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Published on January 22, 2020

Learning Effectively with the Feynman Technique (The Complete Guide)

Learning Effectively with the Feynman Technique (The Complete Guide)

Effective learning is a subject that we cover extensively on Lifehack. And for that, we discuss a number of complicated theories that often take thousands of words to explain.

However, the Feynman Technique is one that’s so simple; even a kid would understand how to use it.

In this article, you will learn what exactly is the Feynman Technique and how you can use it to learn effectively.

What is the Feynman Technique?

The Feynman Technique is used to learn theories. Essentially, it’s used to memorize written material. This technique was developed by Richard P. Feynman, a Nobel prize winner who’s widely recognized as one of the most influential and iconic figures of his time.[1]

Although he was a brilliant scientist (hence the Nobel prize), he’s also known for his learning technique that makes the process extremely simple yet effective.

If you’re here, you’re probably wondering about how to learn with the Feynman Technique.

Well, it’s simple:

Explain what you’re trying to learn in the simplest of words and notice the gaps in your explanation.

Once those gaps are exposed, it’s easier for you to fill them up.

The power and effectiveness of this learning method reside in the ability to simply explain things. Although Feynman studied complex processes, he had the ability to explain them simply enough that even 12-year-olds could understand him.

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That’s why he was known as “The Great Explainer”.

The Trap of Sounding Smart

Let’s just agree to it:

We all love sounding smart.

There’s no better feeling for educated people than to sound like they know their stuff. But that leads to further complications at the time of learning.

When we’re so accustomed to using technical vocabulary, that’s how we explain a theory to ourselves while we learn it. This technical vocabulary gives us the false impression of understanding what we’re talking about.

Most of the time, our explanations have huge gaps that are covered with our carefully-chosen words. And the worst part, even we don’t realize the parts we’re missing. But if we were to sit down and dissect every line of our explanation, we’d notice that we’re missing a few pieces of the puzzle.

The basis of the Feynman Technique lies in simple explanation; meaning that we’re getting rid of all the useless jargon and trying to explain our concepts in a way that a 12-year-old child would be able to comprehend them.

When you try that, you notice that some of what you say probably doesn’t make sense, or that you’re jumping from one major point to another without having a clear idea of how the transition takes place.

Explaining simply and effectively is an art that takes time to master.

So while you’re at it, try to simplify your already-simplified explanation so you’re only exposing the concept underneath.

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How to Learn With the Feynman Technique

There are 4 parts to learning with the Feynman technique:

  1. Initial reading/studying
  2. Writing and explaining
  3. Noticing gaps and improper explanations
  4. Revisiting educational material

Let’s take a deeper look at it now.

1. Initial Reading/Studying

To start, you need to read the learning material extensively. I’m not talking about skimming through the words; you need to really get into it and read with this in mind that you’re trying to eventually memorize.

I find that reading for the sake of reading leads to lesser retention. So try to learn and retain while you read.

A lot of people think that explaining what you’re trying to learn comes after you’re done reading. But that often leads to poor understanding of the concept which forces you to reread the information.

Research suggests that rereading is an ineffective method of learning.[2] A good tip for learning with the Feynman technique is to explain each line as you read. This explanation allows you to clarify your concept along the way and afterward, focus on retention alone.

When you read the whole thing in one go and then try to clear concepts later, most of the information is lost in trying to explain and retain at the same time.

2. Writing and Explaining

Once you’ve read the text and explained it to yourself sentence-by-sentence, close the book (or tab) and take out a pen and paper.

Now, write down everything you know about the topic.

No matter what it is or how much sense it makes, just vomit all your information out and try to explain it in basic terminology.

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Remember: it’s extremely important to be clear in your explanation and use simple enough words that a 6th grader could understand you.

By convention, if a 6th grader won’t understand your explanation, it’s probably a bad one and you should work on further simplifying it.

You could also explain it to a real 6th grader… if they’d let you.

The major benefit of doing that is that you’ll see real-time reactions of what makes sense to an average person and what doesn’t.

3. Noticing Gaps and Improper Explanations

Now that you’ve written your explanation, take a second look at it and notice if everything makes sense.

Do the ideas flow right from one aspect to another? Are all aspects of the topic sounding crisp and thorough?

4. Revisiting Educational Material

If you’re like the rest of the human race, you probably messed up a few parts while you wrote. And so now, you should shine a light on those problematic parts.

