social media

Zen and the Art of Not Trying Too Hard

shutterstock_112933981It wasn’t so long ago that I went through a turning point in my online behaviour. I used to be so hungry for information – it seemed like I couldn’t get enough new stuff, and I felt under immense pressure to always be “on” – writing a great blog post or sharing awesome content so that I wouldn’t get left behind. To be honest, I burnt out on the whole thing. I stopped really looking at anything, because I was overwhelmed by too much information. My writing output suffered immensely. I felt deflated. I knew something needed to change.

These days, I go online most mornings, check in on my social sites, read a bit of the latest buzz, and share a few thoughts of my own. To be honest, many days, I take a somewhat lackadaisical  approach to the morning check-in. I say hello to the usual suspects, and often rely on Twitter to serve me up a few good nuggets to read, usually before my first cup of coffee has really taken effect. I keep my information consumption to a relatively high level at this time of the day, saving things that require more in-depth thinking for a later time. Backing off the continuous flow of information has re-inspired me creatively, as has setting up a posting schedule. Now, I don’t feel guilty because I haven’t written in weeks, because every week I know what I need to do. And my mind is now clear of the clutter so I can do just that. I’ve regained peace with my creative process.

Stop the FOMO Madness!

FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is a real thing, and it affects almost everyone. It’s human for us to want to feel like we are a part of things – to feel the need to always be up to date, in the loop, and not left in the dust. What happened to me, was that my FOMO got so severe that it froze me in my tracks – instead of being able to take in the information I so longed for, I turned away from it. I simply couldn’t process things well anymore. I felt like everything I saw was just more of the same. I craved new ideas, but they wouldn’t come.

The problem is, social media preys on peoples’ FOMO. The stream is there, all the time, whether we are or not. We don’t want to miss something important, so we fill our heads with the stream until there’s no room left for our own thoughts and ideas. We try so hard to keep up, and the more we try, the further behind we get.

We need to overcome our FOMO. We need to realize that it’s not the end of the world if we don’t see it all, experience it all, and know it all. We need to stop the madness.

Take a Breather

Want to know a secret? The chance that you’re going to miss something super important and life altering that’s posted on a social network is slim to none. Sure, news breaks on Twitter – but if you don’t see it the instant it happens, and it’s truly important to your life, the news will reach you eventually. If you don’t get that blog post out this morning, because your kid kept you up all night or just because you’re just feeling uninspired, the world is not going to end (client deadlines and paid work notwithstanding). You don’t need to read every new post that appears in your news reader every single day. In fact, you should probably go in and purge all the feeds you’ve subscribed to that don’t interest you anymore – they are just creating unnecessary noise.

You can take a break from all of this. You can breathe. You can step out of the stream and life will go on as it always has. If something is truly important, if there’s something you really have to know about, the information will find you – trust me on this one.

Stop Seeking and Be

Repeat after me – it’s not about the end result. It’s about the process. Anything worth doing in life takes hard work – we know that. But how often do we do the hard work while being focused only on the end result? It’s always about the journey, and that’s something many of us don’t fully appreciate.

“Start blogging today, and your company will be super successful!” is a phrase I see all to often on the so-called “expert” sites. The thing is, I don’t know a single blogger who planned from the beginning to become insanely successful in business by blogging. Blogging is typically something successful people do because they want to share their thoughts and ideas with the world. Driving readership and audience and visits and new business leads is a secondary benefit. People who are truly successful leveraging social media are not completely motivated by the end result. Often, they do what they do out of a love of helping other people, and out of  a need to create.

If you’re putting a social media strategy into play, that’s great. A plan based on measurable outcomes is essential to its success. But don’t forget to just be in the process. Enjoy the flow of creating new things, and the feeling of making a great new connection with another human being. Be in awe of how simple it is to share your thoughts and ideas with someone on the other side of the planet in an instant.

These are the important things. This is how we stop trying so hard, and just enjoy the process. Take a step back from the fear, and learn to lean into only the most important things. You’ll soon find that your experience will be that much richer for it.

7 Comments

  1. Take a break and breathe… yes, I’ll do just that! Thanks for the reminder to focus on the journey!

  2. SueBrettell

    At last!  a name for what ails me ..FOMO. Thanks so much for your insight Suze!  I need to stop researching / making notes and start writing my ebooks. I call it my black hole …I start Googling an idea and next thing I know it’s the end of the day and I don’t know where it’s gone!

  3. John Meadows

    Great post! (and hopefully I proved your point by waiting until today to read it :-)).
    I fear FOMO has stuck us in an information treadmill, where the only thing that matters is the velocity of content creation and consumption. We are led to believe that every piece of online content has a best before tag with an expiry time measured in minutes, before it is replaced by the next piece of content. 
    Thoughtful understanding of content takes time (to digest and reflect) but that time is being taken away from us. We are being trained to be shallow. :-(

    • John Meadows “We are led to believe that every piece of online content has a best before tag with an expiry time measured in minutes, before it is replaced by the next piece of content. ”
      Unfortunately, this is the way most social networks are designed – to take advantage of our FOMO and suck us in. Facebook’s EdgeRank is a prime example – the Time Decay factor in EdgeRank ensures that our content has a shelf life. 
      Great insights though – I agree we need to take a step back and really figure out what’s most important to pay attention to – and forget the rest! 
      Thank YOU for paying attention to this :)

  4. I’m one of these people who can have up to 30 browser windows open. A lot of them are articles that I intend to get back to. I don’t want them to fall of my radar and disappear back into obscurity.
    But, things get to a point where there’s too much confusion. Then I take 10 minutes to close it all down:
    –  Write down the few items that I know I’ll REALLY get back to, and let the rest go. As you say, if it’s really important, it’ll show up again at another time and place.

  5. This… hit home. :) Well said Suze. Thanks!

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