Functional Zones – Your ‘NO’ Zone – Caroline Ferguson, Mindset Trainer

Functional Zones – Your ‘NO’ Zone

By Caroline Ferguson | Success Mindset

You know when you’re in the NO ZoneYou know when you’re in the ‘NO’ Zone. You know it because you’re doing absolutely anything rather than the task you’re supposed to be doing.

Your ‘NO’ Zone is a place of dread:

  • It’s the tasks you can’t face.
  • Those things on your ‘to do’ list that overwhelm you at the mere thought.
  • Jobs that are so far outside your comfort and competence zone that even thinking about them floods you with a toxic blend of anxiety, guilt and self-damning.
  • Those that you put off until they’re seriously affecting your business, your relationship, your home life. To heck with procrastination, we’re talking psychological paralysis here
  • Where you find yourself tackling horrible jobs such as your tax return, rather than face THAT task (unless, of course, doing your tax return happens to be THAT task).

For me, it’s doing my accounts. Oh yes, and cleaning the kitchen floor. (Thank dog I have a cleaner or I’d be living in total squalor – and therein lies the lesson…)

Let’s look at a ‘NO’ Zone scenario:

Janet is a copywriter. She’s been employed by a marketing services agency for 15 years. She’s a word wizard who can write a brochure, beautiful web copy or a brilliant think-piece blindfolded and hopping on one leg.

Janet is hungry to do her own thing and decides it’s time to ditch the agency and set up her own business. She’s brilliant at what she does, all of her agency clients say so. How hard can it be?

Her first hurdle comes with trying to work out what kind of corporate vehicle she should adopt for her business. Sole trader? Limited company? What are the merits of each?

Why does it have to be so complicated? She puts off making that decision.

Then there’s the bookkeeping and accounts process. What expenses are tax deductable? Does she need to register for VAT? How much mileage can she claim? If she uses a room in her home as a dedicated office, will she have to pay capital gains tax it if she sells the house?

ARGH! Janet can feel her brain starting to melt.

What about the IT side of things? She’ll need a website, of course. Although she’s written plenty, she’s never actually built one and surely it’s too big an expense to outsource?

And then she’s thinking of running a ‘copywriting for business’ online course, aimed at business start-ups. What technology does she need to deliver the course? How should she store details of potential customers? What are her data protection obligations? Janet’s IT anxiety raises its head again.

And then there’s marketing… what are the relative merits of advertising on Facebook or braving the rocky shoals of Google pay-per-click? How often should she sent out a newsletter – and how the heck do you even start to build up a list, anyway?

Everyone else seems to be doing webinars. Janet’s never even attended one, never mind run one. OMG… another technomare!

Then there’s selling… She’s never closed a sale in her life.

The sick feeling in Janet’s stomach intensifies. She’s completely out of her depth. Every decision seems to have at least ten possible solutions. How could she ever have thought that this would work?

Everyone else out there seems to be so comfortable in this world of online business. Surely they must be looking at her and thinking she’s an idiot?

Six months in and Janet has spent a fortune on training courses that she hasn’t attended, and she’s now on her third Phillipino web designer from Elance. Two potential clients who were interested have gone elsewhere because Janet was too nervous to pick up the phone to ask for their business.

Her nest egg is being whittled away and there are times when she even questions whether her writing skills are good enough (though deep down, part of her clings to the knowledge that she’s a good writer).

Her friends and family keep asking how it’s going and she tells them through gritted teeth that it’s fine. Start-ups always take time. She has a lot of investing and learning to do. She’s busy, for heaven’s sake!

And now Janet seems to be working 70 hours a week but it’s really hard to say what she’s actually doing. Maybe it’s those three free jobs she’s taken on in the hope that these people might give her some paying work, though she doesn’t seem to have the concentration to actually get down to doing the writing…

The website is a half-finished mess and she still hasn’t done the hugely expensive Facebook marketing course she bought and her car needs servicing and her expenses receipts are all over the place and she keeps having nightmares about obstacle courses and now she’s playing solitaire for several hours a day…

At the start of this process, Janet considered herself to be an expert, capable of doing a great job for her clients and deserving to be properly compensated.

