The Fear of Missing Out
Leaders who feel overwhelmed and less effective than they should be often suffer from FOMO—the fear of missing out.
The idea of missing out on an opportunity or experience others are enjoying becomes a fixation and a distraction for those under water. Instead of prioritizing existing projects and tasks, they double down and take on more. Surprisingly, to those around them, they overcommit to tasks and experiences they don’t have time for.
Technically speaking, FOMO refers to the perception that others are experiencing something important that you will miss. It is not that you couldn’t make better choices with your time, but a feeling of social envy that others are benefitting when you are not prevents you from thinking clearly.
Leaders who suffer from FOMO say Yes to every opportunity. Heaven forbid others take advantage of an event they pass up. The result is ineffectiveness, stress, and an ever-expanding calendar.
Overcommitting to experiences eventually results in disappointing others as meetings are missed and opportunities wasted when leaders have to chose between competing appointments. The only way out of this dilemma is to recognize the problem and to reasonably prioritize opportunities. Easier said than done for those with FOMO.
The long-term fix to this problem requires leaders to avoid learning about every new opportunity and invitation. Keeping your head down and committing to the most important tasks without thought of new ones is a first step. Staying offline, avoiding social media, and not asking what everyone else is doing assist in this effort.
Those who win this battle stop keeping tabs on what others are planning for and start to relish being out of the loop. This is easiest when we stay focused on the tasks at hand and decline any new opportunity until a current one is crossed off the list. In the end, the fear of missing out can make us miss the most important priorities of life. That is the real reason to defeat FOMO.