The Foundation & Productivity
Adam Moody is the founder of Productivity Academy. Adam spent 5 years in the Marine Corps and later graduated from college with a degree in physics. Working as an engineer, he decided to help people take action and achieve what they want through his Productivity Academy. Adam has his own podcast which you can find here.
Listen to #46 episode to find out what’s Adam’s approach to productivity, how he organizes his day, manages time, & why it is important to make daily reviews!
- Best productivity apps cheat sheet
- Time saving pre-hire checklist
- Invitation to join the special 14-Day Productivity Foundation Challenge
Keynotes of this episode:
- Why you need a solid foundation and a framework to be productive?
- Why is this foundation important?
- Apps & work automation can save your time
- Timeular and time tracking as automating your work
Connect with Adam:
Kate: Welcome to Stay On Top Of Your Work Podcast. Thank you for being here.
Adam: … Happy to be here and looking forward to talking to you about productivity, it’s obviously one of my favorite topics.
[00: 01:44 – 00:05:00]
Kate: Amazing, that’s great! Adam, I think everybody has a very interesting story, and I’d love you to share your story, your career, how did it happen that you are in the place that you are?
Adam: Definitely, yeah. It’s an interesting one, as I was just talking to you before we went live, you know, I’ve never really shared this on a podcast before so this is gonna be fun for me and also, hopefully, interesting to yourself as well as to listeners. But I won’t go all the way back to being born, I’ll skip a few years and come up.
I think things for me really started after high school and before I went to college I joined the Marine Corp, did that for several years, and that helped me with kind of the basics as far as, I guess the right word is “motivation” or “self-motivating yourself” and getting procrastination a little bit out of my system, at least as far as seeing the results, “Okay, if I take action, here’s the results I’m gonna get.” But then getting out of the Marine Corp and going back to school and saying, Okay, well, action is great but there’s also some like longer-term planning needed in my life, and as far as what gets me results.
So after that I went back to college and did a lot with physics and optics and eventually became an engineer and the funny part to me is I became a process engineer. I worked with laser systems and all this cool stuff. And looking at processes and how we can make them better, how we can make them more efficient.
And I look back now after starting my own business I was like, “Oh man, I could’ve done so much better.” Because I was just out of school, just learning all of that but that really helped me get a start and as far as, oh, this is how important processes are in business, they give you Real results having a solid process is worth, I mean, it’s invaluable, basically.
So anyways, I did that, found out that, you know, being an engineer for a company wasn’t what I really wanted to do and ended up leaving that and starting my own business with some partners at the time. I’ve been doing some consulting work and I met a few guys. And we started a local, digital training group. It’s called Semantic Mastery, we’re still in business, do some great training.
And that then put the crunch on me to realize, well, I thought I understood systems, I thought I understood processes but I really needed to take it up and I was now working with partners, we were building something and so I put a lot of time as far as investing time in tools, looking at different apps, you know, what could we use. And over time I found out that, of course, it’s not really the apps or the tools, and it’s you need a solid foundation and more of a framework and then the apps tie into that and help you do all of this cool stuff.
So that is where I feel like I really realized, okay, having this foundation, having that framework and I started building that.
And then, moving forward with the businesses and working with partners, that’s where a lot of team building came in. And that’s certainly an area where I’m still learning, we have teams, we have VAs, we have full-time employees. But I think that that’s more of a lifetime thing that I’m gonna be working on, learning about and then helping other people understand, “Hey, how can I create my own solid foundation? How can I build a framework that lets me use any of these awesome tools that are out there for time management or productivity or team building or anything like that?”
[00:05:01 – 00:06:30]
Kate: Amazing. I have so many questions I want to ask you. Let’s go back to your service at Marine Corps. What have you learned during that time that helps you know in your work? Is there something specific or was it just some kind of experience that didn’t impact your life?
Adam: Definitely, definitely it impacted me that’s for sure. You know, it’s funny, I look back and I stayed in… I did 5 years and I got out because it wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. But I look back on it and I really did learn a lot. There’s so many that I could say but I think one of them that I already kind of touched on was taking action.
Because I’m still, to this day, this type of person who wants to gather a lot of information, I wanna look at things, I wanna do some measuring, I wanna make sure then. But I tend to do that too much. And I think that being able to just stop and say, “Okay, I have 80% of information, I’m gonna make the best guess that I can. And I’m gonna take action. Then I’m gonna course correct as I go.”
