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The Feynman Technique: How to Learn Anything Faster and More Efficiently

The Feynman Technique: How to Learn Anything Faster and More Efficiently
As a student (or someone interested in lifelong learning), there are many things competing for your attention.


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The Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique

... is the perfect strategy for learning something new, deepening your understanding of a concept, enhancing your recall of certain ideas, or reviewing for tests.

The process takes 15 minutes to master. All you need is a blank notebook and a pen or pencil.

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Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman

... the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was recognized as someone who could clearly explain complex topics in a way that everybody—even those without degrees in the sciences—could understand

While studying at Princeton, Feynman began recording and connecting the information he knew with the things that he either didn't know or didn't understand.
This resulted in a complete notebook of topics and subjects that he had disassembled, translated, reassembled, and written down in simple terms.

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The Benefits of the Feynman Technique

The Benefits of the Feynman Technique
  • It helps you gain a complete understanding of what you're learning.
  • Use the Feynman Technique if you are struggling with tough subject matter.
  • It helps to improve your teaching skills.
  • It increases your capacity to use critical thinking skills.

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Verbal communication as a basis

Verbal communication as a basis
Feynman relied heavily on verbal communication, such as when he used cartoonish diagrams to explain highly scientific principles. 

Feynman could easily tap into complex ideas using shapes, lines, and drawings. This method helped him strip away confusing language and permitted the power of storytelling to take precedence.

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The 4 Steps of the Feynman Technique

  1. Choose the idea or concept to learn about. 

    Write the concept as a heading on a blank piece of paper or notebook page, then write down everything you already know.

  2. Imagine that you have to teach the concept to a new student. In your own words, explain the concept in simple language. Include a few examples. 

  3. Review your explanation and find the areas you were unclear in.  Find answers and revise your notes. Practice step #2 again with your new notes.

  4. Can you explain the concept now to someone with no prior knowledge of the concept? 

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Applying the Feynman Technique to Your Study Habits

Applying the Feynman Technique to Your Study Habits
  1. Go over your notes and identify the specific parts of a lesson that are vague to you. 
  2. You can create simple analogies to enhance your recall of concepts.
  3. Go through all of the information that you are trying to learn without referencing your notes. 
  4. See how far you can get in explaining the concepts without getting stumped.

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The Feynman Technique

Richard Feynman understood the difference between:

  • knowing something and
  • knowing the name of something

He created a formula for learning that ensured h...

4 Steps to the Feynman Technique.

  1. Teach it to a child. Write down what you know about the subject in plain language. This forces you to understand the concept at a deeper level and simplify relationships and connections between ideas.
  2. Review the gaps in your knowledge that you uncovered in step 1. Identifying the boundaries of your understanding limits possible mistakes and increase chances of success.
  3. Organize and Simplify your new set of hand-crafted notes. A good indication that your understanding in that area still needs some work is If the explanation isn’t simple or sounds confusing.
  4. (optional): Transmit.The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.

Richard Feynman (1918–1988) "The Great Explainer”

He is considered to be one of the most important physicists of all time.

Feynman was brilliant, eloquent, and an exquisitely passionate thinker who stands unequivocally for his...

The Feynman Technique

The Feynman technique for teaching and communication is a mental model (a breakdown of his personal thought process) to convey information using to the point thoughts and simple language.

Feynman started to record and connect the things he did know with those he did not know, resulting in a thorough notebook of subjects that had been disassembled, translated, and recorded.

We can use this same model to learn new concepts.

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of sc...

“In order to talk to each other, we have to have words, and that’s all right. It’s a good idea to try to see the difference, and it’s a good idea to know when we are teaching the tools of science, such as words, and when we are teaching science itself.” 

Richard Feynman

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Learning how to learn

Learning how to learn is a meta-skill. It is a critical skill for everyone who needs to pick up and master new concepts frequently.

Understanding what is learning and how our memory works wil...

Learning skills

Learning how to learn is critical for everyone. Most of us have to deal with a changing world and to learn how to manage tons of new information.

However, most of our learning methods are outdated and far from optimal. It may even be giving us an illusion of learning, like re-reading and highlighting that don't provide proper feedback to show what you haven't learned.

Focused and Diffuse Mode

Focused and diffuse modes provide two models for how we develop, elaborate, deepen and broaden connections. Both methods are important.

  • The focused mode of learning is about bringing related concepts together into a unit, called a chunk. 
  • The diffuse mode operates through a wider net of connecting general ideas across different fields. We use this diffuse mode while we sleep, exercise or daydream.