Knitting to a deadline can be an uncomfortable process, it may be good uncomfortable or bad depending on your point of view. Whenever an occasion creeps up on us that calls to us for knitted items, knitters of the world rise to that occasion. Be it the birth of a baby, the holidays, or a birthday, these dates tend to be known in advance, but are not always acted on in advance.
Before tackling a gift knit a few things to consider are the amount of yarn to be used, do you have the yarn already, if not can you get it locally or will you have to order it, the size of the project, and a realistic estimate about the amount of time you have to devote to knitting this particular gift. Oh, one other thing, the complexity of the item to be knit.
If you have a week, and not counting sleep, work and daily life you probably only have about 5 hours a day to knit at the most. And if the project you are planning calls for 10 skeins of fingering weight yarn-knit on size 0 needles and additionally if it uses techniques you have never tried out before you might want to re-think the project.
An alternative, one I have sadly not tried yet and for this holiday season it is too late, is to determine in advance what project you want for which occasion in the coming year. Gather up everything you will need for the project, yarn, needles, copy of the pattern and put it all together in an appropriately sized project bag. Tag the bag with date it has to be completed by, and hope there is enough time in the days ahead. Do this for each project you have in mind, and you can cast on each project, and have them handy to work on whenever you have a free minute or a free hour.
It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, if you have a lot of items and do not knit fast, you may want to stick with patterns you are comfortable with or that are not very complex. If you limit yourself to a few, you might try something outside of your skill level to master a technique.
Depending on each project's complexity, some may lend themselves to knitting in public better than others. If you have these projects ready to go and near by there is the possibility that you will actually work on them. Working on them is what is required to finish them. Finishing them is what is required to gift them.
Of course there is always the option of wrapping the parts you have completed in a box, with a promise to finish!