do you have fomo?

This is part of my Spring Cleaning series that runs on Wednesdays through the end of Spring.

spring cleaning

When I announced last week that I was starting this Spring Cleaning series, a friend asked “are you going to cover uncluttering the brain?”

And I said: “Yes!”

So instead of starting with physical clutter in your closets and kitchen pantry, that’s where I’m starting… with the stuff that clutters up our brains.

What clutters up your brain?

Answer that question in the comments and I’ll cover it in my next post.

In the meantime, I’d like to bring your attention to a growing epidemic in our culture: FOMO.

You may have FOMO if…

  • You check email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram every 15 minutes (or every 3 minutes after you post something to see if anyone responds).
  • You have 10 or more tabs open in your browser at any given moment.
  • You have more than 5 Post-it notes on your desk and/or edge of your monitor reminding you of books to read, quotes to ponder, and stuff to do.
  • You are subscribed to more newsletters than anyone could possibly keep up with.
  • You never close your Facebook or email tabs.
  • You say “yes” to every invitation.
  • Your inbox has more than 100 emails in it, most of which you are keeping there “in case” you need it, find time to read it, decide to use the coupon this weekend, or maybe you might think about perhaps someday doing/attending/reading/using/responding to it.
  • You spend hours every day on Facebook, Twitter, and/or email.
  • You’ve overcommitted yourself. Your calendar is FULL of events, only half of which you really want to attend, because you never know who might be there or what might happen.

Fear Of Missing Out

How often do you subscribe to something, buy something, “save something for later” (not archive it, not delete it, not file it away, but add it to your “later” pile), or agree to attend a meeting/party/event because you are afraid you might miss out if you don’t go?

Yeah, me too.

My FOMO shows up the most in my information addiction. I subscribe to newsletters like a crazy person, thinking I really need to learn from this person/company only to find I really don’t have the time or the interest to actually read it. And then never unsubscribe because I might want to read it later (or feel guilty about unsubscribing).

I used to “save” emails by leaving them in my Inbox to read later or because it might end up being important. At one point I had over a thousand emails in my Inbox. Many of those were newsletters I thought I’d read someday.

But there is another way.


That’s my Inbox today. No new mail!

And I’ve kept it that way for a few months now.

For real.

I did it. You can too.

Step 1: FOMO No Mo’

The first step to clearing some mental clutter is to let go of that fear.

That may sound easier said than done, but ask yourself this: What is REALLY going to happen if you do miss the party, Facebook update, email, newsletter, stop worrying,… whatever?

Our brains (and gremlins) have a tendency to make it seem a lot worse than it really is.

You know this already, but I’m going to say it anyway: the world is not going to end, your life will still have meaning, and everyone will survive… even if you quit Facebook altogether, only responded to email once a week*, stopped worrying about what you’ll eat for dinner tomorrow, or took a month off from social engagements.

This is true except in some rare & extreme cases. You know which cases those are.

A big part of letting go & overcoming FOMO is accepting that you don’t have to do/read/respond to/learn/see/create everything right now.

Afraid you might miss out on some information? So what? You can find it later if you still need it. That’s what Google is for.

Afraid you might miss seeing someone at a party you really don’t want to go to? Call that person and invite them out for coffee.

Afraid you might miss some really cool thing if you don’t check Facebook (etc) constantly? The internet is not going anywhere. No one will notice if you don’t respond to something within 5 minutes.

Just say NO to FOMO.

You know as well as I do that most things in life do not need to happen right this minute. So why do we treat so much like it does?

Now it’s your turn: What clutters up your brain?

* Note: Tim Ferris in The 4-Hour Workweek talks about how to set yourself up to check email only once a week (with autoresponders and other things to “train” others on how you handle email). This isn’t really something I want to do myself, but wanted to mention this because it can be done & is done by many people. So if they can check email only once a week (or once every 2 weeks), you and I will probably survive if we only check a couple times a day instead of constantly, don’t ya think?

3 Replies to “do you have fomo?”

  1. Yup, my email is a mess. I have so much extra stuff being sent my way. If I would just gothrough and get my self off e-mailing lists I would save sooo much time and be less frusterated.

    1. April, we’d all have so much more time and be less frustrated if we cleaned out our email. At least filtering things out of your Inbox can help a little. I’ll be writing a post all about email in the coming weeks, let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like help with.

  2. I just discovered switching jobs is a good way to *poof* 6400 (I kid you not) emails in my inbox. Now to the 2k in my personal…

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