Go back to your learning material and study again. This time, lay special emphasis on parts that you missed or messed up previously. This will allow you to use focused learning methods that can improve the retention of information.

The Biggest Benefit of the Feynman Technique

We’ve discussed the benefits of exposing your weak portions using the Feynman Technique. But one thing we haven’t focused on is what happens after those weak portions are exposed.

The biggest benefit of the Feynman Technique is that after the exposure of your weak points, you know what needs your immediate attention and what parts you can ignore while you re-study.

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This selective focus is what helps you retain the tricky parts that you always seem to forget.

Extended Applications in Decision-Making

Although the Feynman Technique is used for learning theory, I find its principles to be quite universal. And I have personally been using these principles in decision making.

I’ve stopped trying to over-complicate decisions or avoiding their explanations.

Whenever I face a problem, I take out a pen and paper and write down the explanation of my decision. I try keeping it as simple and blunt as I can such that a 12-year-old would understand the reason behind my choice.

A lot of times, I see that my explanations don’t make much sense or that they’re incomplete. I’m assuming that I know what I’m doing when in reality, I don’t.

Most of us aren’t willing to think too much about hard decisions since we’re afraid to face them. When they come, we think we understand them and their complexity and that we understand our actions and their consequences.

But if we focus on those decisions, dissect them and explain to ourselves why we’re taking them, we might end up taking better ones.

The Bottom Line

The Feynman Technique is an excellent method of understanding your decisions and fine-tuning stuff that doesn’t quite add up.

If you want to learn effectively, particularly complicated or difficult theories, the Feynman Technique is a very useful tool for you.

More about Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Joel Muniz via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

The brain is often thought of as similar to a computer. When the brain is powerful and working properly, it will enable you to perform all your cognitive and bodily functions smoothly and efficiently, and the reverse is also true.

Unfortunately, our brainpower tends to decline as we grow older. And as you might have seen in media reports, loss of memory and dementia is a growing concern for people today. Brain wellness is now right up there with heart health.

If you are finding yourself forgetting things more than usual, it can be a little alarming. But you need to know you are not helpless when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and powerful. There are simple brain exercises for memory improvement you can do to boost your brainpower so you remember more.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Neurology, older adults who engage in regular physical exercise like jogging and cycling are less likely to be affected by age-related brain illnesses that can limit memory and mobility.[1] And those people who perform regular, targeted brain exercises keep their brains sharp and healthy, which reduces cognitive decline and memory impairment.

When you exercise your brain, you will also improve your creative abilities, which will give you a competitive advantage in your job.

Moreover, brain exercises strengthen your ability to think on your feet and give witty responses, meaning you won’t be lost for words at critical moments in conversations.

Goodbye to awkward silences!

While you can enroll in a number of online brain training programs, experts generally recommend sticking to brain training exercises that involve real-world activities.

According to David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, exercises to strengthen brain function should offer novelty and challenge:

“Almost any silly suggestion can work.”

Here’re 25 simple real-world exercises you can do starting today to sharpen your brain and improve memory.

1. Drive a New Route Home

As simple as this exercise may sound, taking a different route home stimulates the brain. You are forced to involve more senses to find your way around, which keeps your brain alert instead of mindlessly driving home or to work on familiar routes.

Avoiding ruts and boredom is critical to keeping your brain sharp, says Eagleman.

2. Repeat It out Loud

In order to remember anything you have just read, heard or done, repeat it out loud.

For example, repeat out loud the name of someone new you’ve just met and you will nail the name down in your mind.

3. Listen While You Read

A study conducted at the University of Puerto Rico found that out of 137 Spanish-speaking students quizzed about an English book they were given to read, those students who read the book while simultaneously listening to an English audio version outscored the group that only read on eight different quizzes about the book.[2]

Listen to audio of something while simultaneously reading or watching it. You’ll engage more of your senses and help your mind remember more.

4. Play Crossword Puzzles

Simple crossword puzzles and other word games like scrabble, where you rearrange letters and make as many words as you can, stimulate the brain and improve memory.

5. Play Chess

Don’t forget to play other brain-boosting, strategy games like chess and checkers. Logic-based numbers games like Sudoku can also keep your brain fit.

6. Learn a Musical Instrument

Start playing a musical instrument. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is beneficial for the aging mind.[3]

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7. Play a New Sport

Start playing a new sport that utilizes both mind and body, such as tennis, golf, or even yoga. Athletic exercise like these will not only improve your physical fitness, but also your mental fitness.

