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We all have “those” folders on our digital devices. You know the ones I’m referring to? The folders we use to organize our rapid growing number of apps…

Ah, yes — those!

All neatly labeled, they contain the plethora of applications once deemed essential to growing our small business. Now, over time, they’ve lost their shiny penny appeal yet linger in the background — eating up MBs.

The Label Master…

If you’ve followed my work for any period of time, you already know that organization pulses through my veins.

My mom often said, “Everything has a place and there’s a place for everything.” A quick tour of my digital screens confirms I learned that lesson well.

I have folders labeled for music, entertainment, reading, travel, virtual meetings, financial, etc. The list goes on. My most frequently accessed folders, however, are productivity and meditation/health.

One day it struck me. What was my meditation app doing in the meditation/health folder?

Given all the benefits of meditation — calmness, reduction in anxiety, release of stress, clarity of direction, focus and purpose — wouldn’t it make more sense to move the meditation app to the productivity folder?

Working Day ‘n Night…

When people say the United States is an industrialization nation, they’re not kidding. Our productivity and efficiency is well documented. (Although recent studies reveal our productivity waning. Burnout, anyone?)

One measurement that seems to be missing from the equation is about the quality of life and the satisfaction that one gains from their work. Studies prove happiness and work/life satisfaction precede success.

I will admit that for way too many decades, I followed the path outlined by the so-called thought-leaders and experts in the world of business — increasing my “productivity” by working longer hours — until I ended up sick. SICK! Not sic….

Given the gravity of the diagnosis, one would think I learned my lesson about the outcomes of working long hours, and it’s accompanying stress. I guess it takes years for some of us to get that message — particular when said lesson is contrary to what the rest of the nation is doing.

Salmon Anyone?

Swimming upstream challenges most of us to the core. “Going against the grain” of conventional wisdom triggers a fear that causes us to question our inner wisdom about the small business of our design.

Admittedly, it’s happened to me. Following my intuition — my gut — triggered all sorts of fears common to any small business entrepreneur. From missing goals, being left behind, or not achieving the success I desired were all real fears triggered by following a path less traveled.

Open Your Mind…

Meanwhile, back to the changing path of productivity…

I pooh-poohed the whole notion of meditation for years. As someone who is continually (Okay, mostly.) on the move, sitting “still” for 30 minutes sounded tortuous. Living in a time and task-oriented nation, it went against everything I was taught.

Even though the thought of calmly breathing in and out made me break out in a sweat, I longed for the business benefits tied to the practice of meditation.

More and more studies are proving that meditation does, in fact, enhance productivity for small business owners through the following modalities:

  • Builds capacity to focus on one task at a time. With an attention span of a gnat (8 seconds according to science), the ability to maintain laser-like focus also reduces decision-fatigue.
  • Spurs creativity. With a brain less stressed and anxious, innovative solutions to tenacious problems float to the surface.
  • Triggers a more efficiently functioning brain. And, what small business owner doesn’t want that?!

Find Your Om

With all the science behind the many personal and professional benefits, it’s too nonsensical to continue to believe meditation is a waste of my time. Particularly when current methods for improving productivity are failing in epic fashion…

Find a methodology that works for you. Is it a measured stroll to Starbucks? (Walk! Don’t run to your daily dose of caffeine.) Or, 10 minutes sitting on a rock in your garden?

Perhaps, like me, a quick slide of your meditation app from your health to your productivity folder will drive home the point that changing the current path to productivity is a good thing.

Most entrepreneurs’ to-do lists traditionally consist of activities we either have to do, should do, or need to do. How boring and stressful is that?!

We need a better way!

To-do lists — not to be confused with an entrepreneurs strategic goals and plans — are fun, stimulating, and inspiring, like treating yourself to dessert after eating your vegetables.

After executing the goal-related actions, wouldn’t it be fun to consider a to-do list that contained only things you want to do like take a nap, run 5 miles, read 2 chapters in your favorite book, or look up funny meme’s on Pinterest?

How different would your day be?

Download the Daily Goal Planner here and add a bit more ingenuity and inspiration to your day.

We’re human beings, not robots. That’s why it’s not possible for us to do the same things over and over again at the exact same success rate. Why? We like change — we need change.

If you’ve come across the hurdle of lower-than-usual productivity at your company, you’re not alone. In fact, and not surprisingly, only about 25 percent of business leaders have an employee engagement strategy to keep their employees chugging along productively. So, to take some of the weight off your shoulders, we’ve put together three quick steps to help you get your employees engaged and productive.

Step 1: Productivity Through a Vision

Have you ever considered the reason your employees may not be productive is simply because they do not understand the company’s vision? It’s more common than you think. Many employees have a blurry understanding about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics.

Wondering if your employees know your company’s goals, strategies and the vision? It’s easy to find out. Ask your employees what they think your company’s vision for the future is. If everyone has a different answer, chances are they don’t have a clear understanding. This could be the culprit for low performance.

