When FOMO Controls Your Inbox

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out” is typically associated with Facebook, Twitter or other social media users who can’t stop checking and scrolling. But that definition is hardly big enough. 

Allow me to identify the FOMO elephant in the room: Email. 

Email is equally anxiety-producing for myself and many of the digital professionals I know. We maintain exploding inboxes because of fear of missing out on something we need to know, “something that could change my life” as one respondent to my Digital Survey said. 

When is reading a problem?

Our strength – intense interest and curiosity about the world – is also our weakness. It’s free so we sign up. We love to read. Many of the emails that come into our inboxes – mine at least – are intellectually stimulating. 

Even though we’re overwhelmed with constant incoming inputs, we hesitate deleting and unsubscribing because we might miss something. It’s the digital version of newspaper hoarders who live among piles of newspapers they won’t pitch because they haven’t read them. (Guilty when I worked for newspapers.)

Here’s the mindset shift: You have total control over your inbox. 

Don’t treat your inbox like a dump

Here’s the fix: 

Stop treating your inbox as the central dump where everything lands to be dealt with later. Stop trying to use it as a multi-function tool. 

Treat your inbox as a mailroom or loading dock, from which an email will be shuttled to another place where it will be dealt with, deleted or stored. If you’ve ever worked for a company with either a mailroom or loading dock you know how fast incoming deliveries get unloaded and dispersed before the next truck arrives. 

In order to “shuttle” that email you need a new “one-touch” routine and a stripped down inbox environment. 

It doesn’t take long to set up a routine

I’ve listed two routines below under Resources. If both of these suggestions feel overwhelming, do only one of two things today:

Create a “Read Later” folder in your inbox and set up filters to send non-urgent reading material into the folder when it arrives. You can read at your own pace, or not. 

Or set up a read-it-later app to corral and organize everything into a beautiful reading experience. UpNext even provides AI summaries so you can decide if you want to spend the time. Here’s a list:

This one forcing mechanism to empty your inbox has hidden benefits. You’ll quickly be able to tell what’s a keeper and what’s not after a couple of weeks.  

To keep or not to keep, that is the question

If you discover after a couple of quieter weeks in your inbox that you’re not reading those newsletters, that’s an indication you’re not that interested now. If you’re hesitant, create a master doc on your computer or Google Drive where you keep the website URL so you can find it again. 

The point: Free up your precious time and attention for more important things. No one will say on their deathbed, “I wish I spent more time in email.” 

Don’t overthink this. Decide. Give yourself permission to test a new routine for 30 days. 

Be ruthless with who and what you allow to stay in your inbox inner sanctum. 

That extra time you just discovered? Go outside!

3 Resources for You

One Touch to Inbox Zero (article) and video – Tiago Forte is the creator of the Second Brain system, which uses digital tools to curate and manage information. He explains how he declutters his inbox and uses four “downstream” apps to manage incoming emails: a digital calendar, a task manager, a reference app, and a read later app.

Ben Meer’s system, The 3-21-0 Method, is simpler but you’ll probably also need a couple of the downstream apps listed above. 

FOMO Sapiens – A podcast about how entrepreneurial thinkers make decisions from the guy who coined the term FOMO.

2 Questions for You

Reflections, questions and ideas to break the digital spell.

1st Q: Do you have a system for managing your inbox? Tell me more.

2nd Q: Do you have email on all your devices? Or have you designated one device to handle it?

Hit reply and let me know what you discovered this week. I’ll use some of your feedback in next week’s newsletter (first name only.)

Reflection Feedback

From Linda: (on what kind of relationship do you have with Nature)

I’m thoroughly enjoying your newsletter, and this issue made me tear up. I’ve been in love with Nature for a long time. But this morning, you made me realize that my relationship has become transformational. I hadn’t thought of it exactly that way before.

I’ve had several experiences that have shown me that I AM Nature and deeply connected.

1 Action for You

One small step to start the change.

Read the post or watch the video on Inbox Zero above. It will give you a new perspective on what you can do with supportive tech.

Thank you to everyone who took my short survey! Five questions, one optional. 3-5 minutes. Anonymous. Take it here: Digital Survey

Hit reply, let me know how it goes and I’ll include feedback in next week’s newsletter.

Nature View

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.” – William Shakespeare