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Staying focused in a world that is so technology driven takes a lot of versatility, diligence, and fervor to accomplish things and get them done. Confucius the wise man himself actually once said, “he who chases two rabbits catches none.” As hard as it is to recognize the fact that working on more than one task at once will waste valuable time, “Life hacks” have been defined lightly as tools that make the “chaos of everyday life easier and more efficient.” When users trade these tools across the web and through other mediums, many entrepreneurs, busy folks like teachers, and medical professionals or students realize that there are many new (and old) ways to juggle their workload more efficiently and more than just survive, but thrive. We are going to haplessly claim that productivity life hacks ARE the new way of getting things done, as we dig a bit deeper.

The life hack that we found the quickest seemed simple enough: just to wake up before everyone else. As routine and run of the mill as that may seem, some of the most successful people in the world have told us that it is absolutely true. A wildly successful website owner told us that “the reason successful people wake up early isn’t to always work, it can be to waste time.” We were a bit shocked by that, but during an interview he told us that since there is such a large amount of work to be done, that the wee hours of the morning are best used for recreation. And for some CEO’s and tech gurus, that just means finding the time to glean news sources, trade journals, and the like. We believe that one of the best other life hacks we encountered was to “tackle topics you despise first.” But doesn’t that sound like it could lead to the opposite of being productive?

Much of the truly unpleasant work can be tasks in the financial realm like budgets, or customer complaint forms, especially if you are on the lower end of the current totem pole. The best truth behind this life hack is that once you get done with a few solid hours of the tasks that you enjoy least, your brain power will implode exponentially. And who doesn’t enjoy feeling like they just had a few Red Bull drinks as far as the checklist killer realm? Another of the life hacks that we found from multiple blog sources was about a topic that some love, but some dread: meetings. The mantra/life hack of “keeping meetings to a minimum” surprised us a bit, but we dug deeper to look for the silver lining.

In the days where budgets were never trimmed and people actually wanted their employees to have fun 24/7, meetings were thought of as productive, a way to have a bit of a roundtable and perhaps even bond. But as many different tasks loom and more than ever needs to be accomplished, the time spend handling the accounts could be much wiser than the time spent mulling over past notes. Either way, keeping meetings to a minimum has helped many of our cohorts. One who was an owner of a prominent shoe company in Los Angeles admitted that, “we realized much of what was accomplished was just as easy done over instant messenger, and as long as employees were praised and rewarded for good work, cutting them to a minimum was a great choice.” And hey, we know everyone likes a break, but the load in your inbox simply hasn’t shrunk the last hour, as much as you’d like it to!

Keetria_Benchmark Check out my recent interview with Andy Shore of Benchmark Email where I dish out my two cents on PR and marketing. I’ve worked with many talented artists, celebrities and companies and in this podcast episode I share my insight and experiences. Be sure to check it out below. Thanks for your support!

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Technology, trending music and the tragically hip editorials that many are interested in is what GrungeCake has been wonderfully doling out the last time we took a look. Popcan Bonds, Blitz The Ambassador, and Dawn are all in the latest issue of this slick publication that was conceived by creator Richardine Bartee 12 years ago. A true authority on all different kinds of acts, fashion, acts of prowess and humility among artists, and a vibe that surpasses the simple “urban” spectrum, GrungeCake is rolling dominantly across the digital landscape larger than ever. A variety at large collective of reviews, artist management mantras, and presentation of art, people are no doubt paying attention to the diverse and iconic platform.

Recently tweeting that she was delighted about a pair of Vans she received and excitement about teaming up to create a girl powered playlist for Cherrybomb Music, Richardine is an avid personality that has interviewed some of the hottest talent on the globe. With a very targeted and specific taste, this online publication is supportive to artists and cultivates a rich style with just a touch less bling than the other mags and blogs out there.

This month on Instagram The Black Opera claimed that she has been “reppin since conception”, and praised Richardine for her business sense and overall evolution. GrungeCake itself had its humble beginnings as a sparsely circulated twice yearly publication, and now is a full time media offering with coverage of this year’s Cannes event, just for starters. A Mad Max review, a feature on Express accepting Apple Pay, and an article on Beats By Dre’s latest collaboration with MCM are all presented with sharp clarity and wit in the latest written pieces.