The solution? Get everyone on the same page — it’s that easy! Hold a meeting where you and your employees go over where your company is headed and show them what each of their roles are in the big picture. Doing this will help your employees understand their individual value and worth in your business.

Step 2: Productivity by Communication

Another big player in productivity at your company is communication. Maybe your employees already understand what the company’s vision is, but does everyone communicate effectively? Here’s a way to find out.

Example: Pull one of your employees into the office. Give them a specific task that they must delegate to another employee. Have the other employee then delegate the same task to another employee. The last employee (third employee if you lost track) must then come back to you and tell you what the task was. It’s a lot like the game of telephone. If the last employee comes back to you with the original task, you know communication is effective. If not, you may have some work to do.

The truth is, communication is hard. Of course, bits and pieces of the task will naturally be lost, but the underlying theme should stay the same if your employees and you communicate effectively. When your employees are communicating to one another effectively, it’s far easier to be productive. Things get done faster and your employees feel accomplished.

Step 3: Productivity Through Creativity

Lastly, it’s time to let your employees’ creativity fly. Why? While not all of your employees are the “creative” type, many of them are. Allow and strongly encourage your employees to be creative — to find solutions to everyday problems in a new way.

How does this boost your employees’ creativity? They’ll feel like they’re part of the solution. It’s much more exciting for an employee to say, “Hey, I came up with this process, cool!” rather than simply following processes without any room for creativity. Make creativity a normal, everyday part of your business.


Keeping in mind that your employees are human beings and not robots, the dream of the perfect employee who works non-stop will slowly fade away. Instead, replace that dream with a happy, creative, and driven employee who is ready for whatever comes their way. Besides, talking to robots (think Siri) never really was too fun.

Zane Benefits is the leader in individual health insurance reimbursement for small businesses. Since 2006, Zane Benefits has been on a mission to bring the benefits of individual health insurance to business owners and their employees.

Zane Benefits’ software helps businesses reimburse employees for individual health insurance plans for annual savings of 20 to 60 percent compared with traditional employer-provided health insurance. Today, over 20,000 customers use Zane Benefits’ software, services, and support to reimburse individual health insurance plans purchased independently of employment. For more information visit

After dinner with the kids in bed, you slip into your home office for a few hours of uninterrupted work time. Finally, when the clock strikes midnight, you drop into bed, utterly exhausted. Instead of counting sheep, you count deals, revenue, sales leads in the pipeline, and all the things left undone. You toss and turn. At 5 a.m., your alarm alerts you that its time to do it all over again. And so it goes…

Prolonged wakefulness is reaching epidemic proportion, but I didn’t need to tell you that. You live it each day. In fact, Gallup’s recent study reported that we’re getting an average of 6.8 hours of sleep, slightly below the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night. Between work and parenting, over half of those surveyed under the age of 50 are the most sleep deprived with 46% snagging less than 6 hours of sleep each night.

It comes as no surprise to anyone—the number of hours we’re working is increasing. Our leisure time is much more active, too. Seldom do we slouch in our Barco lounger, like Dad, after a long day at work. We’re hiking, biking, and running. Our “down time” is anything but low energy.

Implications of Sleep Deprivation

Ambitious entrepreneurs tolerate long days of work physically. It’s the mental aspect, however, that really kicks our performance. Sleep deprivation unquestionably impacts cognitive performance—one of the most important aspects of building a successful enterprise.

It impairs our ability to focus, furthers distractions, and affects our working memory. When sidetracked from a task, you may even ask, scratching your head, “What was I doing again?” Sounds only too familiar, doesn’t it?

With sleep deprivation comes slowed responses that influence speed and accuracy. It disturbs creativity, language, and executive functions such as decision-making—the most powerful asset for entrepreneurs.

Although the high level of motivation for which most entrepreneurs are known compensates for a decrease in performance, sleep deprivation beyond a day or two greatly diminishes returns. In fact, prolonged sleep deprivation is comparable to “legal drunkenness”.

An article entitled, Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, addresses the confusion between sleeplessness, vitality, and high performance. It appears that our culture of performance has influenced the belief that if we’re not moving at 150 mph all the time, we must be slackers. It’s the behavior we applaud—wrongly!

Performance Management 101

If you want to raise and sustain performance, pay attention to the amount of sleep you’re getting. Make it a priority. However, on those rare occasions when sleep deprivation gets the best of you, consider these fatigue management tips:

  • Drink water and lots of it to keep you hydrated and alert.
  • Limit your caffeine consumption from tea, coffee, soda, and chocolate.
  • Avoid sugar as it spikes your energy temporarily, but quickly drops your get-up-and-go.
  • Take 20–30 minute naps to restore vitality.
  • Exercise regularly as it also helps relieve your stress.
  • Stand at your desk to keep you focused on the task at hand.
  • Take 10 minutes outside to improve productivity and reduce the stress associated with sleep deprivation.