And I think that being recruited really helped me and I still got that in me. I think sometimes they go a little bit too far as far as “take action now and then figure out later.” But I’ve also talked to a lot of entrepreneurs that operate that way. You know, they take action and then they iterate based on that. And I think you can do that as long as you have a team to support you, that’s also just helping you with planning and processes and things like that because it can’t just always be action without knowing what you’re doing.
[00:06:31 – 00:07:37]
Kate: Yeah, exactly. I think what you’re doing, what you’re talking about is very practical and I think that’s an interesting point of view in terms of productivity. So how would you define productivity?
I think it’s a very important and basic question that many of us don’t even ask ourselves because we are surrounded with all the things how to be productive, how to be better. But what is exactly that productivity?
Adam: Good question and you know, I think I’ll take a step back and say to me, this is a little… I have my own definition and this is a little bit of an escape from the question, but I’d say that it almost doesn’t matter what I think productivity is. To me it’s more what is it that you want? Or what are the results you’re looking to get and with being more productive, as you define it, give you those results? And if it does, great, use productivity.
I know some people either love it or some people hate the term, they say, you know, “Productivity s biased, it’s not real. Or time management doesn’t work, you need to manage yourself.” And I say, “That’s great, I don’t care what the name is, it’s what gets you those results.” So, hopefully that makes sense.
[00:07:38 – 00:08:32]
Kate: Yeah, of course, definitely. And as you said, some people love it, other people hate it. So why do you think we need that productivity, no matter how we define it? Why is it important?
Adam: Sure, definitely. I think that there’s several… and I … speak from what I’ve seen my own business, my partners, and people I’ve worked with. And a lot of it is, again, to reach your goals, whatever that is. And if you can define what it is you want for myself, I don’t wanna work 8 hours in an office. That’s one of my life goals it’s just not do that. And to achieve that, and now there’s more goals. But that’s something I wanna do. I don’t believe that I need to work 8 hours a day in order to get done what I need to get done.
And so I think that for a lot of people that’s maybe even… I’ve realized that’s really simple. But defining something like that would the help you kind of put into view what you wanna do and then how you can attempt that.
[00:08:33 – 00:09:07]
Kate: Yeah, and you know, one of my guests was Stever Robbins and he was talking about the bad vs good productivity.
Adam: I love this, I actually heard part of this, this is good! And I’m thinking about this, this is a little bit of an attempt but something I was talking about was productive procrastination and I am guilty of that too where it’s like, well, I was really productive today, I did the laundry, I’ve cleaned up my office, I’ve rearranged my bookshelves, so I go, okay, I did actually nothing that gets me closer to the actual goals or projects I’m working on but I felt productive.
[00:09:08 – 00:11:02]
Kate: Right! So I think we all have this problem with that bad kind of productivity. Do you think there are any other problems with bad kind of productivity? I also think about, you know, what comes to my mind is we are so surrounded with those productivity things everywhere that we get overwhelmed and sometimes you want to do so much but we’re actually doing nothing. What do you think about that?
Adam: Yeah, I think that that’s a good point. I would say that it’s not always bad like I need, I want to organize my stuff. I need to pick up after myself, I need to do the laundry. And so I think you can use that as a good break, like for example, might be using a Pomodoro technique and saying, “I’m gonna use these other things to get my mind of whatever I’m really focused on and that’s things that need to be done.”
You know, we’re real people. If you can delegate all that stuff away, that’s great. If you can either do t, you have time, you can afford someone else to do it. But at the end of the day, there’s still little things we have to get done so I think we still fit that in and it gives our running a little bit of a rest. And I see that the rest of this, as far as making yourself focused on what you wanna focus on it is, again, kind of circling back to what is it that your goals are? What is it that you’re doing all of this for? And regularly reminding yourself.
The way I do that is with my daily review. I’m sitting down at the very first thing I do is look through and say, okay what are my actual goals for the 90 days that I’m working on before I do anything else so I remind myself, “Ah, okay, like, everything else needs to follow this, right. My projects I’m working on need to-do list, the tasks need to support the projects that support those goals.”
So I find that that’s really helpful as well as for everyone else just to remind yourself so you just getting that mindset so then you’re like, “Hm, I can do the laundry and I’d feel like I’m being productive or I could write this email to a client that needs to get sent out today and would help out to bring the revenue, which is one of my goals. Which one should I do?” And then the answer should be pretty clear.