The show “Shark Tank” has become wildly popular; it’s premise is all about up and coming entrepreneurs making the ultimate pitch for cash to investors. In her pitch on the program, Richardine suggested a service crafted to bring back some better fundamentals and credibility to the music industry as a whole, that has been suffering a chiseling away at its image over the last decade. Also helping out in the testing of “Audibase,” she tests it out for overall ease of use and debugging; after a few more rounds of investment this will surely be a sweet thing in the industry. A format for sharing longer clips of audio on blogs, websites, and the like, she absolutely recognized the promise and potential of the service that’s still at the drawing board.

Flashback Fridays, awesome playlists, songs of the day, and very introspective reviews are all offered in the music section. Fully pulling off the ability to give news, provide true insight, and upper caliber opinion of what’s going on in the music realm, the overall vibe of GrungeCake is a bit more durable and deep than some. Not possessing the fully plastic theme and presence that some online forums have, there’s a bit more raw goods and catchiness here, much like the way that “Vice” lays down the law. To the point grit and advice within track reviews such as “Would I buy it? no. Should you buy it? If you want to” lean towards the brief, not heady opinions that many are looking for in today’s internet world. What we really commend GrungeCake and Richardine  for is following through on vision; as a child she wanted to do interviews and publicity for figures in entertainment & music. Her vision and success is refreshing as ever, and now she’s the purveyor of an internet hive of pleasantly hip, and skillfully entertaining content.

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For many decades , there were rules in the marketing world that some just didn’t break. Product development, testing, ad writing and really all aspects of branding were held to a certain business model. The cookie cutter rules did work. Even in the early days of the computer age, there was pretty cut and dry product testing, focus groups, and means of getting people to buy. The saying “The future has no road map but the past surely does” applied to marketing and branding in many ways. In the past there were many brands that used the cookie cutter method to really step up and succeed. One truth in the web and smartphone app ruled climate of the current time is that when you stumble upon a true cookie cutter marketing approach, it’s probably not going to work as well as you intended, especially if you’ve failed to incorporate your own ideas and concepts.

What a cookie cutter approach really does is emphasize a certain process. Within that process, there are charts, data, and of course, instances from the past where certain things did and did not work. While many clothing labels, soft drinks, sports teams, and even music acts benefited from the cookie cutter approach, there are some reasons why it can be a huge no no. If truly using the wrong angle and agenda, you can waste thousands on storyboards and campaigns that never even end up being parked in front of anybody. After gleaning many blogs and marketing how to material portals, we found a kind of approach that can be a bit more rewarding than a cookie cutter method. There are all sorts of products on the market these days, from dating apps and sites, to personal concierges and dog hotels. Each one of these must take a somewhat unique marketing approach to thrive. We especially loved the treatment of Jaguar cars in the TV show Mad Men, personifying the car as a mistress.

In an approach that will hopefully work for marketing, the first objective is to look at inside sales vs. outside sales structure. PPC campaigns need to be multi-layered, and not just on one prominent social media platform. When dealing with lead nurturing, we found a great quote from the popular website Hubspot. It tells us, “Offer something of value first, not just a sales pitch.” Companies that skip this always lose out in the long run, and wind up confused about whey they did not reach sales goals. Within the realm of emails, there are definitely some data backed aspects that follow a more cookie cutter created pattern, and of course the timeline between emails sent is always going to be a fairly structured. SEO guidelines, as much of a new science as it is, need to not fall under old patterns of thought as well. In the universal world of service, offerings of bronze, silver, and gold packages will yield you some customers, but we have found that businesses truly want to invest in solutions with evolved professionals. We challenge you to find what it takes to evolve, and not just “dole out snacks” of cookie caliber. For once you accomplish this task, your business and the way you do business is going to reach epic proportions during 2015.

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Templates, WordPress themes, icons, graphics, and the like all fall under the kind of intellectual property that can be sold digitally online. What you are looking for in a platform that sells digital goods is a place where a customer can buy the item, check out with a form of payment, and then have access to your creation. Here we’ll look at 5 options for doing this, and getting that passive income dream kindled and burning.

