Top 10 Ways to Escape the “Gray Zone”

That’s what my coach asked at a training last year. “That’s when you’re not really working, but you’re not really resting, either,” she explained.

Oh. That. Well – yes – perhaps…. now that you mention it, I thought.

So many entrepreneurs begin with fantasies of freedom from the corporate clock. I still remember way back when I was driving a 100 mile loop every day, working 2 jobs, going to school, and generally burning the candle at every possible end.

When I have my own practice, I’d tell myself, I’m not even going to START until 9 o’clock!  

Such is the rebellious cry of the hopeful entrepreneur.

Only, that’s not really how it works, does it?

In fact, you’ve probably already discovered what I learned years ago. That is: when it’s all yours – you work more, if anything, not less! You’ll see people at 7:00 in the morning or 7:00 in the evening – whatever it takes to make things work.

It’s certainly that way at first.

And sometimes it’s that way for a very long time.

You may have great systems in place. You’ may have a support team on board and your services down to an art. You may manage your time with the precision of a surgeon.

But even then, it’s still there.

You’re walking the dog but thinking about the client you met with earlier today. You’re lying on the beach but worrying about meeting your numbers next month. You’re having dinner with the family while thinking through the article you need to write before bedtime.

And at the same time….

When you were with that client, you longed to be outside. When you were balancing the books, you daydreamed about the beach. When you wrote that article, you had to fight the urge to peek at the babies in their beds one more time.

That’s living in the gray zone.

Not really working. Not really resting. Not really producing. Not really playing.

And we wonder why we’re tired!

But what can you do? Isn’t that the price we pay for the “freedom” of running our own business?

In some ways, yes.

As the CEO, you will always carry the ultimate responsibility for how things go. The dream is yours. The vision is yours.

And that means the strategies and struggles are yours too. :)

But here’s a simple truth:

You’ll be better at all of that when you are more present for each moment of your day.

You’ll do best when you bring all of your attention to the activity at hand, whatever it is. When you’re playing with the dog, put the phone away. Toss the ball, laugh at her antics, and enjoy that wagging tail. 

When you’re writing an article, set aside the time you need and turn off all distractions.  Truly be WITH the work.  (Sometimes, I’ll leave my phone on another floor of the house, so I can forget it exists for a while!)

Most important, create time to set it all down and REST. That means turn off your business brain (for a while) and reconnect with your soul.

Here’s how.

1. SET CLEAR HOURS for work, and non-work. Keep them.

2. BUILD PHYSICAL BREAKS into your day, starting with just 15 minutes of meditation. Later, try a walk around the block, a lunch break at the park, a 10 minute nap behind a closed door.

3. ADD LONGER BREAKS into your week, month, year, by setting aside sacred downtime. That could be anything from family nights on Fridays to a month off every summer. It doesn’t matter when it is, as long as it IS.

4. PLAY with DIFFERENT PARTS of your BRAIN. Take a pottery class. Pick up your old guitar. Shoot hoops in the driveway. Read a novel.

5. CREATE SPACE for INTROSPECTION. Journal. Draw. Brainstorm. Color. Imagine.

6. SEEK INSPIRATION. Read poetry. Listen to a TED talk. Attend a lecture. Or a retreat.

7. TURN OFF EXTERNAL COMMUNICATION after a certain time, like 8 p.m. Shut down email, turn off the phone!, save calls or texts for tomorrow.

8. GO TO BED EARLIER; a lot earlier.

9. GET ENOUGH TOUCH. Hug the kids. Pet the dog. Sit with your sweetie on the same couch.

10. RECONNECT with your BODY.  Run. Hike. Fish. Paddle. Walk. Bike. Dance.

How about you? What’s your favorite way to escape the Gray Zone?

Photo Credit: Carsten aus on Flickr


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