Productivity & Accelerated Learning Interview With Timothy Kenny

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Welcome

The Nancy Byerly Show

Nancy Byerly is a small business owner who specializes in mastering productivity. She provides review of technology, lifestyle and productivity each week.

Nancy Byerly:

Hello, and welcome to today’s show. I am so excited to have Timothy here, the top Udemy course instructors, and he has over 130,000 students where he primarily talks about productivity and accelerated learning. I’d like to welcome you, Timothy. How are you doing today?

Timothy Kenny:

Doing good. Thanks for having me, Nancy.

Nancy Byerly:

Oh, no problem. Why do you think you were able to become so successful on Udemy? It’s a unique platform in itself.

Timothy Kenny:

Yeah, when I first saw Udemy, I wasn’t sure about joining it. And so the first that I put up there was part of a new series I was thinking about doing on thinking skills and it was called Creative Genius. And it was basically looking at how do you unleash that creativity? And so I put that course up there and it actually started doing pretty well. And so I thought, okay, maybe there’s a different way of thinking about Udemy. I can validate a lot of my ideas here and try out different things and get quick feedback. And so Udemy just has a huge amount of people.

Timothy Kenny:

It’s pretty much the biggest school in the world. It’s got millions and millions of students and they’re actually having their IPO very soon. And so they just have a ton of students, so it’s a very easy way to get a lot of people in front of your stuff and see how it does. And if it does well, then you can build off that. I started getting coaching clients from Udemy. And so I’ve just put together these courses. I’m doing some stuff independently now, but most of my stuff right now is on Udemy.

Nancy Byerly:

Okay. How did you get started at Accelerated Learning?

Timothy Kenny:

I started out teaching myself business, so I wanted to understand entrepreneurship. And I always remembered this quote or this parable of, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” And so opportunity is out there, but if you’re not prepared, if you don’t have a prepared mind, you’re not going to have the frameworks, you’re not going to have the mental models to recognize the opportunities that are out there. And the people that have started big companies from their garage, they had something, they had some background knowledge that allowed them to see that there was a nascent opportunity out there and then build off that and be one of the first people to see that or to see those first few things starting to work out, and then following along on that. Not necessarily always the first person, but one of that first cohort, that early adopter.

The Problem With School Learning

Timothy Kenny:

And so I wanted to have that prepared mind, and I started realizing that what I was learning in school and the way I was learning in school, it really not what I was learning in school, but how I was learning where I was cramming for tests, passing the tests, and then forgetting what I learned. And that was just year after year and in the sciences, and especially in math, there’s an exception to that, but for the most part knowledge doesn’t build off itself. And so you can get away with using that strategy. And what I realized is I need to have this knowledge in my head all the time. This isn’t something I’m just doing for a certificate or a degree, or to pass some tests, to go through some right of passage. It’s part of something larger. It’s part of knowledge that I have to have at all times, because I’m always experiencing things. I’m always seeing potential opportunities.

Timothy Kenny:

Opportunities

And so when I’m reading the newspaper, reading the magazine on Twitter, on the internet, just walking around in my daily life, I’m only going to recognize the opportunity if I have the frameworks at all times. And so I thought, okay, I’m going to take a break from learning business for a month. And this was all self-taught. I thought to myself, okay, I need to just figure out how to learn. And so it started off with, I had heard a little bit about speed reading. So I looked into that. Then I thought, okay, I’m reading, but I’m still not retaining it, so memory. And then there was the missing bridge between those which was note taking. How do you get the stuff out of these books, out of these videos, out of these courses, get it into notes, and then get those notes into your brain and then how do you keep it in your brain? And so that was the trifecta that I started with on Udemy.

What Life Skills Do I need?

Timothy Kenny:

And then I built out from that, I built out stuff beforehand, like skill investing, so deciding, well, what should I learn? What skills are useful? What does the market want? And then things after memorization, like feedback. How do you get feedback on what you’re learning and make sure you’re learning the right things and making sure the stuff you’ve memorized actually works in the real world? How do you implement things into learning projects? How do you organize all your knowledge, so you can have hundreds, if not thousands of different learning projects and basically take each thing that you’re interested in, put that into a learning project, put a number on it, and then anytime you find stuff, you just have a place to put it.

Timothy Kenny:

It has a home. You can go back there months or years later and all the work that you’ve done is still there. It started growing beyond. I got to the end of the month and I thought, wow, just what I’ve synthesized here is better than 80 or 90% of what’s on the market. I started to realize, wow, this is the opportunity I was looking for. Because at the time, I didn’t know what I was going to do for my business. I didn’t have the idea. I just knew, Hey, there’s opportunity. There’s the internet. There’s the four hour work week. There’s this new paradigm. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t know what my business was going to end up being.