Easy Digital Downloads:

The real plus side of this is that it uses the WordPress interface to effectively sell your goods online. Voted by most as one of the quicker ones to setup and maintain, the graphs and reporting available are also top notch; and you can really hone in on what is working and what isn’t. For the most part just the usual payment processor fees and the purchase of a few standard extensions that are the norm for this portal. Built in discount codes, the ability to provide payment giveaways, and thorough software licensing add ons to boot.

Send Owl:

The monthly fees are only from 9 to 40$ per month here, but you DO keep all of your sales profits from this service. The payments aren’t held for any length of time, and it works with Merchant.com and Paypal. The built in affiliate tool is a very strong point of their model, and their security receives very high marks along with the varied language platform. A great “pay what you want” feature lets people give you suggested donations while not undercutting too much, or going below a certain point. Another great aspect of this service is the “instant buy” feature, where it’s so quick that the customers don’t even need a shopping cart to check out.

Woo Commerce:

One of the most recognized names out there, this is a great portal for ebooks, music, and just about any digital product you can think of. You get the choice of whether or not your products are downloads or virtual take-aways, and ease of tax processing is one of the best features of Woo Commerce. There are lots of payment gateway extension, coupon campaigns and other marketing options, and they power nearly a fourth of all e commerce websites. What many recommend as the only way to do business, Woo Commerce is streamlined, simple, efficient, and all around very popular.

Shopify:

One developer told us that Shopify is absolutely the best and most versatile e commerce tool out there. Customers get access to the content they get from you instantly, and any product updates you have are forwarded to customers as easy as pie. Another developer out on Portland told us that since installation and use a year ago, she has literally not had a single glitch or issue. Quickly gaining popularity, and ranked high for ease of use, it’s a very simple to use and efficient extension to any shop. The vintage goodness, deli, and beauty themes are just a few offered that are diverse enough to attract even the savviest web surfer.

E Junkie:

The main premise here works off of just simple buttons that are placed on the site where the digital items you need sold reside. All the usual payment processors such as Paypal, Authorize.net, TrialPlay, and 2Checkout are accepted. Ebooks, mp3 tracks and albums, fonts, artwork, and event tickets are all digital goodies that can be peddled here. Some don’t like the fact that they feel the buttons appear a bit outdated, but vendors love how easy they are to install on a site. There are no transaction or bandwidth limits, and inventory management, analytics, and check out page customization are all available for the E junkie seller in you.

Selz:

The platform that is truly known as one that you can add your products to with zero hassle. They handle the payments with true professionalism and ease, they have free store and product pages, and it is incredibly easy to sell on Facebook, a prime feature. There’s nothing like creating a page full of art or goods and realizing you have a new partner that will allow you to sell easily. Plugging into an existing WordPress theme is simple as pie, and selling digital downloads and streaming is a breeze. Also in the emerging market potential of selling tutorials, Selz incorporates easily and allows you to teach virtually your knowledge to the entire digital realm.

 

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It can be draining to perform the same tasks day after day, even when they are profitable and your overall business plan is succeeding. When it comes to shipping, fulfillment, processing and just plain brainstorming, it can really take a lot out of you. There’s a saying that goes, “Even when all the news you hear is good, and things are on the up and up, something in your mental health could still pay the price.” Having a fresh perspective is necessary in the entrepreneurial world that without it, you may struggle. If you are managing a brand or product that is wildly successful, you may begin to obsess over tracking results, especially late into the evenings. The importance of spending time away is more and more relevant in the digital world, as we spend less time face-to-face and more hunched over laptops and tablets.

The writer who needed a rainy retreat:

A recent article from a well-known blog was about a literary agent in New York who worked from home. Whenever she stepped out, there was lots of noise, honking horns, and a sea pedestrians and traffic. She did realize how much it was really taking its toll on her day-to-day to activities. She was getting everything done, but her overall state of well being and outlook on her career was getting worse. When dealing with folks on the phone, she was becoming more irritated, and burning out quicker in the evening. She took a vacation to Portland, where she spent time cooking healthy food, hearing the rain overhead, and reading her favorite books instead of writing and producing. She claimed that upon her return, she was more rejuvenated than ever, and eager to tackle her daily tasks. The main difference was made in her outlook; when she saw the world ebb and flow without her running around trying to get everything done, she was well prepared when the time came to produce again. Back home, the noisy streets and deadlines didn’t seem as bad, she was able to retain some leftover peace.

