How to avoid the FOMO effect in software development

How to avoid the FOMO effect in software development


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With a new year approaching, we will see more and more articles on new trends in the industry and all the new shiny bling that should bring software development to another level. Often, all the new trends do bring some sort of prosperity and advances. But, this happens only when they are utilized properly. FOMO or Fear of missing out is a regular occurrence in software development. Because, if we don’t do it first, everyone else will take the market and expertise.

Why does this happen? Simple. Because of clients or companies who hear a new buzz floating around and decide they must also have it. So, many companies fall into the trap of prioritizing following new changes and trends rather than focusing on what brings the most value. 

Hype or advancement?

How many times did a new technology emerge or something new appeared in your tech stack? Probably far too many times. You probably spent a lot of time learning about it and trying to grasp the core functionality and possibilities of it. Sometimes, it pays off. And other times it leads to technical debt. For something to make your development process or your product better, it must bring true additional value.

It all sounds pretty familiar to you, doesn’t it? Right now you might be thinking of something quite like it. So when does something go from hype to advancement?
Often FOMO shapes the technological landscape and environment. People get anxious if they feel they are missing out or staying behind on new exciting things. We love to be kept in the loop and discuss with others on hot topics or in this case all things novel and trailblazing. Let’s be honest, IT and software development are highly defined and influenced by trends. So, it’s a thin line between revolutionary and something hyped up. And when the line is crossed we can encounter scope creep or we need to tap into change management processes to fix things.

FOMO could be good but also bad – depending on how you look at it

FOMO in tech could easily lead us down the rabbit hole of trying to keep up with everything new. It could make us go too much into learning new things, rather than becoming experts in something that is already proven. But, there is this aspect of it that drives us to learn and progress. It could define what type of a developer will you be, T-shaped, X, or E-shaped, and so on. Fear of missing out is a balancing act between advancing and losing sight of the end goal, or rather becoming a generalist over a specialist but not in a good way.

But, even when something new is not that revolutionary, it could stimulate innovations and make people dig more into why something is making such a buzz. This leads to the creation of better solutions. And if you persist in this new technology, it might become the best thing you’ve ever done. FOMO could be a motivator to find solutions and to push ourselves into new and exciting opportunities. It’s just a case of weighing the risks against possible gains. 

On the other hand, FOMO could force someone to push new tech into solutions just to fill a gap or to say that they know how to work with it, without actually providing true value. Sometimes, people abandon projects because the new tech doesn’t fit the project scope. Often a good solution turns out to create more problems and issues than not using it. It’s not even about finishing the project in the designated time frame but delivering a solution that is not sustainable in the long run.

Developers have it bad

Developers often fall victim to the FOMO effect. Whenever they encounter a new technology, they spend much time learning it from tutorials and enter the endless tutorial loop. Doesn’t matter if they need to learn it for a new project, are shifting their areas of expertise, or are simply reacting to a hype, they tend to spiral down into the rabbit hole. They ask themselves the all-present question “If I’m not learning it, am I falling behind?”. Instead of focusing on what brings value to them and the project, they become oriented towards not becoming obsolete. 

All of this could lead to them feeling like they’re falling behind, to burnout, harder context switching, and maybe imposter syndrome. Uncontrolled FOMO brings some downsides to it all. But you have to consider external influences, as well. Developers could feel pressured by the community and market demands to start grabbing onto each new piece of knowledge or technology. So, FOMO can be initiated internally and externally.

How to fight it or manage it?

We could definitely mention JOMO (joy of missing out) where you focus on things that bring you joy and help you focus elsewhere besides work and things that minimize anxiousness. But, as we said, the drivers behind FOMO are not always so bad if, in the end, you do prosper. 

Control it so it doesn’t rule you. Because sometimes we go overboard with our ambitions and with proving ourselves to others. We all want more, more knowledge, more expertise, we want to be the best, so we end up in a never-ending cycle where we want to try everything. That’s why we unconsciously put limitations on ourselves. We forget to stop and think if something is necessarily beneficial to us at that moment. 

Is the new tech a solution to my problems?

This is a great question to pose. Is the new technology, language, or framework a direct solution to the issue or project at hand? If you do start learning and using it, will it help you bring value or not? Here is where you’ll need to balance cost vs. benefit. Meaning, how much time and effort you have to put into this versus how more efficiently or effectively will you solve the task or purpose you have. 

Does the new tech work as it states?

A lot of time people, companies, or other developers hype up some technology, language, or framework. It’s almost like influencer marketing. Word of mouth is stronger than the solution itself. This is why you might think something will work perfectly for your project, but later on, it could prove to be a mistake. It could be perhaps harder to maintain later on or it could even become sort of obsolete so you won’t have the support of the community since not many will know it to a greater extent. 

Trust your expertise!

Decide which kind of a developer you want to be and focus on building a strong foundation. Yes, you can be knowledgeable in many other areas or technologies, but be sure to have a stronger specialization in some. Learn how to apply what you know in new ways, rather than following every new trend that could take you away from what you know works the best. 

It’s okay to try to seek new challenges.

FOMO doesn’t have to bring only bad connotations with it. After all, innovations wouldn’t happen without someone being curious or seeking ways to improve doing something. But there is a difference between trying to soak up new knowledge and doing something just because everyone else is.

Sometimes it’s okay to say no.

Developers don’t need to jump on every new thing or opportunity presented to them. Not all of them will bring them value – something that we brought up many times in this article. Cherish your time and examine each thing before you if it’s a possible positive or negative experience caused by FOMO.

To FOMO or not to FOMO

Yes, we are all pressured, especially developers in the IT community to grab onto as much knowledge as they can. It’s not an easy task to keep up with changing trends and advancements in technology. Just look at the effect AI has on the whole market. It’s things like this that make developers feel like they’re missing out on something big and influential. FOMO does make that anxiety higher. As we said, it can engage people more and sort of motivate them to learn more, but only up to a certain point.

It is vital to stay at the top of your game, but it’s even more important to recognize which hypes are here to stay and which are not. Be careful how and where you allot your time. Use FOMO only when the new knowledge aligns with your aspirations and current expertise. FOMO can push you forward, but it can also pull you back. Toe the line, but don’t necessarily jump over it if you don’t feel like it will bring you or your projects any benefits. 

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