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  • Productivity Champ Spotlight — Get Back On The Horse by Joshua Fritsch

Joshua is a member of AE’s online productivity community, the Dojo. He has always worked in a high-pace, fast-moving environment. His role required a lot from him and he soon started to notice his stress level was over the top, he wasn’t getting enough sleep and his physical health was being compromised.

He realized he needed a change, and that’s when his productivity journey began. His discoveries of tips and techniques from community members fueled his passion to become more productive.

Read on and find out more about Joshua’s journey and why he is this month’s productivity champ.

Introducing Joshua Fritsch

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re up to.

I have worked in Information Technology for nearly 25 years, serving in numerous roles from being a singular technology resource up through managing large, collaborative teams. I’ve had a hand in everything from running a website on a Linux server via a 28.8 dial-up modem to managing resources on major cloud platforms.

Despite the technology focus of my career, I am most passionate about helping people and organizations reach their full potential in both work and personal life. Perhaps in a parallel universe, I work as a coach, consultant, or even a counselor. I thrive when I am able to make the world a better place, even in small ways.

What is the backstory that ignited you to get started on becoming more productive?

Working in IT, it is difficult to avoid a daily onslaught of messages, notifications, and other distractions. Around 2005 or so I had very high levels of stress, wasn’t sleeping well and even developed some physical health problems. I happened to look back at my email archive from the past year and saw that I had received and saved more than twenty-four thousand emails – and that did not include spam!

To put this into perspective, there are 2080 working hours in a 40-hour a week, a 52-week period – 24,000 emails translated to roughly 11.5 per hour. Even stretching it out to 24/7 (8760 hours in 1 year) it was still ~2.7 per hour, every hour of every day. It was too much, and so I started looking for solutions – ultimately landing on the doorstep of Asian Efficiency with OmniFocus and GTD methodology in hand but no solid and practical means of implementing them. It was literally to become a life-changing moment.

What was the wall or problem that you ran into that stopped you from accomplishing what you wanted?

It’s always been the flood of information and expectations from the senders of near-instant response. The world moves fast, and that is certainly true in IT. I could never just ignore the communications that needed to occur – which meant I would spend a huge amount of my work time processing those needs, and then having to spend a lot of personal time catching up on the actual work I had not accomplished due to the focus on communication. I didn’t have any time for myself or even basic daydreaming.

What was the epiphany you experienced and discovered?

Email is the worst means of managing tasks/work that has ever existed. Every message you leave in your inbox to “get to later” is not just the task, it is the figuring out of the task. Say an email has two short paragraphs and the work it poses for you is “Give the expense paperwork to Jane.” If you leave this in your email, you will know there is “something” you need to do, but as the human mind can only hold seven items (plus or minus two) in short-term memory at one time you will have to constantly re-discover what that ACTUAL task is. Multiply that mental work by every email in your inbox and you have a lot of wasted time and energy.

Extracting the task from email and putting it into a separate task manager or list makes this review go a thousand times faster and more smoothly. The concept of “touch it once” is really important here. How many of your emails have you glanced at more than once and thought “Oh yeah… I need to do XYZ”? More than 5 times? 10? How many emails have been sitting there for so long that they are not even relevant anymore? When you start pulling your tasks out to a different system you drop items with intention rather than by accident, your mind clears for important things, and you find you have a lot more time in the day to spend on what matters most.

What was the transformation that you experienced?

I don’t know that I can even narrow this down to any one thing – so much tumbles out from getting control of your time that it’s difficult to measure. My stress went down, my health improved, I got so much more time to spend with the people I care about and/or on hobbies that I love. It was like being released from a mental prison.

If you have one piece of productivity advice for someone who is struggling to make progress towards their goals, what would it be?

“Get back on the horse.” When it comes to productivity, you will likely eventually fail, and you will need to restart. I am on my third or fourth round of intense focus on staying productive and each time, I pick it up faster and better than the time before. Don’t beat yourself up if you have multi-month (or perhaps even multi-year) periods where you just can’t seem to keep it together.

Thank you, Joshua, for sharing!

Joshua is a great example of what we refer to in our community as a “productivity champ” — someone who continuously looks for ways to become better or someone who has a growth mindset. Other examples of people who have succeeded are Lisa and Scott who we have written case studies about.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or distracted, you can overcome that and become a productivity champ too:

  • Review our TEA Framework, and become familiar with the 3 Pillars of Productivity.
  • Take our super-quick Productivity Quiz, which will give you actionable insight into where you should get started.
  • Pick one (only one!) action step and schedule it on your calendar to implement it.

If you think we should feature you as a productivity champ, get in touch and let us know!


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