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The Fear Of Missing Out – Taming Your Email

 

Fear of Missing Out stopping you deleting emails you don't want?

 

Are you a ‘download’ junkie?  Have you subscribed to every ‘useful’ e-newsletter in the known world?  And are you drowning in information overload?  Does FOMO (the ‘Fear of Missing Out’) stop you from deleting emails and throwing out articles? Me too!

But I’m getting better and better at managing this ‘ongoing battle’ with overload.  And yesterday I came across the most ‘sane’ blog I’ve ever seen on the subject (ironically, of course, I found it in one of those zillions of e-newsletters I subscribe to.  I’ll include the link below.  But first …

“That’s a handy thing” / “You never know when it will come in handy”.

I come from a family of collectors, and some of the collecting borders on hoarding (O.K. to be honest, completely crosses the border …).  And to make matters worse, my family are very much into local and family history.  Now there’s a recipe for disaster when it comes to rescuing / saving and hoarding everything.  And a family saying that we all laugh at, but use frequently is “You never know when it will come in handy”.  To be fair, I don’t think this is just something our family suffers from.  I am sure it is very common – whether applied widely, or to a particular area of interest.

I don’t know if there’s been any psychological research done on ‘the fear of missing out’ but I wouldn’t be surprised if there has (if you know of any, please tell us about anything you’ve found in the Comments box below).  Somehow it seems to me to be quite a primal urge.  In the same way that that everything seems urgent and important when we are caught in fight-flight physiology or a ‘rushing’ or urgency mode, making it hard to let go the somewhat less urgent tasks and focus on the most urgent, it seems harder to let ‘things’ go the more stressed and busy we are.  It reminds me of the hawks on the road, eating road-kill.  Apparently they instinctively grip onto their ‘find’ when faced with an approaching car, which limits their ability to fly and increases their chances of being skittled.  The busier or more stressed I am, the more ‘important’ / “might  be really useful information later” certain emails or e-newsletters seem.  And of course the writers often exploit this sense of stress and urgency by having a limited-time offer in the subject line or first paragraph.

My ‘Claytons’ solution

Firstly, to explain the term – in the 70’s or 80’s in Australia and New Zealand there was a marketing campaign for a non-alcoholic drink, called Claytons – ‘the drink you’re having when you’re not having a drink’. (If you’re interested, this youtube clip of one of their adverts gives you an idea why it was so frequently parodied. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylH43Tcaj60)  So my “Claytons” solution to email was to set up a folder for all the things that I wished I had time to read, called ‘Labour Weekend Reading’.  I did this about five years ago, a couple of weeks before our 3 day Labour Weekend holiday, thinking that I would have heaps of time to catch up on all this reading.  And I’m still happily ‘filing’ emails that I haven’t got time to read into my ‘Labour Weekend Reading’ file.  As yet, I have not opened that file to actually read anything, so it has a humongous number of emails in it.  But it has helped me to use the Mindfulness strategy of ‘noticing and naming’ the Fear of Missing Out, and to recognise my unwillingness to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’!  This strategy has saved me from experiencing the discomfort of hitting the delete button and fearing I would miss out on some ‘good stuff’.  This is a classic case of avoidance of emotional discomfort!  And avoidance is not a Mindful response.  But in this case, I’m not sure if there are any harmful consequences to it (I’d be interested on your opinion on this).  And one day, with increasing Mindfulness and intentionality, I may reach peace with this, rather than just calling a truce, and I may just hit the delete button and get rid of the whole lot in one fell swoop.  But not just yet, because you never know, maybe I might still find time to read some of the emails in that file…  I love Christine Carter’s suggestion of setting up a separate email account for all these kind of emails, but in a lot of ways, I think that may also be another ‘Clayton’s’ solution.

 

Fear of Missing Out stopping you throwing stuff out?

 

And what about paper files?

