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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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Published on October 27, 2020

9 Remote Learning Tips for Efficient Learning

9 Remote Learning Tips for Efficient Learning

If you’re taking a course or a degree at the moment, chances are that you have to take most of your course from home instead of at a physical location. This is called remote learning and brings with it some unique challenges.

How do you learn efficiently when learning remotely? How can you absorb the material and learn at an accelerated rate, and most importantly, find enjoyment in it and keep up the motivation? This is what you will learn in this article.

I have split it into three parts:

  1. First, we will look at how to set up your learning environment to maximize your efficiency when learning remotely.
  2. Then, I will show you how to prepare yourself mentally for learning. If you’re not primed for learning, the material will not stick to your brain that easily.
  3. Lastly, I will explain how you can easily apply the most efficient accelerated learning techniques that exist.

Let’s get started!

What Is Remote Learning?

It’s easy to confuse remote learning with online learning. Before we continue, it’s important to define what remote learning is and how it differs from online learning.

The main difference that I want to point out is this: Remote learning is when the classes or courses have been designed to be taught in-person but are being conducted online. This usually happens, for example, during a pandemic.

Online learning, on the other hand, is when the classes have been specifically designed to be taken online. Courses taken on Udemy or EdX are examples of online learning.

The Basics: Preparing Your Environment for Efficient Learning

Before we get into some of the more advanced accelerated learning techniques, we need to cover some basics first. Without these fundamentals in place, it might be difficult to effectively apply the accelerated learning techniques that I will share with you later.

1. Have a Dedicated Learning Space

For efficient learning, focus is everything. Having a dedicated learning space that is set up in a way that makes you feel comfortable is a great help for your focus.

A lot of people find that this helps, mainly because of two reasons:

  1. Association – Since you associate that space with learning, you will be less distracted and find it easier to get into the correct mental headspace that is conducive for efficient learning.
  2. You’re making it into an enjoyable event – If you have a nice space with a good Feng shui atmosphere, you are more likely to associate learning as something you enjoy. As you will see later in this article, enjoyment is very important if you want to learn fast.

2. Get Rid of Distractions

Once you have set up your dedicated learning environment, get rid of all distractions from it. Distractions include everything from people, TV, radio, other open tabs on your computer, and most definitely your phone.

We are all different, and we get distracted by different things. So, knowing which distraction you have to get rid of is about knowing yourself and being honest about what distracts you personally.

3. Have a Dedicated Learning Time

If learning or studying isn’t your favorite activity, then scheduling in a set time every day as your dedicated learning time is a great aid. Apart from the obvious benefits of structure you get, it has an amazingly helpful side-effect: It’s less effortful to get started.

When you have promised yourself to abide by a strict time to go over your notes and revise, you don’t have a choice when that time comes. If it’s entirely up to you to choose when to study, you might sometimes put it off completely.

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As a result, you won’t establish the habit of getting started. And habit, my friend, is your greatest ally. Why? Because habit has the extraordinary ability to make difficult things easy.

In his amazing book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown says,

“Learning essential new skills is never easy. But once we master them and make them automatic we have won an enormous victory, because the skill remains with us for the rest of our lives. The same is true with routines.”

Prime Your Brain for Efficient Learning

What you do before a session can be just as important as what you do during it. If you’re not in a mental state where your brain absorbs new information with ease, half of your learning session might be wasted.

In this next section, I am going to give you 3 tips on how to get into the right mental headspace so that you can access states of laser-sharp focus and absorb the material with ease.

4. Look Forward to Your Learning Session

Jim Kwik, a world-renowned expert on learning and memory, says that learning is “state-dependent.” This means that the mood you’re in affects how efficiently you’re learning.[1]

Here is how memory works, according to Joshua Foer, the author of the brilliant book Moonwalking with Einstein,

You remember things by what you associate with them. If you’re on holiday or you’re having an amazing experience at an event, you are likely to remember this event because it had such a profound impact on your emotions. As a result, it’s very likely that you will remember a lot of what was said at that event. This is because you connect what has been said to how you felt emotionally during the event.

Humans are incredibly emotionally driven creatures. The way we learn and memorize things is also profoundly impacted by our emotional state.

If you struggle with looking forward to your learning session, try to realize what a great thing learning is. For many adults, learning is the most fun thing that will happen to you today. It’s a break from work and all obligations. It’s about upgrading yourself—it’s your time. What’s not to look forward to?

Now, I’m going to give you a simple but effective tool that will hack your brain into looking forward to the learning session. This will get you into an excited and positive state of mind—the best state for learning at an accelerated rate and to soak up knowledge like a dry sponge.

5. Segment Intending

Founder of Mindvalley, Vishen Lakhiani, has developed a great mental tool called segment intending that sets your day up for success. It’s the perfect tool if you struggle with staying positive about your remote learning experience.

The best part is that it takes only 1-2 minutes and is dead easy to do. You can do this in the shower or while you’re preparing your coffee in the morning.

Here is how it works:

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In your head, go through the course of your day, and split it into segments. The first segment might be your morning routine before going to work. The next one might be your commute to work, then the hours where you are at work. The last segments might be the time right after work, dinner time, then your evening activities. And the last one should be when you go to sleep.[2]

For each of these segments, imagine that they are going remarkably well. Imagine that you’re having a stress-free commute to work. Imagine that you’re having an extraordinarily productive workday while having fun with your colleagues. When you get to the segment including your study session, imagine that it will be really exciting learning something new.

