The Feynman Technique

journaling

When historian Charles Weiner looked over a pile of Richard Feynman’s notebooks, he called them a wonderful ‘record of his day-to-day work’.

“No, no!”, Feynman objected strongly.

“They aren’t a record of my thinking process. They are my thinking process. I actually did the work on the paper.”

“Well,” Weiner said, “The work was done in your head, but the record of it is still here.”

“No, it’s not a record, not really. It’s working. You have to work on paper and this is the paper. Okay?”, Feynman explained.

Source: Clive Thompson (2014). Smarter Than You Think. p. 7

Richard Feynman, who won the Nobel prize for Physics, understood that writing his equations and ideas on paper was crucial to his thought.

Let me ask you this – how many times it has happened that, after reading a book, you thought you understood the idea but found it difficult to explain it to others? The idea seemed pretty clear in your head but the moment you had to verbalize it you discovered that either you didn’t have a proper grasp on the idea at the first place or you were unable to explain it in a logical coherent way to a third person.

As far as I am concerned, this is the kind of reaction people gave me, “You’re telling me that you just finished reading a compelling book but can’t explain the central idea in few sentences?”

Reading something passively creates an illusion of knowledge. It creates a confusion between  ‘mere familiarity with the concepts’ in the book and an actual understanding of them. Only by testing ourselves can we actually determine whether or not we really understand.

This is when the Feynman Technique came to my rescue. It says that the mere action of writing something down allows for a more effective integration of the learning.

 

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Work harder on yourself than you do on your Job

quote-jim-rohn

This is a followup on the answer I wrote on Quora. There I tried my best to keep the answer short and crispy, as I hate lengthy essay type of answers, as it is very hard to read on mobile device. (I use Quora mostly on my phone).

“Work harder on yourself than you do on your Job”, wise words from the late Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker.

What does that mean?

Well most people, if they are employed, get up and go to work and spend eight hours or more in the workplace, working hard for someone else. There is nothing wrong with that and that’s what most of us do across the world.

The cycle repeats, day after day, week after week, year after year even. A third of our day is spent at work. A third of our day is spent making someone else’s goals and visions come true. But…

How much time do you spend working on yourself?
How many books did you read last year?
How many times did you exercise last year?

Most people go to work and never think about working on themselves.This is true for our health, as well as our minds.

Rushing out the door, coffee on the way and grabbing whatever for breakfast is not taking care of your body. Sacrificing your heath and well-being for someone else just to pay the bills, that isn’t living a good life.

I’m not telling anyone to not work hard at your job. In fact, I’m saying the opposite; “Work hard at your job and be proud to do that but work harder on yourself.

Make yourself a priority. Taking daily action to improve yourself in every area of your life. Start a plan to improve your health if you need to. Start a plan to read, learn and educate yourself more on whatever subject you desire. Feed your mind with positive information that will motivate and inspire you. If you want the exact opposite of this, continue to read the newspaper and watch the TV.

As you begin to work harder on yourself, your output in your job will increase too so everyone wins here. When you work harder on yourself, every area of your life improves. Health, finances, relationships, family. Make a commitment to begin working on yourself today. It will be the best investment you ever make.

Benefits of writing short emails

While in the last post the focus on was that we write a novel worth of email an email and how making our emails five sentences or less can solve this problem. In the same blog I quoted Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, “proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness, less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time.”

I’m intrigued by this bit of advice from Guy Kawasaki on effective email writing, therefore I am going to focus on benefits of writing short emails.

When writing to recipients, keep your responses as short as possible, but no shorter. Even more important, if an email needs a response that’s going to take more than five sentences or more than 3 minutes of work, then you shouldn’t just automatically reply. If an email requires substantial effort to handle, it should be addressed in order of priority rather than being addressed now just because it arrived in an email.

The advantages to writing short emails:

  • It helps you focus on the purpose of your response
  • Your emails are clearer and shorter, which reduces miscommunication
  • Your emails are faster to create and proof-read, which reduces time spent composing email
  • It sets the expectation that short emails are okay, which can result in faster communication.
  • If you are worried about offending people, don’t be. A short, quick reply is more appreciated than a long, but delayed, response.

Final Thoughts: Plus, if your recipients are suffering from the email overload problem, your short but sweet emails will be a breath of fresh air. Most replies shouldn’t require more than five sentences. If you can respond to a message in less than 3 minutes, you should do so immediately, then archive.

Email Writing: Five Sentences Philosophy

One thing we need to know while writing email. If your message is too short you’ll sound abrupt. If it’s too long no one will read it.

The purpose of this post is to focus on length of emails we write everyday, yes I mean the emails we write everyday, not the emails we read or delete or dump into a folder.

Due to remote and geographically distributed teams, emails have became most widely used medium for daily communication, replacing phones calls and face-to-face meetings. Therefore we spend a lot of time writing emails, the average worker spends 28 percent of office time (11 hours a week) on email.

Given the fact that we all write a novel’s worth of email every year, did you see that, a novel worth of email, some us might have become an author if we spend that much of typing energy on writing actual books or articles.

Does writing long email helps in resolving the issue, entrepreneur-investor-author Guy Kawasaki tells

Long emails are either unread or, if they are read, they are unanswered … Right now I have 600 read but unanswered emails in my inbox.

Therefore in order to find the ideal length for an email, I found the website five.sentenc.es which suggests that an ideal length for an email to be fewer than five sentences. They outline the approach as such:

The Problem: E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.
The SolutionEmail Writing - Five Sentences Philosophy: Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.

This is the easiest solution to essay type of email writing problem, by making our emails really really easy to reply by making them simple.

Since people are both busy and lazy, they’re “more likely to respond to information requests—whether important or trivial—if they’re easy to address,” as Quartz recently reported.

Proper email is a balance between politeness and succinctness, Less than five sentences is often abrupt and rude, more than five sentences wastes time. – Author Guy Kawasaki

ProTip: Before you fire an email off, take an extra 30 seconds and read it over. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a clear, easy-to-understand point to this email?
  • Is there anything I can take out that doesn’t add to the main point?
  • Can anything be simplified?

Now to conclude this long blog, about writing short email:

The ability to write a short email is a skill in itself. Writing short emails shows confidence in what you have to say.