In discussing this with some Counsellor and Supervisor colleagues recently, it turns out I’m not the only one with this hoarding instinct!  We all have boxes or filing cabinet drawers of handouts, training materials and articles which we believe that one day we will sort through and save the ‘good stuff’.  I know that I hate re-creating resources on something I have already written about (for example when a file becomes corrupted).  So the idea of throwing out a resource and then later discovering I ‘need’ it for a workshop or a client has me holding on to drawer-loads of ‘stuff’.  And in reality, if I wanted to look for an old resource for a client, it could take hours to sort through and find.  In reality it would be quicker to just re-write it – and I may well create something better and more up-to-date than my original.  But the idea of re-writing stuff is, for me, kind of like the idea of scraping my finger nails down a chalkboard (remember them?)  But I’m getting pretty close now to just biting the bullet and doing a big toss out.

One idea my colleagues and I talked about was ‘helping’ each other with this task – that with a supportive observer present we might decide “to heck with it, it can all go”.  And then we could use the time we saved by not painstakingly sorting through every sheet of paper to have a coffee or a wine and enjoy each other’s company – and celebrate a mini-victory over being captive to ‘stuff’.

Simplifying

Living a simpler life is something that really appeals – being freer from ‘stuff’.  Christine Carter’s article on the ‘Greater Good – The Science of Meaningful Life’ website is a great step in that direction with regard to emails.  As I mentioned, this is one of the most ‘sane’ articles I’ve read on the topic.  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/howand_whyto_take_your_life_back_from_email?utm_source=GG+Newsletter+April+6%2C+2016&utm_campaign=GG+Newsletter+April+6+2016&utm_medium=email

And you might also enjoy Courtney Carver’s website www.bemorewithless.com if you aspire to a simpler life in a broader sense.

Simplifying, whether it be our inboxes or our lives, helps us to lead a more Mindful life.  And Mindfulness helps us to value and achieve simplicity.  Both seem challenges worth tackling.

Image Credits: Pixaby and Adobe Stock Photos

Please comment:

A penny for your thoughts … (not literally, but you know what we mean – we’d love to hear your opinion and learn about your experiences).

How are you at deleting emails?  Or better still, unsubscribing?   And how about throwing out old paper records, articles, resources?  And other ‘stuff’ (belongings) – do you aspire to de-clutter and simplify with regard to belongings?  What have you found helpful in your attempts to de-clutter.  Please share your tips.  We’d love to hear from you on the Comments Board below.

Any and all comments welcome – whether or not you agree with what I’ve written.

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“Just” – The Enemy of Time Management

Time management, Awareness of time and Procrastination

Just.  It’s a word that can get us into a lot of trouble, stress and disappointment.  Beware of “just” if you want to improve your time management and reduce your procrastination.

I first became aware of the significance of the ‘just’ word when I was a teenager.  I heard some-one talking about how it can be used to reduce the significance of a request by a farmer to his wife (in the days before couples were partners in farm work).  A request like “Honey, while you are in town can you just pick up the six 20 kg bags of grass seed I ordered this morning”.  Or “Honey, could you just nip down to the back paddock and let the sheet into the next paddock (and this was in the era when you didn’t just hop onto your quad bike or ute).  Both jobs required a lot of extra time, and likely a change of clothes for the latter.

So over the years I have been very aware of the dangers of “just”-ing.

Dangers That Arise When We “Just” Ourselves

1.        “I will just knock out a blog post before breakfast”.  Yes, it may be do-able, especially if you’re only thinking about the writing – but all the ‘extra bits’ such as proof-reading, sourcing suitable graphics, loading it onto the website, sorting out formatting glitches etc. may make this an unrealistic goal.