It’s called segment intending because you split the day into segments and produce good intentions for each segment.

You might be thinking—why do I need to imagine that every part of the day has to go well and not only the study session, which is the focus here?

Well, there is a reason for that.

Imagining that every section or segment of your day is going well makes sure that sections of your day that are usually difficult won’t have a negative influence on your study session.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. We all know that a bad morning can ruin the rest of the day. That’s exactly why it’s so important to set good intentions for every segment of the day. Everything you do is interconnected.

It’s such a simple technique, and it works like magic.

6. The Reset Technique

Let’s say you have had a long, stressful day. When you get home, you are supposed to study for two hours. How on earth are you meant to focus completely on your learning when the events that happened previously that day are gnawing away at your mind?

By using the Reset Technique, of course!

The Reset Technique removes emotional baggage from your mind. It “resets” your mind so that you can carry on with what you’re supposed to do with a clear mind free of all distractions. This will enable you to focus 100% on the task at hand.

I call it the Reset Technique because it pretty much works the same for you as a reset or restart button does for your internet router or computer.

Here is how it works:

Sit down on the chair by your study desk. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and count slowly down from ten to zero. Feel yourself getting calmer as you approach zero, and when you reach zero, your mind is in a relaxed state. For the next 2 minutes, just breathe in and out slowly and deeply and focus your attention on nothing else but the fact that you’re breathing in and out.

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Now, open your eyes. You have just done a quick reset of your whole “system.” Now, you can approach your learning session with a much less distracted mind.

I first heard about a similar technique from author and high-performance coach Brendon Burchard in an interview. He just called it “a quick 2-3 minute meditation” (which is exactly what it is) and proposed it as a way of not carrying emotional baggage from one part of your day into the next part.[3]

Accelerated Learning Techniques for Remote Learning

So far, we have talked about how to prepare yourself and the environment around you to maximize your learning efficiency. Now it’s time to focus on the actual learning session.

This is where the magic happens.

7. Note-Taking

Note-taking is incredibly important if you want to learn fast and efficiently. Sounds obvious, right? Still, few people know how to actually use their notes after they have taken them. Let me explain.

If you’re watching a lecture on your computer screen, take a quick note of everything that sounds like it might be important. Straight after the lecture, while the information is fresh in your head, go through your notes and collect all your key points on a single sheet of paper. Try to not include anything that isn’t a key point.

The reason why this helps is that having an overview of the whole topic makes it easy to understand the big picture of the subject you’re learning. Having all the key points neatly on a single page makes you feel less overwhelmed. If all the key points can get space on one page, you feel confident that you can learn it easily.

If your teacher has already provided you with a list of key points, it might be tempting to think that this relieves you of the obligation to make notes yourself. But it’s important that you make your own notes with your own words. The reason why this is so important will become evident to you when I tell you about the Feynman Technique, which is my next tip.

Learn to make note-taking your habit too: Why Successful People Take Notes And How to Make It Your Habit

8. The Feynman Technique

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” –-Albert Einstein

What Einstein said above is what the Feynman technique is all about. This is a learning technique that Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman developed and used himself.

Using the Feynman Technique is easy:

Pretend that you are explaining a concept that you’re learning to a child. You can either write it down or say it out loud. Identify the parts of your explanation that you’re struggling with communicating clearly, and take note of gaps in your understanding of the concept. Then read up about the concept again and try to simplify the explanation one more time. Repeat this until you can confidently explain the concept in simple terms.

Why is the Feynman Technique so effective? Shane Parrish from Farnam Street puts it well:

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“Sometimes we use jargon and complicated language to hide what we don’t understand. The Feynman Technique lays bare the true extent of our knowledge.”[4]

To explain something in your own words, you are forced to really think about it. This is exactly why teaching is one of the best learning techniques. If you want to learn something really well, teach it to somebody.

9. Spaced Repetition

Spaced Repetition is the single most effective technique for solidifying something in your long term memory.

Spaced Repetition is a memorization technique based on progressively increasing the time between each time you review the material you are learning. Repetition is essential if you expect to remember something long term, and Spaced Repetition is one of the most successful structured repetition systems for this purpose.

Spaced Repetition has been tested by psychologists and has proven to be more successful than repeating previously learned material at random intervals. This is because you take advantage of your brain’s psychological spacing effect and involves reviewing the material at the point when you are about to forget it.[5]

This technique stems from the work of the psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. He developed something we today call the forgetting curve. This is a graph that shows that each time we actively recall the same information, it takes longer for it to decay from our memory.

    In my opinion, the best way to start taking advantage of Spaced Repetition is with an app such as Anki. This app will automatically space out the time intervals for you, based on how well you remember the information you are reviewing.

    Learn more about Spaced Repeition here: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

    Summing Up

    That’s it. This is how you maximize your learning efficiency for remote learning in 3 easy steps.

    1. Set up your environment to maximize your potential to stay focused.
    2. Prime yourself for learning.
    3. Use accelerated learning techniques.

    Now it’s up to you to take action and apply the tips and techniques we went through above. Remember, the hardest part of doing something hard is starting it. Continuing to do it is a lot easier. So, once you’ve started, you’re over the worst part.

    More Tips on Learning Efficiently

    Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

    Reference

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