Nancy Byerly:

What is your process for coming up with new courses? I noticed you’ve got a ton of courses up there.

Timothy Kenny:

I have a different way of planning and organizing my time than most people. And it’s really geared around my creativity. And so the stuff that I teach in my planning courses can accommodate different ways of organizing your time. Most people, if you have a job, you have regular or semi-regular hours where you have to do things at a certain time and that adds constraints. But I really try to organize my life to eliminate as many time constraints as possible and spend as much time as possible in the flow. And that flow is where things are effortless, where you’re not trying to push yourself to read the next page of the book. You’re not trying to push yourself to take notes or annotate or organize things. It’s like you’re a little kid again, and you’re just working on that project and time disappears.

Timothy Kenny:

Daily Organization

That’s the organizing principle for how I organize my time. I’ll have a vague sense of, okay, this is something I’m interested in. And then I’ll keep on learning about it and I’ll switch between different projects depending on just what I feel like learning. And then when it feels like I’m starting to get over the hill or I can at least see the horizon, that’s when I start thinking about, okay, how can I turn this into a course? And what would it look like? And so I break it down into 10 or 20 pieces. There’s a different way of organizing for Udemy courses, where there’s more of a five paragraph essay type of format where there’s three major chunks of content in the middle. Whereas for my premium courses, it’s an eight week model or eight modules. And they’ll be anywhere from an hour an hour and a half long, whereas the stuff on Udemy or on Skillshare or other platforms, they impose limits of 10 to 20 minutes per video.

Timothy Kenny:

Teaching Plaftforms

There’s a difference there. And for my premium stuff to stuff on my own platform, I tend to teach it live and get feedback and do question and answer. Just based on the platform, there’s certain things that are easier or more difficult to do. And so then I just start bringing the information together and thinking about what do I want the student to have and what were the frameworks that I was originally building out. A template that I used for project management and the learning projects are just, I basically use the same template or a very similar template. And I just fill out that template for each learning project. And one of the things I’m thinking about for any project, but especially learning project, is what are my deliverables? Is there going to be a set of notes that I want to put together?

Timothy Kenny:

Course Resources

Is there a list of things that I want to put together. That deliverable that I have for my own purposes, that then comes also an attachment for the course that students get. When they log into the course dashboard or whatever, there’ll be a spreadsheet with all the links, all the deliverables, and other things that are attachments or extras added onto the course, resources, readings, stuff like that. A lot of times I’m starting out with what is the end result, what were those deliverables? But then for somebody who hasn’t gone through all the learning I went through, they’re not going to understand those deliverables or know why they’re useful. Course is taking them through those things and helping them understand them. And sometimes they’ll be flashcards. I want to have flashcards put together and then those will go in my [inaudible 00:08:17] and then I can review that information, so eventually I memorize it.

Nancy Byerly:

Okay.

Timothy Kenny:

That’s a good example of, you’re not just trying to pass a test, but you’re passing the test every day of do I have these frameworks in my mind today or not? And if I don’t, I’m not going to recognize those opportunities today. I’m not going to be able to perform today. And so the only way to do that is to have a memorization system. You have to have the inputs for that, which would be a deliverable of it could just be notes, but it could be an audio that you listen to. You can have a virtual voice read off a PDF of your typed up notes. You just prepare those deliverables and then they need to go into some routine you have for reviewing things.

Nancy Byerly:

Okay. What book, authors, and productivity and accelerated learning space had the biggest impact?

Timothy Kenny:

Mentors

Scott H. Young is one of the biggest. Cal Newport also. They were big influences on me and productivity, accelerated learning. Scott H. Young with his MIT challenge, where he took the four year computer science degree at MIT and challenged himself to… MIT and Harvard did something called edX and MIT has something called OpenCourseWare where they take a lot of their courses and you can get the syllabi. You can get the readings. You can get the homeworks. You can get the final tests and the answer keys. And you can just go through the course. And my perspective on a lot of normal college courses, especially the larger lecture room ones, is it’s basically handholding and babysitting through just getting somebody to read a textbook. And most people, especially at that age, don’t have the self discipline to get themselves to read stuff. But once you get your master’s, once you get your PhD and you’re doing your postdoc, you just go and read papers on your own because you have to publish and you have to teach courses and you go and you read the books. You read the papers. You contribute to the academic sphere.

Timothy Kenny:

And you are at that point a self-disciplined learner. And you do just go and read that book on your own. One of my mentors told me about Harvard and MIT and they said, it doesn’t really matter how good the teachers are because the students can just go and read the textbooks and pass the tests. And this is what’s happening in a lot of med schools. I have an interview on my YouTube channel with a med student, and he talks about on his channel he doesn’t go to a lot of the lectures. They film a lot of the lectures and you can watch them in your dorm room. And it’s common knowledge amongst med students that you don’t even need to go to the lectures. You just need to know what’s on the test and you study for that.

