Being often in a hurry, millennials love to abbreviate. One of my favourites is “tl;dr” (too long; didn’t read). In case you’re a millennial reading this now, here’s the “tl;dr” version of this article: if you’re afraid of missing out on the breadth of what life has to offer, but also not wanting to be held back from chasing your specific dreams, the Getting Things Done® methodology can help.
You might have to do a bit more reading, though, if you want to understand how.
For those of you who are older than the internet, let me pause to explain that the anxieties of this generation seem to be described by the tension that exists between two of their favourite acronyms – FOMO (fear of missing out) and YOLO (you only live once).
Just as it’s a truism that you’ll never be as young as you are now, it’s also true that no previous generation has had to deal with so much input in our ever-expanding intellectual universe. FOMO is a natural consequence of being exposed – by social media in particular – to more opportunities in a day than one’s ancestors may have had in a lifetime. How do you decide what to do with this constant, nagging sense that, whatever you pick, some better option may pass you by?
David Allen points the way out of this trap when he observes that, “You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing – completely.” This applies to all the commitments in one’s life. Having things you want to do, or are committed to do, rattling around in your brain instead of tracked in a trusted system, is a surefire way to not only feel, but actually experience, missing out.
Having a system not only lets you be decisive, but helps you trust those decisions in the moment. Of course, you can’t know what you can’t know – but you can take an inventory of everything you’ve said you want to do in the form of outcomes and next actions, and then make a conscious choice.
Try it, and you’ll see for yourself what relief it can bring. An act as simple as writing down everything that’s on your mind can help. Taking it to the next level by applying the systematic thought process of the GTD® methodology can banish FOMO altogether.
By contrast, YOLO reprieves the Nike slogan, “Just do it!” Perhaps as one way to counter the stress of seemingly-infinite choices, the temptation to jump at a new opportunity – even if it seems wild or reckless – looks like it could help. Indeed, in the GTD methodology we do advocate courage in going after one’s dreams. But doing so need not involve poor planning and a trail of wreckage.
You see, too often I see people “drop everything” without really knowing what the “everything” is that they’ve chosen to drop. By not only having an up-to-date system, but then taking the time when something unexpected comes along to spell out your next step and desired outcome, you also minimise the chance that you end up going off half-cocked.
You don’t need to miss out, nor do you need to be impulsive to overcome decision paralysis. By building and maintaining a system that helps you weigh new options against current commitments, you can trust your decisions, follow through on them systematically, and enjoy each moment along the way.
After all, isn’t that what it’s really all about?