Be careful when the going gets tough:

There are some sure fire signs that you are in emergency need of refuge. Don’t ignore them! When you begin daydreaming all day about your favorite vacation spot, it’s time to make the call to book it. When you begin to slump down over the keyboard and only wish you were at Cabos or the Grand Canyon, you’re headed for trouble! Especially in the realms of marketing and sales, reaching extreme burnout’s going to leave you in incredibly hot water; you do not want to react the wrong way in front of a potential client or new gatekeeper! These roles are the most susceptible to burnout, as dealing with people on the front lines all day can get tedious, especially during negotiation. Having time to get enough rest, the proper foods for fuel, and easing strain on your creative mind with just a two day vacation can really pay off in the long run. When you arrive back in the door from a trip to the San Juan or even just a close cabin jaunt outside they city, you’ll be well refreshed. Yes, you’re allowed to take your laptop, but beyond that, let the fresh air take over, and feel the chaos escaping you by the minute.

creativity_lightbulbs 2When your mind isn’t creative, there are going to be many elements that suffer. Sure, you can just churn out the work that needs to be done, but your upper end of production is simply not being reached. To truly revitalize yourself could take many different activities and avenues, because your best work is not going to come through when you are not at your optimum output level. Putting the right things into your body and making sure you commit to truly taking care of yourself are  essential! Whether creating content or being on your best productive level, these tips are important for you to make sure your mind is sparking your brain to produce the valuable goods you know you can.

Food:

This is so mandatory in your mantra because the nourishment that our bodies thrive on is a key to brainpower that makes it be able to constantly produce. Just like the need for water, the need for energy food is dire in your system. Antioxidants found in berries are crucial, and the anti-inflammatory properties of them are beneficial. It has also been shown that eggs have properties that enhance memory, and salmon has a lot of ammunition such as iron and B vitamins for reasoning. Eggplant has also shown to enhance communication with brain cells and the molecules themselves that make up our systems; you’re always going to perform better with at least these types of foods as a starting point.

Exercise:

When your heart rate is up, a lot of things are going to happen. First of all, your creativity factor will rise just based on the fact that you automatically feel better about yourself once you start moving. There is a period after the initial rush where your muscles may relax enough to where you don’t actually feel productive. We believe that the best time to fester creativity is while you are getting the exercise! When the treadmill is rolling or the bike is cruising fast downhill, you’ll map out all sorts of new possibilities. Just like any element, it needs to be timed perfectly, but getting exercise is going to help you right off the bat.

Brainstorming:

When you are staring a large project down in the face and at the beginning point of its life cycle, its so important to take a crucial step back. Keeping your creative mind focused does involve starting with a blank slate, and seeing what you are capable of in the long run. During a moment in which you are not feeling fully creative, brainstorming is going to involve asking yourself questions. Where does your business go from here? Am I spending too much time on unimportant tasks? And if you are in the slogan or logo department, you can really benefit from brainstorming. Writing out huge flowcharts of ideas is always to your advantage, and you can take small elements from each new idea to build one large final idea. Another large part of brainstorming is going around the table asking all sales or creative personnel their opinions on any new ideas on the horizon.

Close Friends:

Just having someone to lean on that knows your true creativity is always going to help. Being through thick and thin with a close friend will absolutely help your creative mind. When someone that has known you a long time is helping you in the creative process, you’re going to always trump whatever elements you are facing. Looking at a blank canvas can always seem daunting, but when people that have known you through thick and thin come into the picture, the creative light may shine down on you sooner and in more abundance. Truly hearing what everyone that cares about you has to input on your situation will stoke your creative scale in a good way.