Now, her self worth has taken a battering. She’s consumed with anxiety and she can’t see a way forward.

She feels helpless and hopeless.

Welcome to the No Zone

This is a slightly exaggerated scenario, of course – most people wouldn’t be quite as ill-equipped as Janet is in the operational side of running a business. It’s more normal to have one or two tasks which are totally outside your sphere of experience, competence, interest and comfort, and which you keep putting off. But even one such area can have a paralysing effect on you and your business.

Equally, I could have described the life of someone who’s stuck in a job they hate, or trapped in debt, or miserable in a toxic relationship. Any of those scenarios could place you firmly in the ‘NO’ Zone – on hold, anxious, helpless and hopeless.

When you’re in your No Zone, it feels profoundly uncomfortable.

You’re trying to psych yourself up to do things you dont feel competent to handle, and which you have little or no interest in.

This swallows up so much light and air that you don’t have the time or energy to focus on the thing you ARE brilliant at – the thing that people will flock to you for, which will earn you a good living and a joyful life. That thing you love to do which puts you firmly in your Flow Zone (more about that in a couple of days).

How do you deal with the No Zone

It’s hard to be constructive and solution-focused when you’re stuck in anxious-inactive mode, but there are things you can do to help yourself:

  • The first thing to do is take a step back and BREATHE. You can’t solve your problems when you’re in a state of perpetual anxiety and mental paralysis.
  • Take yourself out of the situation. No matter how busy you are, go for a walk, jump in the car or head to the seaside – just find a change of scene.
  • Reconnect psychologically and emotionally with your original vision of what you wanted to do and be.
  • Acknowledge that you are brilliant at the thing you love doing.
  • Accept that the rest is new to you and much of it lies outside of your natural skillset. No-one is a master at anything the first few times they tackle it.
  • Whenever you feel really wound up, reapeat this mantra to yourself: “I accept that I don’t have all the answers and that’s OK. I’m only human and I’m doing my best. I’m resilient and I’ll find a way to reach my Flow Zone.”
  • Break your challenge down into areas. Look at each one and do a realistic assessment of what you need to do for that area to function smoothly in as simple a way as possible.
  • In business and in your home, outsource whatever you can afford to delegate. If you believe you can’t afford it, a quick calculation of how much it has cost you in terms of time, unhappiness and lost opportunity may help to convince you that you can’t afford NOT to draft in specialist help.
  • Visit face-to-face and online networking forums and connect with others who seem to be doing well. Don’t hang out with miserable people! If you’re stuck in your business, ask others who they use for IT, accounts, marketing and social media.
  • Do skill-swaps with other small business owners. Remember, copywriting may well be you bookkeeper contact’s worst nightmare.
  • Spend as much time as possible doing the thing that you love and do brilliantly. This puts you in your Flow Zone, where motivation is a never-ending commodity and anxiety does not exist.

Remember, when you change one thing, you change everything.

TASK: Choose three or more of the actions above to jumpstart your way out of your No Zone. 

Next we’ll take a look at your ‘SLOW’ Zone. For now, add a comment to tell me about your No Zone and what you’re doing to navigate your way back to action.


About the Author

Caroline is a Mindset Trainer and speaker who works with sensitive, high-potential leaders who know they were born for something more. She shows them how to beat mindset blocks and habits, such as limiting beliefs, low self worth and procrastination, that are preventing them from making a bigger impact.

  • sarah says:

    OK. I have one pinky toe in the No Zone. No really. Only a toe. And it WILL be done. That ‘thing.’ Very soon. 😉

  • I think you may have written this post about me Caroline! 🙂 Seriously, it’s a great post. It gets to the reality of what a lot of people do, and how a lot of people feel. And that’s a gift!

    • admin says:

      It was pretty much how things were for me too, Jenny. Like so many, it takes us a long time to realise that we have a choice about which zone to live in. Thanks for commenting.

  • Moose Studio says:

    I used to be swimming in the NO zone until I quite my job that I absolutely hated. Now I’m blogging and photographing my heart out and feel light as a bird! Being in the no zone is terrible though and hope to never get back to it.

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