[00:11:03 – 00:12:42]
Kate: Exactly. So that brings me to the question, how does your typical workday look like?
Adam: Oh man, I’m all over the place, I should probably look at a calendar. But yeah, I say all over the place because I leave flex time in there which is something that I know some people do but I really enjoy having those blocks. And I’ve assigned about 2-3 hour blocks a week where I have, I can do just whatever. If the client work comes up, that’s great. It’s extra work for business, that’s fine. If I wanna go read a book or take a walk I do that.
But in general, just to put it into a little bit more of a real framework of how I try to organize my days is getting out and go for a walk. I’m like a huge believer in exercise and I think and whether you want to get out or just starting your day with some sort of movement. And I’m lucky enough to live somewhere where it’s warm now and I can go out and walk around so I can go out with my wife and we just do a 10 or 15 minute walk. And then I’d come in and sit down and do some admin for about an hour.
And I’ve heard a really great way that I haven’t implemented yet but I really wanna do this. And forgive me, I can’t remember what podcast I’ve heard it on. But the guest was talking about how they do an admin sandwich.
So they have an hour of admin at the beginning of the day. Then they do their focus time. And then they always know at the end of the day, they’re gonna need 30 minutes to an hour of admin to close out, to make sure everything’s done and their team is ready for the next day.
So I really like that but I’m working on that. I’ve got the first part with the admin. And then, generally after that I do a few hours of really focused work and then beyond that the afternoons I generally kind of alternate. I do calls as well as any work that is either important or needs to be caught up on.[00:12:43 – 00:15:01]
Kate: Okay. I wanted to ask you how you manage your time, you kind of answered that question but let’s elaborate! How do you do that?
Adam: Yeah, definitely, it’s a work in progress, again and I think part of it is having, like I talked about, the daily review and then expanding on that to a weekly review. Something I do every week and saying, well what’s given me the best results over the past week and how can I get more of those and what is something I can automate, delegate or delete.
And there’s a couple other questions I go through but those have to do with time management as far as what’s working for me and what’s not so my actual time management technique may change a little bit over time, you know, maybe I read a book, somebody’s got a great idea, I pull that in and give it a shoot.
So as an example, one of the things I’m doing right now, obviously the listeners won’t be able to do see this, but I’ve got this little cube from Timeular. And just to explain to everyone what it is. It’s a little, let me get… one, two, three, octahedron, eight sided looking kind of a dice and you can assign tasks or ideas to each side and as you lay it different ways on your table, it automatically tracks how much time you’re spending on that, whatever you assign it to.
And I thought, this is me, I just wanna test it, I’d love to tell people about it and so I went in and I was at the time reading the book Clockwork, and I can’t ever remember his last name, it’s Michael and it starts with an “M”, he also wrote Profit First. But he talks about using the four Ds in your business and that is:
And I thought that this is a really neat framework to see how you’re spending your time in your business and doing a health check on your business. Wait a sec, what if I combine those, and this isn’t mind-blowing, but I said, “Well I’m gonna put that on the Timular cube and you know, make his idea kind of physical reality.”
And so I’ve been doing it for a couple weeks and it’s working out pretty well and now I need to go back every week and I look at the Timeular reports and, okay, am I doing things like the percentages I wanted to do? And I found that that’s a good way instead of going back and trying to write down like every 30 minutes and doing time tracking manually, right, which I’m sure is a hard thing to do…
[00:15:02 – 00:15:51]
Kate: Right! I actually wanted to ask you is this Timeular actually working, because I’ve been wondering about it, in comparison to a typical time tracking software, like TimeCamp for example, does it work?
Adam: Yeah, for me it does so far, but it’s like any tool, it needs to fit the person. For me, I spend a lot of time in a home office so it’s handy. I think on the road, they do have mobile apps if you need but I’m prone, if it’s not regularly in front of me and in front of my mind, I’m not gonna sit there and pull out my phone and go do it.
And I think that’s where things like TimeCamp come in handy where it’s something I can have either for myself, for my team and have it running already in background, have tracking and that’s where I think the power is but it definitely depends on what you’re doing.
So like for my team, I would not get them Timeular tracking but I would get them on TimeCamp, if they needed it for time tracking projects and so.
