We’re neck deep into the era of FOMO. I’ve seen it grow from a strange quirk among my Harvard Business School classmates to something that has taken over every single area of our lives. We’re always tempted by messages demanding us to try the hottest new trend, download the latest app, and, in the process, derail our goals to do something we don’t really want to do out of the fear that if we don’t try it, we’re out of the conversation.
It affects most everybody - even some babies are suffering from FOMO!
It’s pretty clear that we need to stop this monster, but how? What’s its kryptonite?
I’m happy to tell you that, yes, there’s such thing as a FOMO killer. And I’ve made it my goal to share the cure with as many people and companies as possible throughout this year.
But first, a word of warning: it won’t go down without a fight. So, put on your boxing gloves and prepare yourself to fight hard to get your life back.
Since 2003, I’ve dedicated a fair amount of time into studying of FOMO, by observing its effects on me and the world around me. Back in 2004, I wrote a piece for The Harbus, the newspaper of Harvard Business School, titled Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’ Two FOs. The piece was meant to be a satire, but it turns out I was predicting the future. In the years since I wrote that first article, social media has helped spread FOMO all over the world.
Just a decade later, it was everywhere and Boston Magazine credited yours truly for creating the term. That’s also when the media became intensely focused on articles about FOMO: where it came from and all kinds of advice on how to cure the “F” part. Once we conquered the fear, we were told, FOMO would magically disappear.
The thing is, that’s where we’ve all gotten it wrong. FOMO isn’t so much about fear, it’s about making decisions. That’s why it can be so destructive. It wastes times and it paralyzes you when you should be moving through life with confidence and conviction rather than wishing you were somewhere else.
Here are my three tips to help you in the war against FOMO. I’ve been following them myself and have seen my productivity and peace of mind improve tremendously. As you work to beat your FOMO, please remember this: If the man who discovered FOMO can do it, so can you!
The first thing you need to do is to make some time to sit down and assess what that object of your obsession is really about. Take off the rose tinted glasses and ask yourself if the things that are giving you FOMO are worth the effort, the money, or the energy.
Simply put: would Future You thank you for following your FOMO, or would he or she punch you in the face?
I bet you already know the answer to that question, but if you need some reassurance, go to my next tip.
It’s true that we’re our harshest critics and struggle with viewing ourselves as we would anyone else. That’s why you need a second opinion.
Choose someone you trust; someone who can help you see the situation objectively and, most importantly, who won’t pour fuel onto the fire. The last point may sound obvious, but if you’re having FOMO over taking a lavish holiday in Mykonos (with no money to actually do it), don’t talk it out with your globetrotting best friend. That’s not going to work. Except, maybe, if they decide to pay your way.
I’ve never bought into the detox craze that seems to be everywhere these days, with those bizarre smoothies and snake-oil sounding teas. But, I have seen significant progress from a recent digital detox that has helped me curb any feelings of FOMO before they arise.
What’s my secret recipe? It’s straightforward:
Twitter isn’t going through its best moment, and I hate to kick an app when it’s down, but there was no choice. Whenever I opened my phone to check out a message from my team or an email from someone in my 10%, I felt tempted to check Twitter (I’m an addict!). It was a waste of time and half of my visits to Twitter just stressed me out and upset me.
It’s been a few months since I quit and even though I still tweet every once in a while (from my desktop), my obsession levels have gone way down.
If Twitter’s not your obsession, uninstall Facebook, or Instagram or Snapchat (which seems to be falling apart anyway). But, if you’re not ready to make such a big commitment, follow the next step.
When it comes to the other apps, my self control is still relatively intact. But, in the fight against FOMO, I’d rather not take any chances. Thus, I moved apps such as Facebook and Instagram to a folder on the back of my phone.
FOMO thrives on instant gratification, so if it takes a couple more scrolls to get to the latest Instagram trending term, you’re less likely to check it as often.
This last tip is the hardest to follow. I bet this has happened to you as well.
Until very recently, my bedside companions were my laptop and phone (yeah, very romantic). One last 5-second check turned into an hour-long session of infinite scrolling. No wonder I ended up having FOMO in my dreams more than once!
My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was this: Tech’s not allowed in my bedroom, no exceptions. Once I start feeling too sleepy, I put my devices to bed, in the living room, and then relax with a book. I call that kickin’ it old school.
Barring technology from your bedroom improves your quality of sleep, which is vital to everything in life. It also helps you to avoid the temptation to check your email when you wake up at 4 am. Because as I’ve learned the hard way, that’s a great way to spend an hour or two online before getting back to sleep..
So, are you ready to dump FOMO in 2018? If the answer is yes, follow my tips and free yourself from its shackles. If you’re not ready… I want you to challenge yourself: Try just one of my tips for at least 21 days and see the difference. Then send me a tweet and I’ll get right back to you (just kidding).