Ways to Successfully Brainstorm

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There are hundreds of ideas floating around in your head, both good and bad. Thanks to brainstorming you can get those good ideas written down and start turning them into a reality. You could even work on your bad ideas and turn them into good ones.

The first step in this creative process is brainstorming. It is probably the most important step. It’s when you start developing ideas and find ways to get started on the path to creating something great.

I want to share with you different ways I have used to successfully brainstorm ideas and topics. In order to get started, you have to first ask yourself, What constitutes a successful brainstorm? You have to remember that a brainstorm isn’t the finished product; it is just a starting point to get the ball rolling.

In order to have a successful brainstorm, you just have to these things:

  1. Know what your topic is. You want to make sure you don’t go off on a crazy tangent. Sometimes those ideas can be good ones, but when you have a project you’re working on and deadline coming up, you need to focus on the task at hand. Set the other ideas aside for another day.
  2. Write down short phrases of the ideas you’re having. You can develop them into larger ideas later. Write down a few words so you know what you mean and then move on.
  3. If you’re working in a group, you should brainstorm individually before starting a group discussion. Let everyone come up with any ideas they have, then share those ideas and get more ideas flowing.

If you’re working on something by yourself, brainstorm as much as you can and then ask someone else’s opinion on the matter.

  1. Don’t be afraid to move around. Some people think that if you doodle with crayons or hop off your chair and do a couple jumping jacks, that you’re distracted. The truth is that moving around can help get the creative juices flowing. Don’t just sit there with your nose to your paper and never look up. You can find inspiration all around you.

Once you know how to brainstorm, you can get started. There are several methods you can use to do your actual brainstorm. These are 3 of my favorite ways. I have found that they work best for me and the way I think and write.

1.       Spider Web (The Bubbles):

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In this idea I quickly brainstormed different types of animals. I split them into different kinds of topics to show a fast, easy example of how there are always different routes to take with every topic.

Spider webs work great when you’re thinking of larger ideas and their subtopics. It can stretch out as big as you want it and keep the ideas flowing. It is good to use when you’re just trying to come up with one or two word ideas.

I use this method when I’m planning a themed week or month for one the blogs I write for. I like it because I can get going on one topic and write down as many things as I can that go hand in hand with that. Then I can bounce really quickly over to another idea.

2.       Outline:

This form of brainstorming works best for structured individuals. Some people might say that an outline comes after the brainstorm, but I like to use this as my brainstorm; then I can use it to develop a more in depth outline.

I like to use outlines when I’m trying to think of lengthy ideas or a very specific topic. When I sit down to write an article, I use an outline to get all my ideas down before I start writing the actual article. It’s nice to do on the computer because as I start to write things down in an outline format, it slowly turns into an actual article. It works great for me.

3.       Non-traditional Method:

Write down ideas when they come to you. This isn’t a traditional way of brainstorming. You’re not sitting at desk purposefully thinking of ideas. But ideas can come to you at any time.

Whether your ideas are good or bad, write them down. People always think they can remember ideas they have, but later on when they try to recall that idea they can remember they had a great one but can’t remember what it was. It’s frustrating and you could have saved yourself all that grief if you had just written it down.

You used to have to keep a notepad and pen with you everywhere you went. But now, thanks to technology, you can just use your phone or tablet. There are several apps out there that you can use as brainstorming tools to help you remember any ideas you have.

You never know when inspiration will hit. These are apps are great for taking notes, setting reminders, some can even record sound.

Evernote:

Evernote

SomNote:

SomNote

Microsoft OneNote:

Microsoft OneNote

Google Keep:

After reading this you probably have several ideas that you want to develop, so pull out your paper, laptop, or whatever you use and get brainstorming. Remember to find a method that works for you. Try different ways and figure out what your brainstorming strategy is.

Two-Factor Authentication

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You probably didn’t realize it, but two-factor authentication is actually a very normal part of life. If you are an average American, you probably participate in two-factor authentication almost every day. Two-factor authentication is a security process that involves two stages of verification to verify the identity of a person or an entity before they gain access to a secured network or database. The verification process includes two of the three authentication factors: knowledge, possession, and inherence.

Although it doesn’t sound very average, you participate in two-factor authentication every time you swipe your debit card and enter your pin. This is a simple form of two-factor authentication. You present your debit card, which is a possession factor, and you enter your pin card, which is a knowledge factor. The two-factor and multi-factor security processes were developed for the US government and are now also used for monetary transactions and access to internet networks. You’ve probably come across them in various social media networks and online bank accounts.

