If you sometimes feel left out at work, you’re doing it right

Congratulations, you can skip the meeting.
Congratulations, you can skip the meeting.
Image: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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FOMO. The fear of missing out. It’s the affliction that drives obsessive checking of Twitter feeds, Facebook updates, Instagram stories, WhatsApp groups, and news apps. It’s not uncommon for people to pick up their phones dozens of times a day when some push notification makes it buzz, because WHAT IF IT WAS SOMETHING SUPER IMPORTANT! (It just about never is.)

And it’s no longer contained to social media—it’s seeping into work as well. As if email wasn’t bad enough at cultivating FOMO, we now have a new generation of real-time tools like chat to stoke it. Yet another thing that asks for your continuous partial attention all day on the premise that you can’t miss out.

Fuck that. People should be missing out! Most people should miss out on most things most of the time. That’s what we try to encourage at my company, Basecamp. JOMO! The joy of missing out.

It’s JOMO that lets you turn off the firehose of information and chatter and interruptions to actually get the right shit done. It’s JOMO that lets you catch up on what happened today as a single summary email tomorrow morning rather than with a drip-drip-drip feed throughout the day. JOMO, baby, JOMO.

Because there’s absolutely no reason everyone needs to attempt to know everything that’s going on at our company. And especially not in real time! If it’s important, you’ll find out. And most of it isn’t. Most of the day-to-day work inside a company’s walls is mundane. And that’s a beautiful thing. It’s work, it’s not news. We must all stop treating every little fucking thing that happens at work like it’s on a breaking-news-ticker.

One way we push back against this at Basecamp is by writing monthly “Heartbeats.” Summaries of the work and progress that’s been done and had by a team, written by the team lead, to the entire company. All the minutiae boiled down to the essential points others would care to know. Just enough to keep someone in the loop without having to internalize dozens of details that don’t matter.

At many companies these days, people treat every detail at work like there’s going to be a pop quiz. They have to know every fact, every figure, every name, every event. This is a waste of brain power and an even more egregious waste of attention.

Focus on your work at hand. That’s all we ask. That’s all we require. If there’s anything you must know, we promise you’ll hear about it. If you’re curious, cool—follow whatever you want—but we want people to feel the oblivious joy of focus rather than the frantic, manic fear of missing something that didn’t matter anyway.

This article is an excerpt from the book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work.