How to learn something faster and understand it better

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You want to make sure you know something well enough, you must be able to explain it in simple terms. So even 5 year old must be able to understand it. Learning is a way that our brain grows, we assimilate information on different topics every day. When we interact with people or media channels you learn about different situations or people from the news, the newspaper or even from your social media feed, but there is difference between assimilating information and having a full grasp of a concept. When you are just hearing or reading about something you only scratch the surface which is normal because the human mind doesn’t have the time or space to fully understand all the information available. Assimilating random information allows us to connect with other people and have meaningful conversations about complex ideas. However, the situation changes when you prepare for an exam or you want to learn a new topic, a foreign language and or maybe even study for a new skill, this is when you need to go much deeper into the topic and make sure you understand all nuances and concepts, but learning takes time and effort and we are not always eager to follow through because of this. So why is the fastest way to learn, why is it important you ever wish knowledge and deep understanding was readily available, maybe something as simple as a phone of tape. Our brain doesn’t work like that not yet anyways. So until we learn how to update our brain via a USB transfer, the only way we can grow and develop is by the sweat of our brow so to speak. But there are tricks to help you learn faster and gain a better understanding of any concept in a pleasanter way, of course you will still have to put in the effort but it might be easier if you use these techniques.

The Feynman Technique

The Feynman Technique is developed by Richard Feynman, the famous physicist and teacher. The method is simple to understand and very easy to follow. 

You must not fool yourself: You are the easiest person to fool says Richard Feynman in translation Feynman was trying to say is that you need to be true to yourself and honest about your own level of understanding, this is why learning techniques is based on two important principles: 1) Critical thinking, 2) Deep learning. Besides being a renowned physicist Feynman was also great teacher his nickname was the great explainer and according to every complex idea could be expressed and easy to understand terms and if can’t do this, it means you don’t understand how the process actually works. So his technique is divided into four simple steps:

  1. Explain the topic out loud to someone else 
  2. Identify points that you can’t put into simple ideas 
  3. Go back to learning and study the weak points
  4. Repeat. 

1. Explain the topic out loud to someone else

The secret is to explain the topic to someone who is unfamiliar with the field, but can understand what you are saying if you put it in very simple terms, try to meet them at their level of understanding and describe the topic in the simplest language that you possibly can. If you don’t have someone to talk to, you can just pretend to explain it. Start by writing down the name of the concept for instance, if you are learning some Theorem, write the name down, continue with explaining the theorem in simple terms to make it very easy to understand make it as if you are preparing the lessons for maybe a 5 year old, then to make sure that you are actually understand the concept, don’t just write down definitions, add examples and try to apply the knowledge in real word situations.

2. Identify the weak points

If you can’t understand and explain an idea in simple terms, then there is a weak point in your preparation. Identify these while going through the first step and make a note of where you struggle explaining, may be you are still not sure where your weak points are, simple look for technical terms that you include in your initial explanation or may be convoluted lingo. When you use theses its clear that you don’t fully understand the idea well enough to break them down into simpler terms. After all Feynman could explain quantum physics and easy to understand ideas and you can’t explain something as simple as a Pythagorean Theorem challenge yourself to go deeper.

3. Going back and learning

Go over the material and try to find deeper meaning by either asking advice from a teacher or maybe an expert or seeking help from your friends and colleagues who already went through and understood the information. Find the terms that baffle you and baffle them and include different resources in your preparation, the goal is to know the topic so well that you will be able to explain it very simply.

4. Repeat

Go over these steps again and again and keep finding weak points in your level of understanding. The learning only stops when you will be able to fully explain the idea in the simplest way possible with anyone listening to it and being able to understand it.

How and Where to use this technique?

Feynman used to engage his audience by connecting knowledge he was trying to explain with familiar things, and avoiding complicate jargon as much as possible. he showed us that, as long as there is logic in your method you can decipher the mysteries of any topic regardless of the complexity of it. So how does this apply to you and your interest. Even though most people use it as a fastest way to learn for a test or an exam, this technique can also be applied to any learning situation’s. Lets say you want learn a new language or may be acquire a new skill and eventually become a master at it, the best way to apply the Feynman method is to deconstruct the learning process in several simple steps. In the case of learning a new language, start by understanding how the sentences are formed and how the architecture of the language follows at a basic level. Once you think you understand this try to explain it to someone else or simply write it down, it’ll help you see where you still have to keep digging for better understanding.

Go back to the material notes or explanations that you had and organize your ideas to gain a deeper meaning of the problematic areas that you can’t fully explain. It also helps to talk with a teacher or an expert who can help you, guide your steps and applying the things you have learned into practice. Finally go through the steps again until its very easy to explain the concept to someone else, then you can move on to a different step of your learning process and advance in your preparation.

Tips to be better learner

The fastest way to learn is, you shouldn’t base your entire success on just that method, if the method works but there are other things you can do to become a better learner:

  1. Get Enough sleep: How many nights did you lose studying right before an exam. Don’t deny it, you would have done it at least once and I have done it many times. We tend to postpone learning because we are overwhelmed by the amount of work that we have to do to learn, but you can’t expect to fully grasp a new concept without your brain working at full potential, so sleep is important for memory and for regular day to day activities. So before you think about the fastest way to learn, you need to think about how much sleep you had last night.
  2. Eat right: Have you noticed, how difficult is to focus and truly focus when you are actually really hungry. This happens because our brain works in nutrients we take in from food, so if your body is depleted you brain won’t be able to make sense of what you are actually trying to learn and it will be focused on trying to find food, make sure you consume healthy foods though, junk food is in not a great source of nutrients and have healthy snacks and nutritional food around you for those moments that you can’t stop for a full meal.
  3. Stay Hydrated: The body functions at optimal levels when you are hydrated, so try to ditch the coffee and especially alcohol and get a big glass of water instead, dehydration can lead to headaches and lack of focus, so that’s why it is very important to drink the necessary amount of liquid for your body every day.
  4. Movement: When you stay sit for long periods of time, like sitting in a chair or laying down studying, it can get very difficult to focus, which is why its best to include some light exercise into your studying routine. If you can do some jumping jacks or squats, is anything to get your blood pumping and you will notice an instant boost in your focus. By applying these techniques, you will able to learn better and faster and you will be able to improve yourself and actually see results in a shorter amount of time.