Using two stages of verification makes it more difficult for hackers to hack into databases that contain secure information. Since hackers and hacker computers are getting smarter and smarter it’s best to use some variation of a two-factor authentication process to secure your databases. The two stages of verification in the authentication must be two of the following three authentication factors:

Knowledge Factor

This factor is something only the user knows. This factor is most widely used and usually consists of something like a saved password, a PIN (personal identification number), pattern identification, CAPTCHA, or a saved question. Many networks just use two knowledge factors to secure their users’ accounts. This doesn’t count as two-factor authentication. In order to make your network or database more secure you should use a knowledge factor with one of the other two factors: possession or inherence.

Possession Factor

This factor is something only the user has. This factor must be some type of physical object that the user has in their possession. This factor can be a key, a key card, a credit card, a debit card, a loyalty card, an ID card, a gift card, or even a phone or email that receives an automatically generated code. Google uses the possession factor for its second verification step for users who want to secure their accounts. Whenever a user tries to log in to a new computer, a new code is sent to their cell phone. After entering the code from their phone, the user can choose to save the code or get rid of it. If the computer is secure or private, the user can save the code and not worry about getting another code for that computer. If the computer is more public and the user wants to protect their account, the user can choose to have the login be a one-time thing. After entering the code, the user can use their google account without any more interference.

Inherence Factor

This factor is something only the user is. This factor isn’t used as often as the other two because it requires something biologically connected to the user. This factor regularly uses things like a fingerprint, a voiceprint, or an iris scan for verification. Various cell phone companies have begun using fingerprint recognition or voiceprint recognition to secure their users’ cell phones.

It may seem strange that people would go to so much effort to keep things secure online. But the security of the internet is actually a huge issue that various databases are dealing with right now. It’s getting more and more difficult to keep things secure online because hackers and computers are getting smarter. If two-factor authentication is provided on any of the networks you use, make sure you use it. And if you have the opportunity to provide it for your customers, go ahead and make their web experience more secure and safe by employing two-factor authentication.

Using the IRS Tax Calendar for Small Businesses

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There are few things more frustrating than forgetting an important due date that you knew you had coming up or remembering the due date but you can’t find the information you need to complete the task. For some reason people look at due dates as necessary evils. Maybe it’s from years of school, tests and papers, but whatever the reason, as a whole, we don’t like them.

No matter how we feel about due dates, there are some that we can’t put off. As a business owner you have to keep track of these due dates and other important information. You do this best by staying organized.

A reliable, easy-to-use organization system is crucial to a small business’ success. Keeping your business organized does more for you than just making it easy to find an important document or someone’s phone number. An organized business results in several positive outcomes:

  • It is easier to work in a clean, organized environment,
  • employees have a higher morale because everyone understands the company’s systems, processes and policies and
  • you are better able to keep track of financial responsibilities and information.

As a small business owner, when it comes to finances you have several responsibilities. One these responsibilities, that could be considered to be the most important and sometimes most confusing, is your company’s taxes. Staying organized is one way to help you keep on track when it comes to taxes. You need to know when things are due, what paperwork you need, what documents you should be saving, etc. Taxes are no small matter. It is imperative for the success of your company that you stay on top of your taxes.

There are several budgeting and financial tools out there that can help with this. But the most reliable source of information and probably most important tool you have at your disposal is the IRS Tax Calendar. 

The IRS Tax Calendar is put out every year. It has detailed information about important tax due dates, forms you need to fill out and much more.

There are 3 different tax calendars available. The calendar you use will depend on your type of business. Some businesses have to use more than one. They provide:

  • A General Tax Calendar
  • An Excise Tax Calendar
  • An Employer’s Tax Calendar

The calendar includes many of these features:

  • A list of legal holidays for the year
  • Due dates for electronic funds transfer of taxes
  • Specific due dates for required forms, paying taxes and other mandatory actions

These calendars do not include information regarding things such as employment or excise tax deposit rules, rules regarding trusts, gift taxes, etc. For more information on these important aspects you need to look at Publication 15.

Paying taxes and sending in these forms isn’t just a good idea, it’s required by law. There are severe penalties for late forms, filling out forms incorrectly and especially for missing dates all together. Don’t underestimate the importance of staying organized and staying ahead of the game.

Make sure you have a good organization system set up within your business. If you have employees, make sure they know all information that is pertinent to them.  This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected of them.

The IRS Tax Calendar should be high on your list of important tools and resources. Use it to stay on top of your taxes so you don’t fall behind.

