FOMO is rife, and it isn’t just about feeling like you’re the only one on Facebook not enjoying a European holiday. From a career perspective, fear of missing out manifests as wanting to be seen at all meetings, feeling compelled to put yourself forward for every project or promotion, and tirelessly networking.
In our fast-paced, competitive business environment, standing still can mean going backwards, and there’s a real pressure to work harder than ever, be highly visible in the workplace, and prove yourself as an early adopter. In many cases, this workplace FOMO stems not from personal drive, but rather, from a concern about others’ perceptions of us, and the worry that we’ll be left behind.
However, there’s a fine line between being on top of your game, and spreading yourself so thinly that you dilute any true value you can offer. In other words, missing out on some meetings, projects and email trails is better than trying to be everything and everywhere. A newer acronym, JOMO, the joy of missing out, sums this up succinctly.
In a Psychology Today article, physician and mental health writer Kristen Fuller describes JOMO as the emotionally intelligent antidote to FOMO, saying “when you free up that competitive and anxious space in your brain, you have much more time, energy and emotion to conquer your true priorities.”
Ultimately, it comes down to striking a balance. Accept that you can’t do it all, and learn to prioritise areas where you can make the most impact. To get this right, it helps to have a clear picture of your personal brand – what you stand for and the strengths that set you apart.
According to founder of innovation consultancy Inventium, Dr Amantha Imber, FOMO is the result of being out of touch with what truly motivates us, and instead evaluating our lives based on comparisons with others. Conversely, when we are intrinsically motivated, we tune out external noise and are immersed in the task at hand.
Of course, social media is the birth place of much FOMO sentiment, a forum where it’s hard not to compare ourselves to others. While some level of engagement with social media is necessary in many lines of work, be aware of how much personal time you invest into social media, and think about other, more productive uses of your time. I recently met an education professional who enrolled herself into an online psychology degree soon after becoming a first-time mum. When asked how she finds the time to balance her study with work and parenting, she explained that she deleted her social media accounts. Now, instead of obsessing over what others are doing with their lives, she seizes spare moments to read journal articles on her phone and make notes for her assignments.
Meetings can be ravenous consumers of our time and energy. If warming a seat in irrelevant meetings means not having the time to focus on valuable work, be more selective about which ones you attend. Some people cover their bases with a scattergun approach to sending out meeting invites, so don’t be afraid to politely question whether you need to be there. The same applies to having your inbox – and your mind – cluttered up with cc’d emails. Ask to be unsubscribed from lengthy email trails if necessary, and return the courtesy by only cc’ing where strictly needed.
FOMO in the workplace can make you feel like you’re in a constant race to the next big achievement. Whatever business challenges you see ahead, make a point of taking a moment to celebrate the wins along the way. With Christmas a few weeks away, and a new year ahead, now is an ideal time to step back and look at everything you’ve achieved over the year. For leaders especially, acknowledging these achievements is crucial to keeping your team motivated.