Timothy Kenny:

And in med school, it’s so intense. It’s all about efficiency. You have to be efficient. You have to understand the game and know how to play the game. Whereas it’s some of the less competitive levels of higher ed don’t necessarily need to.

Nancy Byerly:

Okay.

Timothy Kenny:

Yeah, so your question was what was a big influence on me is just that whole idea of, and what Scott did with the MIT challenge was most of the classes had lectures, so you could watch the lectures. And generally I only read academic material. I got a lot of inspiration with that and Scott show what was possible. And then I took that and ran with it.

Nancy Byerly:

That’s pretty cool. Why is it important for people to have a self-directed [crosstalk 00:11:30]?

Timothy Kenny:

I think you look at the different sources of knowledge, different sources of information, and you think about what are this person’s interests? What is this person’s plan for me? And this is one of the things I talk about in my presidential planning course, and my planning stuff in general, if you don’t have a plan for your life, somebody else does have a plan for your life and you’re going to fit into that plan. Each person or each source of information has a plan for you. If they’re going to have you take out student loans and they’re going to have you get a certain curriculum and take licensing tests or go through whatever funnel they have for you, that’s their plan for you. And how that works out for you, they may care about that, they may not, but they definitely have their own interests and mind there.

Timothy Kenny:

If you want to have things work out in your favor, then you need to figure out, well, what are my interests? What are my long-term plans? And what’s the best way to facilitate that going through whatever educational pathway that makes sense. And so if you have a mentor, they may help direct you. If you have a faculty advisor, they may help direct. If you’re homeschooling and a parent is helping you direct you. It’s not necessarily self-directed doesn’t mean at every level of time on a long term, medium term, and short term. It’s not that you’re always doing everything yourself, it’s that you have that long term vision and things are fitting into that long term vision. And you’re noticing, am I on course, or am I off course?

Nancy Byerly:

Today’s day where you can just go to the internet, you can find stuff, you can find educational resources, you can find free courses up. You’re right. If you really are interested in something, just learn. The biggest problem that I probably would say that I have, and probably a lot of my viewers have is, you get so anxious and you get started on the project, you actually burn yourself out of learning on that. I tend to get tunnel vision. I got interested in trading, so I spent nothing but three months reading and everything I could on trading. And so you burn yourself out of those types [crosstalk 00:13:26].

Timothy Kenny:

what kind of trading?

Nancy Byerly:

I do both 4x and stock.

Timothy Kenny:

And what? What was the second one?

Nancy Byerly:

Stock, stock market. How do you tell people that you got to do this? And you just can’t go all in on some, you got to take it in chunks?

Timothy Kenny:

Well, I think tunnel vision can be very valuable. And getting very immersed in things, I try to do that. A good day for me is to have tunnel vision on one thing the whole day, and really try not to do anything else. I think it’s more about are you coming up for air once a week or once a month where you are looking at your long term plan? And what I teach in Presidential Planning is you want to have that four year plan, which I orient around the four year presidential election cycle, because I thought about different worldwide rhythms and cycles. And what’s the most regular thing that has the most impact. It can kind of be a shelling point that people can use. And so a lot of the other major superpowers, they don’t have as much of a predictable cycle like that.

Timothy Kenny:

And so I think the presidential cycle is the best one to use, and if you’re in the US, but even if you’re not, the back and forth of different administrations and different parties has an effect on what’s going to get funded, what regulations can you expect, the economy, the stock market reacts to that. It’s something that’s useful besides just, oh, well, I’m an American, so I’m going to use this cycle. And most long-term planning ex, unless you’re talking about super long-term planning like 20 50, 100 years, is at the three to five year. And it just goes to show that the fact that we think of three to five year planning as long-term planning goes to show how short-term oriented we are in the business world and in the culture in general. You have China with their 20 year plans, 50 year plans, 100 year plans.

Timothy Kenny:

And so you have to have that longer term plan and think about what is my vision for that? Having role models, having family members and looking at what did they do with their life on the 10, 20, 50 year scale? What are of the normal changes people go through as they get older? And what can you predict out of that? What constraints can you set? And then put together a long term plan for that. A portion of that has to be your entire life, may even go beyond your life to generations beyond yourself, and then work your way backwards to today. It’s generally whatever level you’re at, you want to look at two levels above that in terms of your planning. At the monthly basis, you’re looking at your quarterly and your yearly. At the quarterly basis, you’re looking at the year and the next four years. At the annual basis, you’ll get the next four years. And then maybe the next eight and 20.