Your Attitude Influences Your Success

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“If you envy successful people, you create a negative force field of attraction that repels you from ever doing the things that you need to do to be successful. If you admire successful people, you create a positive force field of attraction that draws you toward becoming more and more like the kinds of people that you want to be like.” – Brian Tracy

When I was in high school I was so critical of everyone around me. I remember one day I was at the mall with my mom. Every time someone walked passed us I had something negative to say about them. I would lean over to my mom and say something about their hair, their clothes, their mannerisms, anything negative I saw. It was harsh, but I didn’t see that. It wasn’t until my mom pointed it out that. She pulled me aside and told me flat out that she didn’t like my attitude. That my negativity was dragging everyone around me down to my level.

When my mother first said that to me I became defensive and tried to justify myself to her. I asked her if I was wrong in what I was saying about those people. I pointed out a woman that clearly had not gotten ready that day. She was wearing clothes with stains, her hair wasn’t done and her kids were going crazy. My mom told me that I had no idea what was going on her life; no idea why she hadn’t gotten ready yet; no idea why she was at the store alone; I had no business judging her. My mom proceeded to point out to me that my attitude was one that she didn’t want to be around and if I kept this up, she would choose to not spend time with me anymore. Yeah, talk about an awkward ride home.

When we finally got home I sat down and really thought about what she said to me. I realized that my negativity was affecting not only me but everyone around me. It was bringing me down to a place where I couldn’t progress. I was so focused on other people that I couldn’t see that I was the one with the problems.

Once I realized what I was doing to myself and those around me, I decided to change. Instead of pointing out everyone else’s misfortunes, I only said positive things about them. When I went to the mall, I would complement people on their hair, clothes, etc. The change was immediate. I started to see things in people that I hadn’t before. I began to see things in my life that I personally needed to work on. Once I could see those things in myself, I could better understand what I needed to do to become the kind of person I wanted to be.

I learned from personal experience that envy attracts negativity. When you see someone who has something you want, learn from their lives and what they did to reach that point. Don’t belittle them and the things they’ve done because you’re jealous.

So how do you stop envying others and stop seeing the negative in everything?

1. Only say positive things about others. This was the first step for me when I changed. As I began to look for the good things in others, I was able to see them a lot easier.

2. Don’t judge. It’s not your place to judge. You don’t know other people’s life story. Give them the benefit of the doubt and move on.

3. Be grateful. Learn to appreciate the things you have.

4. Work on yourself first. When you want to change something, focus on you. You can’t change other people. You don’t control them. But you can change yourself.

5. Focus on a goal. Know what you want out of life and work hard for it.

6. Have role models. These are the people that have qualities you admire. As you focus on their good characteristics, you will have a desire to work hard to be more like them.

7. Understand the difference between admire and envy. When you admire someone you want to work hard to become like them. When you envy someone you wish that they didn’t have the quality or possessions that you want.

I was so glad that my mom said something to me. I realized what I was becoming. I was negative, cynical and a pessimist. If you know me now, you know that’s not who I am at all anymore. I love looking on the bright side. I understand that no one’s perfect. I have people in my life that I admire and strive to be like. I still slip up sometimes, like with the jerk who cut me off on my way to work this morning. (Definitely didn’t give her the benefit of the doubt.) But I’m working on it!

Multi-Tasking: Do You Have What it Takes?

