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We’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day in two days. Haven’t bought your loved ones anything yet? Don’t panic. OK, maybe a little panic. You’ve got 48 hours! The following are some nice gift ideas that will express your feelings and keep you out of the dog house, all without creating a pile of clutter that must be dealt with at some point:
- Create an unexpected playlist. Many Gen-X’ers out there remember the labor-intensive, excruciating process of creating a mix tape for a loved one. The careful selection of exactly the right songs, placed in precisely the proper order to create a crescendo of meaning and feeling. Only the right mix of sentiment, fun, humor, and truth would do. And it all had to fit perfectly on a 60-minute cassette. The harder you worked, the more your recipient meant to you.
Today, the process is less labor intensive (raise your hand if you remember holding a tape recorder up to the radio to capture a song), but just as meaningful. If your loved one has an Mp3 player like an iPod, sneak into his or her iTunes account and create a playlist of songs that speak to your relationship. Give it a fun name and sync the results to her device. Her commute to work, etc. just got that much more pleasant.
- Get the car detailed. My wife did this for me last year and I was elated. I keep my car tidy but I can’t get it anywhere near as nice-looking as a well-equipped professional can. Some detailers will even travel to you for on-site cleaning. While the kids did eventually track sand and Goldfish crackers into the car again, it was a nice few weeks before they did and extremely appreciated.
- Gather favorite photos. I admit that I still like looking at paper photos more than their digital counterparts. Holding a picture in my hand is nicer than sitting in front of a screen or even holding a tablet or a smartphone. That might be a function of my age, but I suspect some of you feel that, too. It’s also nice to browse a well-ordered album, and there are several companies that produce great-looking photo books. Shutterfly does a great job, as does Apple, if you use its iPhoto software. I’ve ordered several photo books from Apple and they look great.
- Get a landscaping consultation. I love “fiddling in the yard” as I call it but I’ll admit that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Last summer, I spent about an hour talking with some folks at a local nursery and learned so much. Most landscaping companies offer free consultations, so consider that if your better half enjoys gardening or landscaping. Also, check with local colleges, universities, or adult education organizations for classes in landscaping or really anything that will encourage an interest or hobby.
- Re-live a first date. In 1986, I took my very first date to see Jumpin’ Jack Flash. I’m not eager to see that movie again, but I suspect it’d bring back some pleasant memories if I did. It’d be great fun to take your significant other back to the restaurant, theatre, hot dog stand (etc.) that marked the beginning of your relationship.
- Digitize home movies. This one will take some planning, but it’ll be worth it. Many people have boxes of 8mm movies sitting around or old VHS tapes. The simplest method of digitizing them is to set up the projector (many rental stores will have one if you don’t) and a digital camera. Roll the film, record with your digital camera and then import it into your computer.
When recording, keep these tips in mind. Make sure the room is as dark as possible. Position your digital camera on a tripod and keep it as close to the reel-to-reel projector as possible, so that the angle is nearly identical. Zoom into the projected image as closely as possible. Finally, manually set the camera’s focus, as the auto focus could have trouble in this scenario.
Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!
A friend recently reposted the following job listing on his Facebook wall, hoping his friends would refer qualified candidates for the position:
Government affairs firm seeks administrative/executive assistant for firm’s Senior Partner. Main responsibilities will include organizing travel and schedule for Senior Partner, managing correspondence on his behalf, and other as-needed tasks at his request. Other responsibilities will be related to office management and will involve simple bookkeeping. The ideal candidate will be detail-oriented with strong communication and computer skills. Knowledge of Capitol Hill preferable. Spanish fluency required. Please send cover letter and resume to…
As I read through the post, several names immediately came to mind…at least until I made my way to the penultimate sentence which indicated the position required fluency in Spanish. That job requirement obviously restricts the pool of qualified applicants considerably.
Imagine the amount of time collectively wasted by thousands of non-Spanish-speaking job seekers reading almost the entire listing before realizing they were unqualified for the position.
If the person who wrote the listing had included any non-negotiable requirements in the first or second sentence, then it would have given any unqualified job seekers an immediate cue that they could stop and skip directly to the next post. Here is how a revised listing might have read:
Government affairs firm seeks administrative/executive assistant fluent in Spanish for firm’s Senior Partner. Main responsibilities will include organizing travel and schedule for Senior Partner, managing correspondence on his behalf, and other as-needed tasks at his request. Other responsibilities will be related to office management and will involve simple bookkeeping. The ideal candidate will be detail-oriented with strong communication and computer skills. Knowledge of Capitol Hill preferable. Please send cover letter and resume to…
By front-loading important information — whatever it may be — you show respect for other people’s time by giving them the ability to make an early exit. Unless you’re M. Night Shyamalan, this principle can probably be applied to all your writing. It can also be applied to voicemails, where if the person didn’t get your telephone number upon first listen he can go back and only listen to the first few seconds of it again to retrieve what he needs.