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While I’m no Oprah with an internationally famous “Favorite Things” list or Ellen with the 12 days of Giveaways madness, I do recognize the challenges of holiday gift giving — and professional and military leaders are no exception. To help inspire some thinking on gifts for those challenging professionals on your list, below are some of my favorite items from 2019 and ones I’m excited about in 2020.

Most of these items don’t fit the typical “military tactical leader” list of field gear or gadgets. Instead, they more reflect my current operational environment in a “broadening assignment” with less field time and more professional business workplace environment. Yet, I believe many can benefit from these items no matter their field of work or environment.

Personal Items

Garmin Fenix Watch. I love the Fenix watch; it provides for all of my running needs (GPS, heart rate, linking to Strava, etc.), has a land navigation widget that provides 10-digit MGRS points, has a long battery life, and links to my phone for notifications. While I own the year-old 5-series, there is an extensive line from older versions (3, 4, or 5) to the current 6 series to match varying budgets.

Darn Tough Tactical Socks. I love Darn Tough brand socks. They are the only socks I wear for all of my running efforts (to include trail and endurance running) and now also the only Army Combat Uniform boot socks I wear.

Index Card Carriers. With a blog named 3×5 Leadership, of course I carry 3×5-inch index cards with me — at all times. I carry this one from Rite in the Rain for all tactical environments and this one from Levenger for more professional office ones. The Levenger one also enables me to carry business cards in it. (Check out the blog’s About Page to learn more behind the 3×5 Leadership name).

Tactical Notebook Covers. No matter your note-taking and professional organization style preferences (3-ring binder, standard green notebook, Moleskin, etc.), the notebook cover industry is so robust, they can meet all of your needs. I use this tactical cover from Tactical Notebook Covers for my 3-ring binder to keep all of my notes, references, and tracking documents with me. I also use this TAM cover from the same company for my green notebook tactical cover. Beyond those, the Battleboard Scout and Battleboard Expedition covers has piqued my interest for other, future options (which includes mapboard resources).

Developmental Reading (& Listening) Subscriptions. Beyond the hard-copy bound book, I turn to Amazon Kindle to get a copy of my next read. I also supplement my reading with audiobooks, which I discuss the value of here. While there are some free audiobook resources available, I keep coming back to my Audible subscription because they have an unparalleled library. Beyond those, I subscribe to the Harvard Business Review for additional leader development reading and learning.

Rubber Rings. In bouncing between military field training exercises, physical training, and the office (sometimes even in a single day), and due to being left-handed, this new market of rubber wedding rings is a huge blessing. I imagine many other professionals in similar fields would agree. My wife and I like the Qalo brand rings.

Workplace Tools

Standing Desk. They have become a staple of the modern workplace. They are a great option to keep your body in motion. While the VERIDESK brand is a common brand, the VIVO brand is a more affordable option as well. For those looking to do a FULL office remodel around a standing desk, you can look at the VERIDESK PRODESK series. I would also recommend an “anti-fatigue” floor mat to stand on when starting off.

Personalized Stationary. I am huge into personalized stationary. They are a great way to be a salesman/woman for your organization and to leave a great impression. I use them for thank you letters, birthday notes, and gratitude letters. While you can start with a simple and affordable option, you can also turn to companies like Vistaprint to make customized stationary. Currently, I use Vistaprint to make 3×5 Leadership thank you letters, gratitude cards for my West Point cadet company, and “from the Tactical Officer” cards to send personal thank yous and birthday cards. Never underestimate the power of hand-written notes; it’s becoming a lost art. This is a great way to leave a great, lasting impression.

Presentation Tools. To capitalize on the art of giving quality presentations, no matter what type or environment, you need two presentation tools: a wireless presenter and an extending pointer. I always keep both with me at work.

Whiteboards. I use whiteboards for everything — from the growing popular #WhiteboardWednesday leadership quotes, to counseling sessions to help capture and model ideas, to the essential starting point for problem-solving. I keep two whiteboards in my office: a large one for big discussions and working groups, and a small, lap-sized one to use for individual counseling sessions or conversations.

And As Always…Books

Below are some of my favorite books I read in 2019.

And some titles that I’m excited to check out in 2020 (newly released or soon-to-be). These are in addition to the already 216 books currently sitting on my Goodreads To-Read List


A Few Disclaimers!

I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. This means that I earn a small fee when you purchase linked items from Amazon.com and affiliated sites. All money made through Amazon affiliation is used to operate the 3×5 Leadership blog and help offset the out-of-pocket cost to maintain the site. I only recommend items that I personally use and that I think will add value to other readers; I am not a paid sponsor by any company or product listed above. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The thoughts and recommendations in this post reflect my personal views only and not that of the United States Military Academy or U.S. Army.


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