Slice Box Cutter ($19.99)
Winner of the Red Dot Design award, this is the Bentley of box cutters. The perfect gift for the serial online shopper with a constant flow of boxes to break down!


PlugBug ($35)
Made for all Macbook power adapters, PlugBug streamlines the charging process by allowing you to charge your laptop and your iPad or iPhone from one outlet with one cord. As Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify.”

UP bracelet ($99.99)
For those fond of data tracking, Jawbone’s new UP bracelet is pretty much the ultimate gift. The lightweight band wraps around your wrist and tracks your eating, sleep, and activity habits to promote healthier living.Editor’s UPdate: Apparently, the Jawbone UP is experiencing serious hardware issues, so you might want to wait until they get them resolved to investigate this product!


Cats Let Nothing Darken Their Roar 2012 Calendar ($45)
This charming calendar from Helsinki-based designer Noa Bembibre presents funny little phrases built around the letters of each month. Printed in a limited-edition run of 700, these will sell out fast, so order asap.

003 Track Headphones ($84)
For great quality sound and a nice look, these slim profile AIAIAI headphones are just the ticket. Ear cups detach for packing, and they have a 3-button, in-line microphone for call, music, and volume control. Nice.


Malcolm Gladwell: Collected ($50.40)
Tis the season to get your Gladwell on with this gorgeous box set of Mr. Malcolm’s greatest hits, including The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. But what we really love are the awesome illustrations from Brian Rea.

Bakelite Pencil Sharpener ($17)
If you know one of those crazy creatives who still uses pencils, this Bakelite sharpener may be the perfect stocking stuffer. It fits two sizes of pencils, and is made of duroplast – a recycled material that is reportedly “as strong as steel.”


Action Circa Notebook ($34)
The Circa notebook – a collaboration with Levenger – is the latest addition to Behance’s Action Method paper product line. The patented circa system allows you to mix and match Action Method and/or Dot Grid sheets to create your own little productivity ecosystem.

Takumi Jet Lag Clock ($40)
If you don’t want to be tethered to your mobile phone for all your clocking needs, the Jet Lag Travel Clock offers a clean and simple alternative. It’s good looking, low-profile, and has all the functionality you need and not a button more.


BEAMS Pack from InCase ($179.95)
Normally, we wouldn’t have included such an expensive backpack, but this new collab between InCase and premium Japanese brand Beams cannot be ignored. With padded pockets for your Macbook pro AND your iPad, this super-stylish backpack is a tech nerd’s wet dream.

Kaweko Classic Sport Rollerball ($22)
When screwed shut, this classic Kaweko sport pen is just about the length of an iPhone. It delivers a nice, bold line, comes in a range of classy colors, and fits neatly in even tiny pockets. Can’t go wrong here.


Holstee Manifesto Poster ($25)
Need a daily kick in the ass? Or perhaps a reminder that life is short? Just place this Holstee manifesto poster over your desk and you’re good to go.

Bamboo Bottle ($25)
With a bamboo wrapper around a glass container, this high-design water bottle is sustainable, portable, and accommodates hot and cold beverages without fear of those icky BPAs.


Pivot Power ($29.99)
Solve the issue of plugging lots of large adapters into one power strip with Pivot Power from the inventor-driven product design company Quirky.

Folding Pocket Scissors ($8)
Like to run around with your scissors but still play it safe? These foldable steel pocket scissors are great for snipping on the go, and they look pretty damn slick, too.


Dot Grid Cahiers, 2-pack ($7)
Behance’s Dot Grid Cahiers – in black or natural – tuck right into your back pocket so you’re always ready to capture good ideas. The pad’s light geometric dot matrix serves as a subtle guide for notations and sketches.

Bookman Bike Lights ($29.99 for two)
Bike lights should always come in twos, shouldn’t they? This pair includes one white light and one red light that strap onto your cycle with a dead simple bungee cord attachment system. A great stocking stuffer for the fixee crowd.


Felt iPad Sleeve ($52)
Like to stash your Apple electronics in style? Rib and Hull makes a lovely line of felt and leather cases for stashing your iPad, Macbook Pro, and Macbook Air. Gift Subscription ($25)
Got a friend who needs to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, Final Cut Pro or some other creative software? You can give the gift of knowledge with a 1-month membership to’s awesome software tutorials.

What’s On Your List?

What are the must-haves on your productivity nerd shopping list?

More Posts by Jocelyn K. Glei

A writer and the founding editor of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei is obsessed with how to make great creative work in the Age of Distraction. Her latest book is Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distraction, and Get Real Work Done. Her previous works include the 99U’s own bestselling book series: Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark. Follow her @jkglei.

Comments (21)
  • The Sauce Boss

    Very Nice gift selection choices. I have a quarter of these already.

  • Santiago

    The AIAIAI headphones are terrible quality I bought a pair of the in-ear ones and broke down after a week, changed them for the track model and broke down after two weeks, look great, great packaging, nice logo, terrible headphones

  • Kyreena Hay

    what? I love my AIAIAI’s! I’ve had my track headphones for two years now and they’re the best headphones I’ve ever owned. A friend of mine is a sound engineer, and DJ in San Fran and swears by his TMA-1 AIAIAI’s.

    Sounds like you got duds, dude. 🙁

  • Helen Crozier

    As much as I love the concept I’d be wary of the Jawbone UP – take a look at the forums to see how many are bricking.

  • jkglei

    Thanks for the feedback, Santiago. I have those headphones & they are working well for me. But I also like these:… – We do try to roadtest as many products as possible before recommending them!

  • Ll

    I was very excited to see this Jawbone UP and then read some reviews. Looks like a dud product. What a shame, could be awesome.

  • holzgrill

    nice selection

  • Victor Mathieux

    This is a shameless plug but given the topic, I think it’s appropriate. A great gift for productivity nerds is A Goal Planner. V2 will be coming out on December 14th, right in time for the Holidays and all those New Years Resolutions.

  • jkglei

    Nice one. That’s pretty cool, Victor!

  • blm

    A great list! I’d be happy to get anything here. (Just in case Santa is reading this. :))

  • Andrew Spear

    That’s a great list! With a title like that I expected it to be all books but there were none, nice work. However to balance the force here are two cool book gifts for productivity nerds:

    The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick

    My Little Geek, for kids and parents

  • jkglei

    Don’t worry, Andrew, there IS a books recommendation list. It’s right here!… : )

  • copywriting career

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  • dissertation writing uk

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  • Eric

    Will order for sure! 😉

  • Daniel Sircar

    I think everyone here would also be interested in this dual-purpose stylus (currently on Kickstarter). It’s a dead-simple, high quality ballpoint pen that becomes a stylus when you retract the tip.

  • ArlanTonogbanua

    You made certain fine points there. I did a search on the matter and found nearly all folks will go along with with your blog.
    Your girlfriend

  • gifts for girlfriend

    This year everybody seems to want to personalize items with initials and
    names instead of company logos. Laser-engraved wood picture frames and
    clocks with a person’s name make really beautiful and memorable gifts

  • Rich

    There are all such good ideas for presents for productivity nerds. I quite like the book (below) “My Little Geek, for kids and parents”, pretty useful:-)

  • Bobby Dazzler

    nice list indeed! This bamboo ‘cable fondler’ might interest you all

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