The Feynman Technique & Productivity

The Feynman Technique & Productivity

"If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself"

This legendary quote - often attributed to Einstein, even though that’s debatable - has revolutionized the way we think about what it means to “understand” something.  In theory, it sounds nice, but what if there’s a 4-step proven way to put it into action?  There is, and it’s called The Feynman Technique.

What is the Feynman Technique?

The Feynman Technique was developed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It's a four-step process designed to help you deeply understand any topic — even the most complex ones.

The technique involves four steps: choosing a concept, teaching it to yourself or someone else, returning to the source material when you get stuck, and simplifying your explanations.

Step-by-step process of the Feynman Technique

📝 Choose a Concept to Learn

The first step is -obviously- to choose a specific topic you want to understand. Write it down on a blank page. This forces you to confront what you don't know and sets the stage for focused learning.

Example: Let's say you've always been confused about the process of photosynthesis. You've heard the term thrown around in biology classes, but you've never quite grasped it. Write down "Photosynthesis" at the top of a blank page.

🗣 Teach it to Yourself or Someone Else

The second step is to teach the topic to yourself or someone else. This is where the magic happens — if you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.

Example: Attempt to explain the process of photosynthesis as if you were teaching it to a fifth-grader. You might start with, "Photosynthesis is how plants make their food using sunlight."

📚 Return to the Source Material

If you find gaps in your understanding, go back to your textbook and fill in your gaps.

Example: You realize you're stuck when trying to explain how sunlight turns into food. You return to your biology textbook and read up on chlorophyll, light energy, and chemical reactions involved in photosynthesis.

🎨 Simplify and Create Analogies

The final step is to simplify your explanations and create analogies. If you can break it down into simple terms and relate it to something else – congratulations! You've achieved a deep understanding.

Example: After revisiting the source material, you simplify your explanation: "Photosynthesis is like a cooking recipe for plants. The plant takes sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide and mixes them together to create food and oxygen. The kitchen for this recipe is called the chloroplast, and the chef is a substance called chlorophyll."

Action Step of the Week

Unable to understand how the textbook describes photosynthesis? Ask AI to explain it using the Feynman Technique (first try it for yourself; otherwise, you’re sabotaging your learning).


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