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In today’s technology based society we can’t help ourselves when it comes to multi-tasking. We check Facebook while working or our e-mail while talking to someone on the phone. No matter what we need to get done, it seems that we have to be doing something else at the same time. Many people seem constantly distracted or rushed. While it’s true that multi-tasking can serve a purpose, it can also be very detrimental, especially in the workplace.
Think about the last time you were trying to get three or four things done at once. You were probably stressed, worried and had overextended yourself. Multi-tasking is not for everyone. And it would probably be best if you could avoid it altogether. Unfortunately, there are circumstances that require it. Before going out and taking on multiple tasks or projects, take these points into consideration and determine if multi-tasking will help or hinder the situation.
• Facing a Deadline:
Are you coming up to a deadline with multiple projects that need to get done? Perhaps your boss gave you a handful of assignments at the last minute. These are times when multi-tasking becomes inevitable. Delegate what you can to others or ask for help. Then, there are times that you just want to finish everything and have some free time. That is not a good enough reason. You will do a better job and be less stressed if you pace yourself.
• Staying Organized:
Many stressful situations requiring you to multi-task could have been avoided if you had done the proper planning ahead of time. Keep track of all your tasks and when they need to be done by. Schedule a time each day to complete a task or section of a task. This will keep you up to-date and away from any sticky situations.
• Don’t Overdo It:
Know your limits. If you take on too much and become too stressed to finish the work or you do a poor job, you just lost the company money or even put your job at risk. If you have too much on your plate, you either have to be willing to ask for help or be ready to overexert yourself.
• Power Trip:
We all know these people, the ones who take on too much just to stay in control. They don’t want to give up any power to others. If you are this type of person, you need to understand the importance and value of delegating. A strong leader is someone who sees talents in others and gives them a chance to prove their skills. This is the worst reason to multi-task. You are risking the work for your pride.
• Risks of Multi-Tasking:
Some the obvious risks are that you will become stressed and overwhelmed. You could end up doing a job poorly or incorrectly. It becomes easier to miss important details because you are only focused on the big picture. There are other consequences that aren’t as prevalent. Since you aren’t focusing on one project, you lose the ability to think creatively. You move from one topic to another so quickly, you can’t problem solve or think clearly.
Whatever your reason for multi-tasking, make sure it is worth it. If you are able to multi-task and stay productive, you will be able to get more done in a shorter time frame. This could improve your work reputation and increase your skills on the job. You know yourself the best. You have to decide if you can handle everything that goes hand in hand with multi-tasking.

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New Year’s Resolutions

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Professional Marketing International understands the importance of always improving.  Continuing to strengthen yourself and your business will help you now and in the future.  A business that stands still is a business that is being passed up by the competition.  You should always strive to be better.

The New Year is the perfect opportunity to look for improvements you can make in your business.  Whether you are investing in real estate or running an online business, you can make strides to refine and revamp various aspects of your business dealings.

Goal Setting for Beginners:

Start small.  That is the most important thing to remember.  If you attempt to tackle a huge project and fail, you will have a hard time trying again.  Set goals that will take hard work and effort on your part but are doable.

Only focus on one or two things at once.  If you try to change 10 things about your business in one week, you, your employees and your customers will all be frustrated and confused.

Make a plan that will help you along the way.  Write down all the steps that need to happen in order for the goal to be accomplished.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.  Have a meeting with your employees and let them know your plan.  Keeping goals a secret is a sure fire way to fail.  Letting others know what you want to happen makes sure that you are being held accountable, which is only scary if you’re not doing what you should.

Post your goal in place that you will see it daily.  It needs to be in your mind and be important to you.

Goal Setting for Veterans:

For those of you who know how to set goals and have been successful at achieving them have a basic understanding of setting resolutions, but you can always find an area to bump it up a notch.  If you find yourself achieving every goal you set, you should think about holding yourself to a higher standard.

Once you have a feel for how to set goals and what to do be successful, you can really begin to dig deep. Find those things about you or your business that need to change but for one reason or another, you have been stalling.

The hard goals to set are the ones that affect you personally.  Whether what you need to change is a reflection of your reputation, personality or work ethic, take the necessary steps to change it.  It can be hard to admit that something you said or did was wrong, but it gets worse if you ignore it.

Improvement is never easy but it’s worth it.  Raise the bar and expect more from yourself.

 

Merry Christmas!

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PMI wants to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We hope that you all take the time to remember what’s important in life, your friends and family.  Keep up the hard work and stay on track.

We are looking forward to sharing more information with you in the new year and are excited to help your business move forward.

Happy Holidays!

How to Stand Out in a Competitive Workplace

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However large or small your workplace is, you will usually find yourself getting caught up in competition.  Competition can be good for a person.  It fosters a desire to improve and to not be content with mediocrity.  Healthy competition can give a person the extra push they need to achieve their goals.

In situations where you work with many other competitive people, it can become increasingly harder and harder to stand out and be noticed.

There are many things you can do to ensure that you stand out among the rest.

