FOMO [Fear of Missing Out] has been one of my biggest ailments in using not just social media – but technology in general. I have to read every single email. When they shut down Google Reader, I spent days figuring out which RSS reader to use – and then another day subscribing to all the blogs I wanted to follow.
Taking a break from work to check Twitter is a common occurrence. Seeing something interesting and getting sucked into a rabbit hole of googling things related to it and watching YouTube videos is also embarrassingly common.
It becomes like your phone. You are doing something useful or productive, but then your time gets stolen by notifications. Someone emails you, then someone texts you, then someone Facebook messages you – it never ends. You get busy being busy and accomplish nothing. Reading things online is the same. There’s lots of seemingly valuable and interesting content – but reading that might distract from something else you should be reading that is a better use of time.
So how do you fix it?
Most people try to rely on willpower. I’m going to convince myself not to click on that link and read it. The more click-bait Buzzfeed links you see, the harder this becomes. You start to think you really are missing out on some secret tip, and you won’t be able to sleep at night because you’ll be up wondering exactly which Friends character you are.
If willpower won’t work, you need a system. A system of catching interesting links, saving them, and reading them at an appropriate time. Here is how I handle my incoming stream of information, and how I keep FOMO from running my life.
When there is a lengthy email that you really want to read, but it just keeps getting buried in your inbox, simply boomerang it. This is telling the email to go away and come back after a week or 2. When it comes back, you have a clearer head and you can decide whether you’re really going to read it or not. 80% of the time I just archive it, and no longer feel bad about it.
Tons of cool stuff comes across from Facebook and Twitter. I use Pocket to track all of it. Your iPhone lets you set up Pocket as something you can officially ‘share’ to. So anytime there is a link in Twitter, I just automatically send the link to Pocket [use Tweetbot to make this super simple].
For links on Facebook, I simply copy them to the clipboard, and open the Pocket app and it will save the link.
#ProTip – I use Pocket to keep track of YouTube videos I want to watch as well.
I use Feedly to follow blogs of interest. I check this probably every 2 weeks or so. If I see an article that looks interesting, I immediately send it to Pocket.
The benefit of checking it infrequently is that it lets you see which blogs are producing a lot of material you don’t read. Then you can safely unsubscribe from them.
I’ll open up Pocket about 2-3 times a month. By this point I have saved usually upwards of 50 articles and videos and other cool things that I wanted to read and investigate (and get sucked into a rabbit hole of more information). With Pocket now looking so overwhelming, I quickly run through it and assess – what here is actually important? And what am I actually going to read?
This lets me archive out the vast majority of articles, and I read only a select few.
After a month of using this system, I successfully overcame all my fears of FOMO, kept my productive time focused where it needed to be, and still got to check out some of those cool interesting things. It’s just that those cool interesting things didn’t interrupt the important ones.