The key to regaining control over your time, your creativity and your productivity is ditching that age-old fear of missing out.
Have you ever felt like no matter how hard you worked, how adeptly you networked, how much you pushed to be at every social event where everyone (who is anyone) would be — you just couldn’t keep up?
Maybe you have been at one meeting or event, scrolling through Instagram, when you realize there is yet another event where you want or need to be.
If this sounds at all familiar to you, you might have what has become commonly known as the fear of missing out, or FOMO.
And you wouldn’t be the only one.
Fear of missing out is a problem as old as humanity and has practically become an epidemic in our culture. Some suggest it has to do with social media. Others suggest it’s our fast-paced, technology-heavy lifestyles.
Others still say it’s a character flaw in the “next generation.”
No matter what you say the cause of FOMO is, there is one thing no one can deny and that is FOMO is impacting our lives in a couple of really important ways — namely our productivity.
It seems counter-intuitive, since it is conceivable a fear of missing out could drive us to do more, move faster and drive harder to accomplish more. But research shows FOMO has the exact opposite effect. It actually slows us down, limits our ability to engage and prevents us from creating and producing to our full potential.
So we ask ourselves… why is this?
FOMO kills self-confidence.
When you are constantly comparing your career, family and progress with those around you, it’s no surprise you would lose confidence in your own ability to accomplish anything noteworthy in any of those areas of you life.
No matter how much progress you make in your career, it’s hard to celebrate your success when someone else is celebrating a victory even more seemingly impressive than yours. No matter how beautiful your most recent family photo is, it’s difficult to appreciate it when there are a dozen other beautiful families rolling through your social media feeds.
No matter how much personal accomplishment you feel from finally running that 10k, it slips away easily when a handful of other people you know have run a half or full marathon.
FOMO steals our ability to engage where we are.
Our fear of missing out has us constantly looking outside of this moment for something different happening, somewhere else.
The end result is ultimately unhappiness.
When we don’t engage where we are, we feel dissatisfied. When we feel dissatisfied, we assume we must be missing something. When we assume we must be missing something, we disengage from our current moment even further. And the vicious cycle continues.
The longer we allow this to continue, the more this depressed state settles in and the less likely we are to feel motivated toward what matters.
FOMO urges us to underestimate our accomplishments.
Some of the most beautiful things in life are simple things: quiet moments at home with your family. An impromptu lunch out with a friend. An unplanned or unexpected conversation with a stranger in the grocery store. A handmade gift from your son or daughter.
The fear of missing out causes us to miss these things completely, if only because it has us focused on bigger and “better” things on the horizon. If we aren’t able to see the good things already present in our lives, at the end of the day, we run the risk of feeling like our efforts don’t matter.
Nothing kills productivity like a “this is all pointless” attitude.
The only way to take control of our productivity again and get our life back is to confront FOMO head on, refusing to allow it to steal our space, our confidence and our time. How do we do that? Good question. I’ve compiled some resources below to get you started.
- Do You Have FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out?
- Do You Suffer From #FOMO
- Getting Over Your Fear of Missing Out
There are literally endless social, professional and personal growth opportunities at our fingertips at all times. We can’t take advantage of all of them. No matter what we do, there will always be someone else doing something else we aren’t doing.
Maybe the answer isn’t to do more things, but to do more with less.
No Sidebar: At Work
When you think of FOMO, you might assume it could only be impacting your social life but nothing could be further from the truth. There is strong evidence to show FOMO is impacting our productivity in the workplace.
Whether you work a typical 9-5, are an entrepreneur, a freelancer or are still in school getting a degree, fear of missing out can totally derail you.
The number one way FOMO impacts our work lives is by encouraging a lack of clarity and focus. Always be looking to your right and your left and you’ll never be satisfied with the career path you’ve chosen, the place you work or your daily tasks.
Plain and simple: you won’t get anything done.
Professional coach and PhD Catherine Chen admits the fear of missing out and how it’s killing our careers.
The good news is, if you’re struggling with career FOMO, there are some tangible things you can do to stop. Check out this article titled, How Can I Overcome My Fear of Missing Out? or this one called, 4 Ways to Overcome ‘Fear of Missing Out’ in The Workplace.
No Sidebar: At Home
When it comes to our “home” lives how do we measure productivity? Perhaps it is by the depth and satisfaction of the relationships with those closest to us. With this definition in mind, it’s not hard to consider how FOMO could be impacting our productivity at home.
Social media makes it easy to be “Always On, All The Time,” which means we run the risk of being so connected to our social networks we never actually connect with those who matter most to us.
The link between the fear of missing out and social media is clear.
Not only does social media alienate us in practical ways from the relationships closest to us (by keeping us buried in our Instagram feed when we could be talking to our spouse); it also encourages us to compare our lives to the lives of our friends, which immediately isolates us from the people with whom we would most like to connect.
It’s difficult to be have strong relationships with people where comparison and jealousy take precedence.
No Sidebar: In Your Soul
Fear of missing out — aside from having a dramatic impact on our external lives, like our relationships and careers — also has a not-so-surprising affect on the productivity of our internal lives, or our souls.
It’s worth considering the lack of productivity we see in our lives could be solved from the inside, out.
Studies show the act of taking a picture, like we do for Instagram, is actually habit-forming — and the act of posting those photos to Instagram, as well as viewing the photos of those we follow, can act as a hollow substitute for actual friendship.
The sad result is an emptiness and loneliness described by too many in our modern culture.
Of course, fear of missing out is hardly new. It has been induced throughout history by such triggers as newspaper society pages, party pictures and annual holiday letters — and email — depicting people at their festive best. But now… instead of receiving occasional polite updates, we get reminders around the clock.
But what if we could re-wire the fear of missing out to something a little more conducive to our productivity… perhaps the joy of missing out?
How could we do this? Among other things, we could learn the age-old art of focusing on the important stuff, in an age where everything is fighting for our attention.