  1. Increase productivity: If you want to be noticed you have to do more than what was considered acceptable in the past.  You have to push yourself farther.
  2. Fully complete all tasks and assignments: Don’t leave anything undone.  If you take on too many projects or tasks at once you run the risk of either doing a poor job or even not completing everything you need to.
  3. Pay attention to details: Mistakes can happen when you are focusing only on the big picture.  Keep in mind that there are small things that need to be taken care of first.  Check and double check things before turning them over to your superiors.  It might take time, but one mistake you catch is one that they don’t see.
  4. Be innovative: Share your ideas for improvement with your superiors.  You will be appreciated for any ideas you have that can help with things like improving the company’s productivity or customer relationships.
  5. Be present and on time: Whether it’s a meeting or just the start of the day, always be punctual.  Show up ready to go.  Being present doesn’t just mean being a body in a chair; it means that you are prepared mentally as well.  Have all the tools, equipment and supplies ready for whatever task you are undertaking.
  6. Know the responsibilities of each position in the workplace: If you are looking to advance or receive a promotion, know what position you’re are aspiring to.  Look into what all the responsibilities are and prove that you can do them.  If there are any you can’t do, set goals and work up to them.
  7. Know your weakness:  If you know what areas you need to work on, you will be one step ahead of the people who think they don’t have any.  Be honest with yourself.  You will always have weaknesses but knowing what they are means that you can make them your strengths.
  8. Don’t wait to be told to do something before doing it: If you know that something needs to get done, just do it.  Good leaders hate having to micromanage their employees.  Someone who does what needs to be done without waiting to be told is an asset to the company.
  9. Take responsibility: If you make a mistake, take responsibility for your actions.  Don’t make excuses.  It is easy to see when someone is trying to push the blame to someone else.  Accept responsibility, learn from your mistake and move on.

 

Benefits of a College Education

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There has been much debate on whether or not it is worth taking four years out of your life to get a college degree.  Many people believe that working during that time is more beneficial to their careers because they are gaining needed experience in their field.

While gaining experience can be a good thing, the benefits and rewards you gain from a college degree are irreplaceable.  These are some of the many advantages that come with a college degree.

Respectable Positions: Most people with a college degree are able to be employed in a “white collar” position with opportunities for advancement, whereas most people with only a high school diploma get “blue collar” positions and have a harder time finding advancement.  A college degree is more likely to help get you into a position that society considers more respectable.

Higher Income: Many people will argue that working for four years instead of paying for school is more financially beneficial.   While it’s true that four years of school costs thousands of dollars, most careers make up for that cost over the years.  With more opportunities for promotions and raises, the amount of money you make over a lifetime is usually more than someone with only a high school diploma.

Learn to Work with Groups: Professors encourage their students to participate in group projects.  This experience is valuable when you are assigned to work in teams in a professional capacity.  Learning to lead and follow in groups will help you learn the skills you need to succeed in any profession.

More Secure Future: Unforeseen things can always happen.  If you lose your job, having a degree can help you to find another one.  Employers are more apt to hire someone with a college education.  A degree shows to them that you can work hard and that you have an interest in that area.

Personal Development: College is a time when you can learn about yourself.  You learn about the kind of person you are, what is important to you and how you handle various situations.  Many of the life lessons learned in college can’t be found anywhere else.

Social Interaction: You will meet various types of people with all different backgrounds.  You have the opportunity to make connections with others going into your field.  You learn social skills that can help you move up the cooperate ladder.

Fun: There’s no getting around it, college can be fun.  You can go to parties, join clubs or various organizations.  Many people make friends in college that they will keep for the rest of their lives.

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Study: Most Tax Cheats Have a Lot in Common

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In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter that “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

But in today’s age of entitlement and government distrust, people are questioning just how certain taxes really have to be. That question has led to a lot of cheating, and one group is overwhelmingly more apt to cheating than others.

According to CNN Money, a survey by DDB Worldwide Communications group revealed that most American tax cheats are male, single and under 45. Not many people admitted to cheating—only about 15 percent of people surveyed—but 64 percent of self-proclaimed cheaters were male. Forty-seven percent were single, widowed or divorced and more than half were under 45.

The study further revealed that people who cheat on their taxes feel justified in cheating in other areas of life. In the survey, many said they worked a job they didn’t report on their taxes, would keep extra change from a cashier, would wear clothing only once before returning it and would even steal from a child’s piggy bank.

The interesting thing about this study is that many of these cheaters reported that they feel they are special and deserving of such treatment. In comments on the CNN article, many people mentioned dishonesty at the federal level or from big businesses, implying that corporations’ unethical behavior somehow justifies their own dishonest practices.

In short, two things are basically true when it comes to taxes. First, people cheat. And second, they only get in trouble if they get caught. The IRS handles so many cases every year that they can’t possibly audit everyone, but when people cheat on their taxes, they ultimately cheat their neighbors and friends. Sure, the government doesn’t always spend money exactly the way we would like. And no, not everyone pays what they should. But taxes pay for public education, roads, law enforcement, the postal service and other public services, and when one person doesn’t pay taxes, everyone else has to cover for it.

For most people, a sense of duty or desire to be honest is motivation enough to get them to pay what they owe. We at PMI believe in being honest in our financial endeavors and in giving back even more through charitable contributions.