Learn Anything Easily With The Feynman Technique

“You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing — that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”
~ Richard Feynman in the book "What Do You Care What Other People Think?"

This quote beautifully highlights a core issue in how we often approach learning—focusing on labels rather than understanding the essence of things.

Feynman thought the best way to learn was by trying things, making mistakes, and asking questions. He believed that you should be free to explore and discover new ideas. One of his big ideas was that if you can't explain something in a simple, clear way, you don't really understand it. His way of thinking about learning and explaining led to the Feynman Technique.


The Feynman Technique forces learners to confront and fill the gaps in their knowledge, avoiding the pitfall of thinking they understand something much better than they actually do.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the Feynman Technique, and how to apply it for deep and effective learning.

What is the Feynman Technique?

The Feynman Technique is a method for learning or understanding concepts more effectively. It is named after the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. It involves four key steps:

  1. Choose a topic: Start by picking a topic and writing down everything you know about it.
  2. Pretend to teach it to a child: Then, pretend you're trying to explain this topic to someone young, like a child, using simple language — no jargon or abstract terms.
  3. Identify gaps: As you explain, you'll notice areas where you struggle to use simple language or to clarify concepts. These are the gaps in your understanding.
  4. Review and simplify: Fill in the gaps by looking up more information or by rethinking the concept.

Step 1: Choose a concept

The Feynman technique starts by selecting a topic you want to learn about and writing everything you know about it.

By writing everything you know about a topic, you assess your own understanding. It helps you recognize what you know and what you don't. This self-reflection is essential to know the gaps in your knowledge.

When you pick a specific concept, you have to be clear and focused on just that topic.

For example, "software development" is too broad. A more specific topic suitable for this method would be "how to implement OAuth authentication in web applications." Setting specific, realistic goals is crucial for effective learning and productivity.

You might be wondering if you could just record your thoughts or draw them out instead of writing, especially if you're not a fan of writing. But, we recommend writing down with pen and paper. Writing compels you to organize your thoughts in a clear and structured manner, providing a level of detail and depth that is crucial for this process. You engage more actively with the material, which helps in better understanding and retention.

Step 2: Pretend to teach it to a child

This exercise is at the heart of the Feynman Technique's effectiveness. At this step, you have to teach the concept to someone else, as if they were a beginner or a child.

When explaining to a beginner or child, you must be exceptionally clear and logical. You can't rely on shortcuts or assume prior knowledge. This emphasis on clarity can help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you have a step-by-step understanding of the concept.

Teaching requires organizing  your knowledge into a clear, logical structure. You must be able to break down complex ideas into manageable parts and present them in a way that builds understanding step-by-step. This demands clarity of thought that comes from thoroughly processing and internalizing the material.

The idea is that if you can't explain the concept to someone else who knows nothing about it, then you haven't fully grasped it yourself. Teaching helps you identify gaps in your own understanding, which you can then go back and address.

And of course, you don't need to literally find a child or beginner to teach. The point is to imagine how you would make the concept clear and engaging to someone with no prior knowledge.

  • You can write out your explanation as if you were writing a children's book or an introductory text on the topic.
  • You can record yourself teaching the concept. Imagine you are creating an educational video for beginners.
  • Participate in online forums, discussion boards, or social media groups related to the subject. Look for questions from beginners and practice explaining the concepts to them in a clear, accessible way.
  • Find a study partner or peer who is willing to learn the concept from you. They don't need to be a complete beginner, but they should be someone who is not as familiar with the material as you are.

Step 3: Identify gaps

After teaching the concept (either to an actual person or through a mental exercise), take a moment to reflect on the experience.

Look for areas where your explanation was vague, convoluted, or relied heavily on jargon. These are often indicators that your own understanding is shaky or incomplete. Make note of these weak points as areas for further study.

If you taught the concept to someone else, pay close attention to the questions they asked. If you found yourself struggling to answer a question clearly or if the question revealed an aspect of the concept you hadn't considered, make note of it.

Once you've identified the gaps in your understanding, you can target your learning to fill these gaps. This might involve:

  • Reviewing the source material with a focus on the areas you struggled with
  • Seeking out additional resources (books, articles, videos) that explain the concept from a different perspective
  • Consulting with experts or peers who have a strong grasp of the concept
  • Practicing additional problems or examples related to the areas where you had difficulty

This step is crucial because when you identify a gap in your knowledge and then work to fill that gap, you're not just memorizing facts or procedures. You're engaging in a deeper level of learning that involves making connections, resolving contradictions, and integrating new information with your existing knowledge. This process leads to a better understanding of the concept.

Remember to be honest with yourself about your level of understanding. It's okay if you don't know everything. Recognizing knowledge gaps is a sign of intellectual maturity and a crucial step toward deepening your understanding.

Step 4: Review and Simplify

After you've found and filled in the gaps in your understanding, it's time to look at your explanation again and make it better.

Look over the whole concept again. Think about how the new things you learned fit in with what you already knew.

Try explaining the idea again, using your new understanding.

  • Make your explanation as simple and clear as possible.
  • Cut out any unnecessary words or complicated ideas. Focus on explaining the main points in the easiest way.
  • If you used any examples or comparisons, see if you can think of even better ones now that you understand the concept more deeply.
  • Share your new explanation with someone else. Use their questions and feedback to make your explanation even better.

Learning is an ongoing process. So if you find any new parts you're still unsure about while reviewing, go back and work on understanding those better. It's an iterative process.

This step is beneficial because it takes your knowledge from something a bit rough and unclear to something clear, focused, and valuable.

How to use the Feynman Technique with Sunsama

While following your curiosities is a good strategy for choosing what you learn, taking a more intentional approach to when and how you'll learn is a way to continuously evolve your skills and knowledge.

Sunsama is a great tool to integrate the Feynman Technique into your daily schedule. You can use Sunsama to schedule dedicated learning time and create tasks for each step of the technique.

Create a Sunsama channel

Create a new channel in Sunsama specifically for organizing your learning tasks and applying the Feynman Technique. Give it a name, for example, '#learning' or 'growth.'

Sunsama channels

Add tasks for each topic you want to learn

Create a task and name it with the specific topic you want to learn, for example, "Master the basics of Python programming" or "Study the OKR methodology."

Assign the task to your dedicated learning channel, which you created in the previous step. Repeat this process for each learning topic, creating a separate task for each one, until you have a list of all the subjects you want to study using the Feynman Technique.

Create subtasks

For each task, add steps 2-4 of the Feynman Technique as subtasks:

  • Teach it to myself or someone else
  • Return to the source material if I get stuck
  • Simplify my explanations and create analogies

Set your learning task to repeat

You can make your main learning tasks repeatable to establish a regular learning cadence. Choose the frequency that works best for your schedule and learning goals, such as every other week or every other Monday.

On the day a learning task is scheduled to repeat, drag it from your task list onto your daily calendar. This allows you to block off a specific chunk of time dedicated to focusing on that learning topic.

Use the notes section in Sunsama to add relevant links, notes, and source material. This helps keep track of resources and jot down ideas before transferring them to your dedicated note-keeping app or sharing over email.

The Feynman technique isn't a learning hack. It's an approach that leads us toward comprehension and away from superficial learning. It's a skill that anyone — working professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, executives, etc. — can use to learn almost anything. But it will need constant practice. Sunsama can help you do that.

If you're ready to take advantage of the Feynman Technique, give Sunsama a try for free for 14 days. You can experience firsthand how this powerful tool can help you organize your learning, stay accountable, and achieve your goals.

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