[00:15:52 – 00:17:18]
Kate: Yeah, because I think TimeCamp and all the other tools like that are more for bigger teams and people who actually work in the office. It’s actually good for freelancers as myself because I use it on a daily basis but still, such tools are better for bigger teams.
Kate: Yeah, so what other tools do you use?
Adam: Oh my gosh, okay, yeah, being into productivity I love testing things out so as far as like what my core tools are right now, I’m using to-do list and I use that as my kind of input because it’s faster to input tasks on my phone. And so, obviously, I always have my phone on so that I can just tap that, just one tap to add a task and I love that.
And then I move things into Monday, it’s what I’m using right now for project management. It used to be called the Pulse but that’s pretty fantastic for managing. I’ve got a small team I manage in there.
Let’s see, Slack would be the other one for the larger teams in different businesses. And then a handful of other apps. But usually, testing things. I try out things for, you know 30 to 90 days and sometimes they stick and sometimes they don’t. A lot of it is just really depended to get on, either myself or the person I’m recommending it for which is why it’s tough to, you know, people, are “Which app do you not like?” Like “well some are really fair.” it’s generally because it’s not a good fit not that it’s bad or anything like that.
[00:17:19 – 00:19:27]
Kate: So what system do you use for getting things done beside all these apps and that productivity? Do you have something specific, like, for example, David Allen was also a guest on this podcast and he has that Getting Things Done philosophy? What do you think about something like that? Or do you think we should just be flexible and kind of go with the flow in our life when it comes to productivity?
Adam: Definitely, I think that everyone should build their own framework and for me it’s called the Foundation. Like I kind of mentioned, everyone should have a foundation and I really believe in that. And the core of that is to me the daily review. And I think again, you can incorporate ideas from Getting Things Done, from a bunch of these different methods that people have come up with and over time, you gotta find what works for you, not following exactly what David Allen said isn’t a great fit for you, maybe it is, and it works for a lot of people.
If I sat down and say, “Hey everybody, maybe just, hey Kate, here’s my system, you should use it.” And you could, but it probably wouldn’t fit. Maybe 80% of it would and then over time you change some of it.
So for me the daily review is big part of that. Gathering in all the information is certainly something from Getting Things Done you know, looking through Evernote, looking through my sticky notes I have on my desk, and gathering all of this information together and really prioritizing, batching and looking at things in the important vs kind of urgent areas and then getting things, moving forward, and incorporating a little bit from Cal Newport and saying, “You know, deep work is really important. I have to make time blocks.”
And again, for anyone who’s listening to this, whether you have a job, whether you got a side hustle or you’re an entrepreneur, you can make time for these deep work blocks. And not all of us are like Cal, we can’t form maybe 6 hours at a time but, you know, maybe you can only get 20 minutes right now of interrupted work.
But if you work till you top the people around you or you know, whatever it is that you need, you can extend that to 30 minutes. And that may not seem like a lot, you know, over time that uninterrupted work just adds up overtime again and again and again.
[00:19:28 – 00:22:49]
Kate: That’s true. Let’s go back to the foundation you’re talking about. I think it’s a great methodology in itself. What kind of ideology or whatever you call it, do you think you could elaborate on that on how that can help us in life to achieve the goals we want, for example, to develop the business, to become a better cook, to become just productive? You know, how does it actually work?
Adam: Definitely. I think, in terms of productivity, it’s easiest to explain and having a foundation and in my case the foundation is just saying, you know you really need these things in place and order to grow something on top of it, again, foundation, everyone probably thinks about house or a building and you wanna have a really strong foundation because at that point it doesn’t matter what you wanna do, you can build on top of that.
And I feel really strongly about the same thing, you know, it’s not enough anymore I believe to say, “Okay, well I am effective at time management” or “I am productive.” That doesn’t work. And it’s also leveraging where we’re at. It’s 2019 when we’re recording this podcast and saying, “Well, it’s never been easier to reach out and work with other people so why not incorporating team building?”
If you truly want to build a business, at some point you’re gonna have to have a team whether it’s just one other person or it’s a hundred people those are skill sets that you’ll need to have. And it doesn’t have to be complicated for a lot of people that’s just making that first tire, “How do I do this? How do I do it effectively? How do I make sure I get the right person?” Things like that.
