I recently read an article which talked about the trap of not wanting to miss out on something. Not wanting to miss something is more commonly known as the fear of missing out (FOMO). When struck by FOMO you might find yourself saying yes to everything.

I think I might be somewhat of a FOMO expert.

Entrepreneurial trap

I believe FOMO is a common fear encountered by those who have chosen self-employment. I understand why that happens because if you’re not working, you’re not making money. For me, I have found myself trapped by FOMO in numerous ways:

  • Saying ‘yes’ to work I didn’t want because I believed generating revenue was the priority
  • Filling my calendar with billable work because I have to take the work while it’s there
  • Agreeing to partner on a conference talk I didn’t want because if I don’t someone else will get the spotlight
  • I have to take the work while it’s there so vacation will have to wait until another year

The list goes on. In all of these stories, my justification is a story I’m telling myself. The stories were rooted in my fears. This is when I find myself in the grips of FOMO.

Don’t worry if you are not self-employed. FOMO is not the exclusive domain of those who are self-employed. FOMO is a common fear most of us wrestle with at various points in our life.

Manifesting FOMO

For me, this fear of missing out can manifest itself in several ways. All I know is trying to keep up with everything can feel like a never-ending battle.

When I get caught up in trying to keep up with these things, the other things I want to do both personally and in business suffer. Many of those other things require hours of my concentration to get through. If I’m too busy worrying about missing out on something I cannot focus on what’s needed.

Around a year ago I started to make significant changes to fix this situation. To start, I stopped wearing my smartwatch. I stopped wearing a watch all together, but that’s another story.

I started to realize the only thing a smartwatch was doing for me was to interrupt me. What on earth did I think was so important that I needed to know about it the moment it arrived?

At some point, I started leaving my phone on silent all day. Again, there’s no reason 99.9% of the things I receive can’t wait a while until I can address them on my time without interrupting what I’m doing.

I’ve yet to experience one occurrence of missing out on something.

Hmmm … maybe that FOMO is just all a story of my creation.

A river of information

What do you see when you look at a river? Generally, you see water moving. Beneath the surface, though, there’s a lot of fish you don’t see. When you cast your line into the river, you will catch a fish. Lots of big fish will go by, and that’s OK as there’s plenty more coming along.

Information is much the same. Lots of information will flow by you, and we spend our days worrying about missing out on something. Despite this, you will never catch it all. There is just too much information out there.

Life is much better when I enjoy the flow. I am no longer a slave to my devices. Whatever happens in a day is just the right thing.

Leaders, please don’t teach FOMO

Too often leaders can become overwhelmed by trying to keep up with all of the moving parts. I see them in meetings focused on their devices, in hallways reading that email before the next meeting and working at 2:00 am trying to keep up.

When leaders have a fear of missing out, they unintentionally cause the same in everyone around them. When everyone is running with a fear of missing out, it tends to break down trust and transparency.

Focus on the people, and work on not worrying about missing out. Find ways to structure your time with the information flowing by you.

You will soon discover you can be the one in charge of the information, instead of the other way around.