Close Friends and Peace/Down Time:

When you don’t have to be going full force and taking care of all your daily tasks, downtime and being away is one of the best boosts to creativity. Just ridding yourself of all the over stimulation and stress that daily life brings with it can really make you whole again. It doesn’t have to be a getaway in a different location, it can just be some time in a room with not as much light or relaxing music. Even though it is not as kinetic, and energy-laden as a brainstorming session, peace and down time is very essential to the creative mind. After being fully powered down for awhile in a zone where the daily pressures don’t manifest themselves, creating and being successful can sometimes reappear naturally after some downtime. Revitalizing the creative mind can be a long process, but these tips will help point you in the right direction.

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Every marketer or entrepreneur knows the feeling of having several large projects that need immediate attention and completion, the ones that are vital to the survival of your commerce. A new business plan, doing taxes, maintaining your creative content, and going over invoices are part of the vital stream of tasks to stay afloat daily. Then you will have others like business to business phone calls, reading articles and other content to stay up on important trends, and looking for applications and software to streamline your process down the road. At the beginning of the year is when you are always going to plan what you really want to make happen, and it can feel daunting. But there are a few ways to at least break all of these large goals into smaller pieces.

Initial Brainstorming: plugging in early

When you know you are going to have enough tasks to keep you busy for a while, one thing that will help off the bat is utilizing time increments or sessions to narrow down the work it will take for the finished product. One very good rule of thumb during this process is to take the list of things that need to be done and write just a short sentence about it, such as: “This is such an important part of my marketing process because it involves learning code like Java.” Then, you have the very important tree of information written down that involves what you have to do, even if it’s broken down into 20 steps. These little “micro tasks” can be as quick as jotting down important updates, to going back over things you have already completed to see if there are any comments or additional updates on them. This type of brainstorming really helps because it can take place over a long period of time and does not threaten your fixed regimen.

The Periodic Process Review

When you have different things to do that seem to be the mountain too hard to climb, there’s one great thing you can do that at least may keep you in perspective and have you re-evaluate how hard you need to work. Whether it’s over your micro tasks or the entire final product, it’s more than just checking things off that are done. You really can stand back, take a look at how your overall progress is going, and make room for more growth. It’s almost like having one tab open, opening another and zooming out a bit, but can be done. Beyond just what tasks did you accomplish, you are really sizing up what the next week or so may have in store. And most importantly, don’t get discouraged over the things that you didn’t complete; you’ll be motivated to get an extra strong cappuccino and knock it all out soon.

Truly Envisioning your Success: The Finish Line

One of the hardest parts about breaking your large scale projects down to size is the sense that you’ll never get everything done. You absolutely WILL, and it can all come down to one beautiful, discerning moment on the finish line. Completing the hard tasks always seems like it may not be worthwhile while you’re doing them, but they will be. While doing extensive market research, you can come across a lot of dead ends. Many stories and facts just link back to each other with no real worth, and everyone’s trying to replicate the same success. The new year is the absolute best time to line up your priorities and size up the items that will make you the most successful. The projects and finished goal of perhaps being featured by someone you admire, or emulating their success will keep you permanently fixated; 2015 would be stellar to really knock it out of the park in terms of goals.

 

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Throwing back to a simpler time and era can be an incredibly excellent choice for a TV show. From looking at a vintage Pan Am Airlines button to seeing an old style AM radio in the basement with its flair and sheen, nostalgia is one of the best ways to gain a cult following. It is absolutely true that the characters in “Mad Men” were well thought out and especially dapper, but there is much more to the formula than just that. The real iconic element of “Mad Men” was that the advertising culture of the era had not yet really been explored, and what it was like to work then in New York or all of America. When ad exec himself Don Draper says in the show that you have to “identify the need beyond the need,” he is putting forth visually a slow film strip of what the person watching really wants.

In many circumstances, it’s comfort. As far as the current consumer landscape, who doesn’t want it? The feeling of coming home and having everything taken care of, the dog waiting for you, the perfect meal, and domestic partner waiting for you were all part of the cult success of “Mad Men”. Even though the wildly successful AMC show also portrayed these wonderful relationships going wrong at full speed, just seeing the beginning where everything is alright sets a tone for consumer desire. Immediately you are thinking of plush high heels, Jaguar cars, trips abroad, and the promise of comfort while perhaps looking for other upper end satisfactions. When Aaron Sorkin launched “The West Wing,” he really drew upon retro elements even just within office confines. While the main focus was on political pull and power, the story that was set up really presented well the ideas surrounding where everyone came from, and how they got to their present status.