Of course, short-term fixes are only band-aids on a gaping wound. Sleep deprivation is not a sustainable strategy that aligns well with performance and goal achievement. Therefore, you must also consider the following actions:

  • Plan for one day a week off—preferably two—to avoid building up sleep deficit.
  • Establish a “sleep” policy that limits work to no more than 9 hours a day.
  • Allow for 11 consecutive hours of rest in a 24-hour period.
  • Avoid red-eye flights when traveling.
  • Establish a “Burnout Avoidance System.”

The bottom line? The occasional bout of sleep deprivation is easily managed. However, when sleep deprivation becomes a way of life, you’re not only hurting yourself physically, you’re greatly impairing your ability to perform which influences your power to succeed.

As a small business owner, you probably have a whole arsenal of tips and tricks to help you save time, money, and increase your efficiency. If you feel a little disorganized, don’t fret. We’ve compiled a list of strategies to help you streamline processes, catalog your ideas, and master your to-do lists.

This list is helpful for anyone but will particularly help you in the creation and growth of your small business.

1 – Set yourself up for success. Technology runs everything now, so you need to research and shop, and purchase the right software you’ll need for your business. If you spend the time getting the right products and apps now, you’ll have more time down the road to learn to use them make them work to your advantage. Spend time browsing online to find the perfect solutions for your small business.

2 – Know the difference between real time and clock time. Mapping out the tasks of your day, it’s essential to realize that we live in real time, not clock time. The clock will tell you that you have 8 hours in a work day to get items checked off your list, but real time will say that the hours of actual work are more like 6 when you figuring in lunch, breaks, distractions, etc. be realistic about how much actual time you have to complete your tasks.

3 – Master the calendar. Striking a perfect balance between all of your obligations is daunting. You have meetings, deadlines, vendors, events, paperwork, and of course things that pop up unexpectedly every single day. A great recommendation to streamline your calendar is to find an app that takes the burden off you. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of great apps to help you manage your calendar.

4 – Hire freelancers. Sometimes small business owners are nervous about hiring workers on a freelance basis because they haven’t worked with them before, they don’t know how reliable they are, etc. But utilizing freelancers as an extension of yourself is a fantastic use of your time. Delegate all kinds of work in an attempt to free up some of your own time. For example, administrative duties, copy and content for your website, and creating marketing videos and other marketing campaigns. If you’re not an expert in these areas, it’s best to farm the work out to people who are, allowing you to take care of other projects.

5 – Schedule non-activities. Don’t get caught up in looking at productivity as simply numbers – like how many emails you send, how many meetings you attend, or how many deliverables you complete. Non-activities include things like brainstorming, impromptu conversations with colleagues, a phone call with your mentor, or catching up on the latest industry news. These all have benefits for your small business. They help with idea flow and also serve as mental breaks in between heavy workloads.


Running a small business is as challenging as it is rewarding. Don’t get overwhelmed by the many tasks, meetings, and action items you have to attend to every day as a small business owner. Use these five strategies to streamline your days and make your agenda items clearer. You’ll find that your work becomes easier and more efficient because you are more organized and have clearer direction on what you need to accomplish.

About Zane Benefits:

Zane Benefits is the leader in individual health insurance reimbursement for small businesses. Since 2006, Zane Benefits has been on a mission to bring the benefits of individual health insurance to business owners and their employees.

Zane Benefits’ software helps businesses reimburse employees for individual health insurance plans for annual savings of 20 to 60 percent compared with traditional employer-provided health insurance. Today, over 20,000 customers use Zane Benefits’ software, services, and support to reimburse individual health insurance plans purchased independently of employment.  For more information visit

If you follow me on Facebook, you know I’ve recently been plagued by the growing amount of paperwork on my desk. This pregnant pile of paperwork has been adding multiple do’s to my already extensive “to do” list. I have to admit, its become a bit overwhelming. When the inbox on my desk begins to break out of the periphery, I find myself sorting and organizing the various pieces into comparable piles in hopes of making it easier to address.

This morning, as I sat sipping my morning coffee contemplating my piles and do’s , I experienced a flash of insight – most of what was creating my bulging paper piles and “to do” list was comprised of to do’s requested by others. What??? How did that happen?

I do recall one of my early coaches telling me I was “a yes waiting to happen”. In my moment of caffeinated clarity, I discovered I had allowed my “to do” list to be hijacked! It was no longer my to do but rather had become a “you do” list.

It probably started like this: “Can you do this? Can you do that?” Plus there were the items I  readily volunteered to do because the yes within eagerly raised its hand. What was even more profound was the discovery that many of the actions were not in alignment with my strategic plan. Yikes! Being pulled off track can happen so quickly.

Even though I feel compelled to provide a list of things for you to do that would reduce your “to do”, I realize I would only be creating a “you do” list. For the time-being I’ll suppress the urge. It will be one less thing for both of us to do.

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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