And then, of course, there’s time management, which we spent already time talking about but I think that that’s the core of the foundation is managing your own time and understanding how to do that so that then you can better make use of your time as well as work with building a team.
But then another one to me and the last part this is automation. There’s so much we can do and it’s changing every day but just understanding the basics, again, you don’t have to go super deep into any of these. Using tools like IFTTT or Zapier, these don’t take anymore… you know, you don’t have to be a programmer or rocket scientist to figure these out. These are really plug and play. You can put together these cool automation that save you 5 minutes here, 10 minutes here.
And on top of that time, it’s that mental overhead, “Oh I’ve gotta go this little task or a copy this, paste it in that folder, do this, do that.” But you can all do that automated tools to do all of this for you and it’s amazing how much time and effort that can save over the course of a year.
For example, I recorded a video two days ago where I create an automation on Zapier. All I have to do is going to my Gmail and I want to get in out my email as fast as possible. I’m prone to getting sucked into reading too much and then I follow a chain of emails, 10 minutes later I realize I don’t know what I’m doing.
So I go in and if I see something that is not immediately actionable but it’s really important. I click the “start” button in Gmail and then the automation gets set and has been set up. So it automatically goes into to-do list. It’s got who it’s from, it’s got the link to the email so I can click and go back to it and then it tells me, “Hey, schedule something like this.”
So I figured if, you know, let’s say I spend 2 minutes extra in Gmail every time I did this, and I did this 3 or 4 times a day, without trying to do the math in my head because I don’t remember what it was, that ends up being 25 hours a year, which is just crazy.
And so by spending the 15 minutes on setting this up taking care of, I don’t have to worry about.
[00:22:55 – 00:24:00]
Kate: Automation is actually amazing. Everybody should do that.
I have a question concerning books. I love to talk about books so you have to tell me what books you read!
Adam: Okay, there’s so many… there’s so many good ones!
Kate: Maybe there is a book that you’ve read and that has impacted you so much that you just can’t stop thinking about?
Adam: Definitely! You know, this is good, I thought I was prepared for this because this is something I ask people on my podcast and I love asking them about what they’ve been reading.
I’m gonna go in the middle between what I consider productivity and business, I’d say that Traction by Gino Wickman has had the biggest impact over the last year on my businesses. We’ve certainly had processes and place for planning but reading that book, getting the buy-in from the team and then going and putting it into place for just over a year has really helped us. It’s cut down time we spent in meetings and really helped us focus on our goals and what our mission is as a business. So that’s been invaluable, I highly recommend that.
Kate: Okay, any other books?
Adam: I will include a couple in the… I’ll send you over an email and you will include those in the show notes, if you can.
Kate: Yeah, awesome! Adam, I have the last question to you which should sum up the entire episode. How do you stay on top of your work? Maybe you have some final tips for the audience?
Adam: Definitely, Kate. You know, I think that looking at, whether you believe what I said about the foundation, it’s really finding out what gets you the results you want and I think that we all do a good job of either saying, “Here’s my goals.” Either they are lofty and ambitious or they’re right in front of me.
We all think forward of, “This is what I wanna do.” And then, we’re also good at saying, “Okay, well, these are low tasks I’m gonna do today.” But a lot of times we don’t come back and say, “Hey, what actually worked? Did I keep my goal and if I did, what got me there? And if I didn’t, what prevented me from doing that?”
And so this could be as little as 30 minutes but I highly suggest that everyone just sticks it in their calendar at some point and write it down, just ask yourself those questions, “What worked well for me, what didn’t? What got me those results and how can I get more of them?
And I guarantee, if you do this regularly, it’ll be transformative.
Kate: It’s a great piece of advice actually, and I haven’t heard from anybody who was on the show, I think, and it’s really great!
Adam: Alright! I heard it straight from Kate.
Kate: Okay, Adam, anything else you’d like to add?
Adam: Not much, just like everyone, if you’d like, you can head over to www.productivity.academy/timecampspecial and you can get access to my live productivity QA which I do every week. I’ve also got a free best productivity apps cheat sheet, a free time saving pre-hire check list, and a special invitation for anyone who wants to join that 14 day productivity foundation challenge.
Kate: And I will include all the links and list of books from you in the description of the show so everybody, make sure to check it out!
Thank you Adam for being here, for joining me, it was a pleasure and an honor to talk to you. Thank you so much.
Adam: Awesome, thank you so much, Kate