When you become a minimalist, you instantly begin to focus on improving other aspects of your life as well. You’re almost forced to. With nothing to distract you and fight for your attention, it’s up to you to choose deliberately — what do you want to work on today?
Being deliberate about how you spend your time will exercise your decision-making muscles, which is one of the main benefits of minimalism. But if you want to get the most out of this newfound focus and see the best returns, then the first thing you should do is learn how to learn.
That’s where the Feynman Technique comes in. Named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel-Prize winning theoretical physicist who was known as the “great explainer,” this technique will help you rapidly learn (and internalize) any subject matter. Here’s how it works:
How to use the Feynman Technique
The Feynman Technique is a simple four-part process that speeds up learning and forces you to internalize and simplify the material. It’s based on the fact that mentally recalling material is a more effective studying method than reviewing notes or memorizing flashcards.
The four steps are as follows:
- Write down the name of the concept that you’re trying to learn at the top of a sheet of paper. It’s recommended to use pen and paper, but you will still see massive benefits if you do this digitally with a program like Google Docs.
- Pretend like you are trying to explain the concept to a child. Write down your explanation in simple terms, using easy-to-understand analogies whenever possible.
- Review your explanation and look for areas where it is weak. What did you have a hard time explaining in a clear way? Pinpoint those weak points and revisit the source material until you can explain them easily. Redo Step #2.
- Look for technical terms and complex language in your explanation. Remember, you’re trying to explain this to a child. Break complex, technical language down into easier building blocks or metaphors.
And that’s it! This simple technique will help you understand new material in record time. It’s a great way to test yourself, find your weaknesses, and improve your understanding of a subject efficiently.
There is one caveat to this whole process, though. You have to apply what you’ve learned. Real-world practice is the only true measure of understanding. You could Feynman Technique a recipe to perfection, but until you get in the kitchen and cook it’s not going to make you an expert chef.
Learn, then use the Feynman Technique, then apply what you’ve learned until it’s second nature. Repeat, repeat, repeat.