From leggy sultriness to the pitches from the ad men, these were all aspects of nostalgia shows like this evoked. When all the magazines started writing about it, even those who weren’t bowled over right away were so very curious to see what Don Draper would do next. Pop art, Warhol influence, and the cluttered face of Manhattan blended so well in this show that the cult following only had to fester itself for about a year or so. What really happened to make “Mad Men” irresistible to all the viewers was the way in which it showed the characters struggling. The dresses, art on the wall, and tapping into times from ago were done very calculated; with the story of Don himself being another pinnacle backdrop. The cult following that developed around the show was not just about the visuals, campaigns and storyboards; but the flow of the way people acted back then. When things really start to unravel in your personal life and get crazy, it could have still been a wonderful time to enjoy plush green couches, scrambling Manhattan dwelling tension, and a few stiff martinis on a hurried lunch hour.

Once the holidays roll around, it’s a time in which gadgets are highly appreciated. This year’s batch of toys will be as good as any, full of high tech offerings. When the snow starts falling and you go to the airport to pick up relatives, you’re going to want to have some of the hottest new gadgets in your possession. Today, we’ll take a quick look at some of the coolest tech toys available this holiday season; any friend, family member, or business associate will be more than happy to find under the tree.

Beyerdynamic T-70 Headphones:

Crafted in Germany with the highest grade components and amazing voice coil technology, these are a gift of the highest sound influenced status to the audiophile in your circle. The standard ¼ inch adapter is gold plated, showing off just how tight these babies really are. Known to be about the most comfortable headphones on the market and one that really pushes soundscapes towards the bright level, these are simply divine. Reviewers told us that they heard things never heard before while test driving these, and were blown away.

Go Pro Silver 4 Hero Camera:

The features reviewers enjoyed most on this device were being able to swipe left to capture mode, and a quicker mode menu to cycle through. The touch screen does drain battery on this awesome machine, so its useful to have an on/off switch. The superview option gives great aspect ratio without too much distortion, and a Protune option for easing blur and edge appearance. Editor’s Choice by PC mag for the best action camera to date and hailed by many as the sleekest camera around for the price, it will be perfect as a companion gift to a vacation. What better way to document your trip?

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro:

Cnet reviewers said this was “easily the best new laptop of the year”, and this slim 13 inch gem will be a great companion as you travel far or just commute to class. Incredibly light, and with a core that core that allows for better operation even if not all the way cooled down, it’s a 360 degree foldback dream. At 2.6 pounds, its well designed, great for assignments, streaming video, and browsing. One reviewer stated that gaming hits the battery particularly hard, which usually tops out around a 7 hour life span; not surprising with the juice needed for today’s games. A nearly 4k pixel resolution screen, ability to fold to a kiosk type device, and out of this world keyboard design make it a huge favorite. You’re going to see many business travelers sitting next to you with this one during 2015.

Sony Playstation 4:

It’s been around for a year, but this is one gaming powerhouse. Titles like “Uncharted 4; A Thief’s End”, “Bloodbourne” and “The Order 1886” are exclusive to this platform, and a sleek futuristic design includes a blu ray disk drive, two USB 3.0 ports, and a digital optical audio out port. The sloped design really stands out letting us know it’s sheer one of a kind technology, and an 8 core AMD processor is inside under the hood. A 500 gb hard drive and 8 gb of RAM are part of this souped up playing machine that will have many people playing games instead of ice skating or sledding outside over the coming year.

Pebble Steel Smartwatch:

With a 1.26 inch display, durable waterproof construction, and a cool RGB notification light, this is a very over the top yet subtle at the same time gadget. Games, weather apps, productivity tools, firmware updates, and more are loaded into this little gem of wrist garb. At first glance, it does not seem colorful or flashy, but grocery lists, maps, and square type paying options are available on the Pebble. Sports scores and restaurant reviews are other super cool features you’ll see on this gadget for the holidays; in a few years the Pebble will have truly mind blowing capabilities. This year should be no problem finding the right gadget for people on your list, and you may even end up under the mistletoe in no time.