8. Learn a Foreign Language

Enroll in a foreign language course online or at your local education center. It will help to sharpen and rejuvenate your brain.

9. Draw a Map from Memory

When you return home from visiting a new place, draw a map of the area from memory. Expand this brain exercise by drawing maps of your commute, neighborhood and other areas to enhance memory.

10. Cook a New Cuisine

Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook new cuisines. Cooking stimulates different parts of the brain and different senses including smell, sight, and taste.

11. Do Chores with Eyes Closed

Try washing the dishes, sorting laundry or taking a shower with your eyes closed. This will force your brain to use other neural pathways to get the task done.

Obviously, don’t do anything with your eyes closed that would endanger others or yourself.

12. Eat a Meal Using Chopsticks

Chopsticks will force your brain to pay attention and give your brain a good workout, especially if you have never used them before to eat.

13. Switch Hands When Doing Stuff

If you are right-handed, try using your left hand to do things like brushing your teeth and eating.

For example, if you are already good at using chopsticks to eat, use your non-dominant hand instead to challenge your fine-motor skills that are controlled by the nervous system consisting of the brain.

14. Connect with New People

Every time you connect with other people, you expose yourself to new ideas and other ways of thinking and doing things. This stimulates your mind and widens your world view and thinking process.

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So, be open to traveling more and attending shows and events to meet and interact with new people. It’ll keep your mind in tip-top shape.

15. Savor Different Flavors in Meals

Challenge your taste buds by deliberately savoring your meals. Try to identify the individual ingredients in food, including subtle spices and herbs for a tasteful burst of mental stimulation.

16. Do Math in Your Head

Don’t always rush to use a pen and paper, or a calculator to figure out math problems. Try to do them in your head. Make things a little bit more interesting by working out math problems in your head while also walking.

17. Practice Meditation

Training your mind to be quiet is not always easy, but it can be done through meditation.

Some of the benefits of practicing meditation include stress reduction, improved learning ability, increased focus and attention, enhanced memory and mood, and also reversal of brain atrophy.

18. Memorize Phone Numbers

By memorizing people’s names and phone numbers, you strengthen connections between your brain cells, which can make a big difference for your memory.

Divide 10-digit numbers into sections, such as 801 665 9378 to make it easier remember. It is arguably easier to remember 801 665 9378 than 8016659378.

19. Take up a Craft Hobby

Craft hobbies like knitting, drawing and painting are now getting more attention for their brain-boosting powers.[4]

Take up any craft hobby of your choice to strengthen your fine-motor skills and boost your brainpower.

20. Tell Stories

Telling stories stimulates the brain through recalling and recounting important details. It also helps you remember events and associate emotion with memories.

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Storytelling is so good for memory it is used to improve the lives of people with in Alzheimer’s disease.[5]

21. Create New Acronyms

Come up with your very own clever acronyms whenever you need to memorize something in a hurry.

Creating original acronyms or mnemonic phrases, where you use the first letters of words within a phrase to form a name, can sharpen your brain and assist in remembering more.

22. Visualize What You Want to Remember

Let’s say you want to remember to buy an item you need from the supermarket. Picture the items on your shopping list balancing on parts of your body.

For example, imagine balancing an egg on your nose, a bottle of milk on your head or a package of cheese on your shoulder. It’s fan and you won’t forget that image.

23. Vary Aspects of Your Surroundings

Vary things like the music in the background, time of day and whether you sit or stand when doing something to increase recall.

The theory is that the brain associates words (or whatever you are doing) to the context or environment around you. The more contextual cues you provide your brain, the more it has to draw upon when trying to remember specific things.

24. Space out Your Learning Sessions

Cramming is not always the best way to learn or remember things. Instead, review the information you want to learn or remember (statistics, foreign vocabulary, historical dates, scientific definitions, and so on) periodically over time. By spacing out your study sessions throughout the day, you learn more. Learn more about the technique here: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that he could learn a list of nonsense words if he repeated them 68 times in one day and seven more times before being tested the next day.

25. Sleep on It

Get enough shut eye each night. The brain needs six to eight hours of sleep, or at least two cycles of deep sleep each night to complete the necessary chemical changes needed to integrate new skills and information into long-term memory.

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Remember, your brain thrives on variety to keep those synapses firing. Exercising your brain with activities that are challenging, novel, and complex will help you to remember more and keep your brain fit.

More Brain Exercises

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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