How to Learn Anything Faster With The Feynman Technique
“I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.” – Richard Feynman
The Feynman Technique helps you to understand, recall and explain anything in under 20 minutes. Do you want to know how; use the framework below
Because learning is not about remembering something difficult, but it is about making things easier. The Feynman technique can be used for anything, from understanding a simple problem to grasping quantum physics. By forcing yourself to make something easier, you will remember it better!
1) Choose a Concept
Everything from gravity or our solar system to business cards or bonsai trees goes. The Feynman technique can be used to tackle most of the world’s concepts. Even if a concept consists of multiple parts (e.g. how wars start), you can use multiple paragraphs to explain it…
2) Explain it like I am 5
… like I am 5 years old. This forces you to make it really simple. You cannot use words like ‘transpose’ or ‘novella’, keep it simple. One other way, most useful for explaining technology, is to put yourself in the shoes of your (grand)parents. This has the advantage that you will not accidentally be patronizing your public. Sidenote: I took the ELI5 acronym from the subreddit /r/explainlikeim5 – a great place for explanations!
3) Pinpoint Your Knowledge Gap
If you cannot find the words to describe your concept in layman terms, get your nose back into the books. Making a simple explanation thus pushes you towards really understanding and interpreting what you read, not just skimming the text.
4) Use an Analogy
Working with abstract concepts, or is your concept still just too difficult for the 5-year-old you? Try using an analogy to link the concept to something you already know. This has the advantage of connecting old and new knowledge in your head and helps you better remember the new concept.
5) Simplify the Concept
If in the end, your concept is still too hard to grasp, try simplifying it once more. Sometimes it is better to lose some details along the way if that makes it easier for you to remember a concept (versus forgetting it altogether).
- Gravity is the attraction of very large objects on smaller objects, like the earth on you and me
- A novella is a short book that tells a story just from the perspective of the main character in the book
- A bonsai tree is a miniature tree. Just like your miniature car, it is made of the same things as the big thing, but only smaller
When to Use
Almost always. Use it to explain things to yourself when you are studying, use it to explain difficult concepts to others (e.g. in this blog), or of course when talking to your 5-year-old niece/nephew.
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman
More onthe Feynman Technique:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrNqSLPaZLc – Youtube video on the Feynman Technique
http://trevormcglynn.co/2014/05/29/learn-anything-with-the-feynman-technique/ – Related blog on the Feynman Technique
http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2012/04/learn-anything-faster-with-the-feynman-technique/ – Another related blog on the Feynman Technique