Thursday, March 24, 2016

You Do You: On Escaping the Fear of Missing Out, by Virginia Alexander Cononie

The topic of FoMO or DOING ALL THE THINGS has been covered on this blog not just once, but twice by the talented Ginger Williams. Even so, it will continually be relevant because people like me persistently over-commit, experience the Fear Of Missing Out, and generally work themselves into the ground. 

Feeling burned out? Do you feel as if you are under a mountain of papers, projects, thoughts, or meetings? How can we juggle it all without getting out the door to work with two different socks on? Here are three areas where people tend to over-commit and three ways to recalibrate and refocus your energies.

Have you tried this new app, gadget, website, organization software, life changing trick, tip, certificate? The stress of keeping up with the techtrends can be overwhelming. Since technology progresses so quickly, it is incredibly easy to feel like “the next best thing” is happening every single day. This is especially true with social media (the topic of my last post on LtaYL) and marketing. In the past, I have consistently added social media platforms to my personal and professional life because “everyone else is doing it.” Here is how I’ve slowed down the process:

1. Evaluate your tools and your presence.
Are you feeling a bit widespread online? Are your apps and computer programs overlapping? Check out all the different types of technology apps you are using and decide which are working for you and not against you. At one point, I had about 5 different photo editing apps on my phone. It is fine to try things out, but move on if you find that it isn’t as good as you thought.

2. Be more aware of how you use your time.
Sometimes, I feel as if I never put down my phone. My whole life is on this little device. Maybe I should just get it over with and tape it to my hand? Nope. Instead, I try to make a conscious effort around friends, family and loved ones, to put down the device and live life in the moment not through the screen. This is an obvious piece of advice, but sticking to it is the real struggle.

3. Resist peer pressure.
I was pretty excited about Ello when it first came out, and getting an invite to that social media platform was like pulling teeth. When I finally got the in, I realized I couldn’t figure out how to make the platform work for me. My friends were there, but I couldn’t find them, and I had no idea what “noise” was or is. [Editor’s Note: I had a bad experience with Ello as well and wrote about it.] I decided that I had to delete the app. I am feeling closer and closer to deleting Pinterest for the same reason. Recognizing what has to go will help you feel less overwhelmed when it comes to your online life.

Whenever conference time comes around, there seems to be a general electric pulse vibrating from the librarian community. The vibes are strong. Rules, Regulations, Planning, Busses, Registration, Plane Rides, Yikes! It can send your head spinning. My first national conference as a professional librarian was in Chicago, and I was so overwhelmed.

1. Find your people.
As best you can, find others that hit on the same plane of existence as yours. These friends will serve as guides as you work your way around the exhibit hall or try to figure out where your next session is. Buddy up with people you know and can trust.

2. Don’t try to do it all.
Some people make these conferences into mini work-cations, while still trying to get in the maximum amount of conferencing done at the same time. Plot out your course, but remember, you don’t have to do it all. One of my librarian friends told me at my first conference, “just try to learn three new things.” I really liked this approach. If you have to make a report about your time when you get back from the conference, this “three new things” marker is an excellent way to meet that requirement.

3. You do you.
Self-care at a conference is primary. Meeting new people can be intense. Take a step back. If you feel like you need a few moments, a few hours, or an afternoon to yourself, recognize it and take the opportunity. I try to get outside of the conference and see the city for a second. Take a seat, drink some water, and be silent. Re-energize! You’ll need it because meeting new people and making connections can be exciting and but also draining at the same time.

I’ll be the first to admit that I had a really hard time saying “no” to projects, opportunities, tasks, you name it when I was a new librarian. I just thought, “well, I’ll try for these three things, and if I have the chance to participate in one, then it will be great.” But it seems to turn out that you get to participate in more than just one, and your to-do list starts climbing skyward. What are some steps to take to lessen your load?

1. Squeeze in time management and learn to say “no.”
Trust me. I know it’s hard but sometimes we have to say “no.” Don’t overburden yourself. Yes, help your coworkers and friends, but don’t take on so much that you are unable to tackle your own tasks. I promise they will understand. Refusing won’t dim your bright-eyed can-do attitude. Instead it will help you hone your abilities and allow you to help where you can help best. Along these same lines, don’t feel guilty if you need to take some time to yourself. If this means, closing your office door to focus in on a certain task, don’t apologize.

2. Make a List.
This is part of any type of advice I give to those just starting out in this field. My memory is not the best, so I pretty much live and die by my list. A list helps you see your accomplishments, tasks, and goals. The list never ends, but the tasks on it fade one by one. Many people use just tiny note pads, or go all out for stickers, and colorful weekly logs. Find what works best for you and start planning. Through planning, you will become more prepared, less overwhelmed, and (hopefully) less overcommitted.

3. Talk to a friend.
This is a big one. Reach out to a friend, family member, or even your cat. Keeping your stress bottled in will only lead to stress and conflict. Find a good friend who will listen and give you true advice.

Over-commitment and FoMO is bound to happen to you, and me, again. Even after we feel that we have defeated it, it will come back. When we get there, we should take a step back and reexamine our goals or even take a break. Try guided meditation, yoga stretches at your desk, or even a youtube search for your favorite baby animal, and then maybe have a good talk with your supervisor about establishing (or reestablishing) priorities. I know it works for me.

Virginia Alexander Cononie is a Public Services Librarian who Coordinates Library Marketing and Outreach at an academic library in Spartanburg, SC. She also draws things. This is her second post for LtaYL. The first was “You, Me, and Social Media.” You can find her at her blog or pretty much any other social media @sketchlibrarian.

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