Is your #FOMO – the “fear of missing out” – destroying your productivity?

With most of us spending more time than ever before checking emails and social media platforms throughout the day and into the night, our minds are easily distracted, and our productivity is falling.

We are social animals

I spend a significant amount of time on twitter (@jsgbaker), on instagram (@therealjessbaker), and on LinkedIn. Mostly for ‘work’ purposes you understand.

But the fear of missing out on taking part in hot topics, starting conversations, and responding to journo requests etc, has lead to me increasingly huddled over my phone, much like the average teernager. It’s not a good look at 42.

So, I recently changed my email habits. I have set up three email accounts, each one of different ares of my life: my business, social life, and online shopping and holidays separate.

Easier to ‘switch off’

It’s easier for me to ‘switch off’ from business emails at the weekend. I no longer get bothered by the spam that gets through saying “I found it hard to find your website, so let me sell you SEO” (well it was easy enough for you to find, and I hate spam, so no thanks).

I no longer accidentally get side-tracked by the latest All Saints sale when I’m supposed to be designing a leadership development programme for a client.

The 4-hour Work Week

The move to three email accounts was inspired by The 4-hour Work Week, by Timothy Ferriss. Now let’s be honest. It’s an aspirational book title used to get people, like me, to buy the book. It works. But it is full of useful ideas too.

I was several months in, but the #FOMO hadn’t disappeared. I still had the urge to regularly check my iPhone, keep the mail app on my laptop open, and I was still constantly checking various email accounts for anything new (perhaps I just love to be distracted). I had to try something else.

Back in control

I set up an automatic email response to all business emails coming in that explains that I check email twice a day (I chose 12 noon and 4pm) in a move to be more efficient.

I keep it polite and informal and give recipients an option to telephone me if their query is urgent. I hoped that any reasonable human being would at the very least understand what I was trying to achieve and guess what…?

It works!

To my surprise I had a lot of positive comments from friends and colleagues, some of who were inspired to try it themselves. I no longer check emails outside these hours, (unless there is something that I know is urgent) and I am so much more productive.

It was a challenge in the beginning (I’m 8 weeks in) as I knew the moment I emailed someone outside these times the auto-response would expire, become invalid, and I’d be left having to think of another self-management tactic.

Over to you…

Prioritise your time

If you want to figure out ways to improve your email habits and checking social media behaviour, try asking yourself these quesitons:

Q. What proportion of your day is spent checking email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, the latest blog feed, shopping alerts etc ?

Q. What could you be doing instead of checking all of this?

Q. How much more efficient you could be (and potentially less stressed) if you pro-actively managed your inbox and social media checking?

Once you get better at managing your inbox, you’re ready to move to the next stage: based on Eisenhower’s Principle…

Prioritise your inbox

Set up 4 folders on your inbox and allocate emails that come in like this:

1. Important & Urgent – your action is required, block time in your diary to take action

2. Important but Not Urgent – block time in your diary to take action

3. Not important but Urgent – you can politely push back, reschedule or delegate

4. Not Important & Not Urgent – say no, delete immediately or unsubscribe


Tweet me and let me know how you get on.