This danger occurs when we fail to take account of the amount of time that the many necessary small tasks take, as part of a bigger whole.  Another example – preparing my ‘Everyday Mindfulness for Peace, Perspective and Productivity’ course.  Yesterday I told myself that I “just” needed to record the script I had prepared for one of the lessons, and then that lesson would be finished.  And when I actually went to do it, I ‘remembered’ or again became consciously aware of the steps – record it, with pen in hand, in order to edit the parts of the script that don’t flow, then record it again, and often again and again.  Then listen through to the recording while following the document in ‘review’ mode in MS Word and notating each ‘bloop’ that needs to be edited out, to send to my tech guy who does my editing for me.  Then when he sends it back to me, reviewing the work one final time.  All in all, quite a lengthy process.

This meant that the list of tasks I’d thought I’d get done yesterday was quite unrealistic which potentially sets me up for a day of feeling rushed and stressed trying to get these tasks done anyway, and disappointed at what I didn’t get done, rather than fully acknowledging and appreciating what I did get done.

2.       Unfortunately, this unhelpful little ‘mind trick’ can also go hand in hand with not having a very realistic sense of passing time.  I also have had the tendency to think “Oh, I need to be in town by 2.00 pm and so as long as I leave by 1.30 pm that will be fine”.  And I get absorbed in my work and keep on working until minutes before 1.30 pm without being very aware of the passing of time, and also having taken no account of the many small ‘just jobs’ related to getting ready for my meeting in town – which again leads to the potential for lots of wild rushing around in a ‘headless chook’ fashion, and lots of stress and self-berating.

3.       When “Just” leads into non-intentional activity, time-wasting and procrastination

Equally dangerous to good time-management is when we get unintentionally caught into activities that waste a lot of time, or that take us away from a more important task for long periods of time.  Prime suspects include “I’ll ‘just’ check my email” or “I’ll ‘just’ check Facebook (or substitute your preferred social media sites) or “I’ll ‘just’ spend a moment on my favourite computer game of the moment”.

Imagine if you had a friend and every time you made an arrangement to spend time with her, as soon as her phone rang, she’d say “I’ll just answer that, I won’t be a moment” and then spend as long on that call as you tend to spend on checking email, facebook or games, unintentionally.  You would probably have worked out pretty quickly that you can’t trust that friend’s word when they use that “just” word.  So how is it that each time we say “I’ll just” do one of these tasks, we still believe ourselves.  Derr…  Time to become very suspicious of that word, and of ourselves when we notice that word is operating!


A brilliant tip for “justing” and unrealistic estimates of how long things will take: Substitute smaller units of time

Daphne Oyserman of the University of Southern California, in her research, found that it is helpful to substitute smaller units of time – for example instead of thinking “I have 2 hours to get this task done” think “I have 120 minutes to get this task done”.  It is easy to see how this could be helpful – a 10 minute distraction that I let myself get caught up in within 120 minutes seems more significant than ‘just this little 10 minutes’ feels within 2 hours.  I’ve started to experiment with this and am finding it helpful – would love to hear about your experience if you decide to try it out.


When others “Just” us

It is also helpful to be on the lookout for when others “just” us.  “Could you just mind my children for the morning” (when you know that his or her ‘morning’ often stretches into the afternoon, or you know that his or her children are little terrors or very demanding).  Or, “Could you just help me to sort out this computer problem” (a real gamble – may be simple, but may take ages).

Of course there are many other skills that are necessary here, when others “just” us, such as being able to feel comfortable to say ‘no’, reflecting back the request with more of the details specified to more accurately reflect the scope of the request, and  being comfortable with negotiating quite specific parameters around our ‘yes’ when this is warranted.  But even ‘just’ being aware of our ‘justs’ can make a big difference.

So, you have been warned!  Beware the ‘just word’ and improve your time management.

Image credit: Dollarphotoclub.com

Please comment:

A penny for your thoughts … (not literally, but you know what we mean – we’d love to hear your opinion and learn about your experiences).

Are there other instances where the ‘just’ word causes problems in your life?  If so we’d love it if you would share your examples.  And we’d also love to hear what you notice if you start to experiment with substituting smaller units of time, if you have a tendency to ‘just’.

Any and all comments welcome – whether or not you agree with what I’ve written.

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