Nancy Byerly:

I’m stuck on the eight year process, so that’s about as far as I go out.

Timothy Kenny:

That’s better than most people [crosstalk 00:16:17]

Nancy Byerly:

And it’s taken me a long time to get there. I’ll be honest with you. It’s taken me a long time to get there and I can go back and comment. I know why and I agree with you on that presidential cycle. The biggest impact I always felt is always in that presidential cycle, because if the Democrats version of what they want is different than what the Republicans want versus the Independents, right? I felt like we’re always flip flopping to whatever they want. And so it would have a major impact on a lot of times, our debt ceiling and all that stuff. You go back and you look and I can understand why people get in that rut, because if you’re living paycheck, right, you’re living from day to day to day. You can’t see 20 years from now when I want to retire and what do I need to have done. That type of thing.

Timothy Kenny:

There’s an interesting concept called future discounting, which is how people discount the future. And even just from nation to nation, the average savings rate, Americans really don’t save and they tend to rack up a lot of debt. And so part of that is because the US has had a pretty great financial situation the last generation or two or three. That can cause people to not think about the long term. If things are going great right now, then maybe not think about the long term. I think there’s also a cultural aspect of it of are there cultural rituals about thinking long term and just in terms of savings so that then you have a buffer and then that buffer allows you to think long term and whether a storm.

Nancy Byerly:

What templates do you have that are available that might fit a lot of people that are in the productivity?

Timothy Kenny:

Yeah, so I give away for free my mastering organization taxonomy, and this splits up your life into four big categories, professional, personal, relationships and health. And that’s got somewhere between 100 and 200 different sub folders within those four major folders that splits up your life into functional areas, kind of like how a government or a company or a nonprofit organization, or really any kind of organization is usually broken up into functional areas. And so I use this concept of personal governance and you break up the different areas of your life into different functional areas. And then you manage each of those separately with a template. And that template basically helps you keep all the relevant resources, the to-dos within there and all the different projects you have. All the projects related to just maintaining your vehicles, where does that go? Where does all that kind of paperwork go?

Timothy Kenny:

Or your health insurance, where does all that paperwork go? Or each time you visit a doctor or a specialist or whatever, where does that go? Or each time you buy a new accessory for your computer or your phone, where does that go? But then I have a one pager project management thing, and that helps you organize your projects. And as much as possible, I tell people, try to organize stuff into projects. Unless it’s really a single task that’s 5, 10, 20 minutes, but once it gets complicated enough that you can’t keep it all on your head, that’s where it moves from a task to a project. And you can think of a project as just a container of tasks, and maybe what order you need to do those in and the resources associated with that. But it’s basically your home base where anytime you’re working on anything that’s going to take several hours or is complicated especially, and you don’t just have a memorized routine for how to do it. It goes in that project. And then you can always find it later. I’d say those are two of my most important templates.

Nancy Byerly:

You have two of the bestselling programs on planning in an organization. Have you talked about both of those yet?

Timothy Kenny:

Yeah. There’s the Presidential Planning, which is the premium level course. And then there’s the stuff that’s on Udemy, which it started out actually as five separate courses, a daily planning course, a weekly planning, monthly planning, quarterly, and yearly. And so there are templates that go along with each of those, and you basically create a one pager where on the left side of the page, it’s reviewing the previous week or the previous month or the previous day, and on the right hand side, your plan for that next period of time, whether it’s the next week, next month, next year.

Timothy Kenny:

There’s also something unique that I tell people to do on the daily and the weekly level, which is print out just your one week view from Google Calendar. Or you can also, there’s a spreadsheet template for this, but print that out. And then on the left hand side, put what you plan on doing that day. And then on the right hand side, put what you actually did and what it shows you. And you only have to do this for a week or two before you really get the message. Look at how close you are in terms of do I do what I planned on doing? If something was supposed to take an hour, did it actually take an hour?

Nancy Byerly:

If somebody wanted to check out all the courses that you offer, I know we talked about Udemy me earlier. Do you have the link to it?

Timothy Kenny:

I don’t have one central location of everything right now. I’d recommend signing up to my email newsletter. That’s where I put in announcements for new stuff.

Nancy Byerly:

Okay.

Timothy Kenny:

That’s probably the best thing.

Nancy Byerly:

And where would they go for that?

Timothy Kenny:

Just TimothyKenny.com.

Nancy Byerly:

Summary

Okay. Well, Tim, I want to thank you for being on today’s show. I really enjoyed it.

Timothy Kenny:

Thank you.

Nancy Byerly:

I learned a few things and I hope that I have you on again pretty soon. Okay?

Timothy Kenny:

Yeah, definitely.

Nancy Byerly:

All right.

Timothy Kenny:

Thanks for having me.

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