Organising my studies

For some time now, I come up with things that I want to do every day. I want to write in Japanese every day, I want to do listening exercise every day, write lines of kanji, read the news and take notes, read my book on Japanese history, revise N3 grammar, study Anki, and so on… While all these things could be done every day taken separately, it is overwhelming and almost impossible to do them all on a daily basis. Not that it takes too much time though, some of these tasks only require 10 minutes.

I have reflected upon what makes it difficult to do several different tasks a day if it is not a problem of time. I think that I am the kind of person who needs a lot of willpower to get started. Once I am doing an activity, I can sit for a long time at my desk or wherever and go on studying. But starting is difficult. It is easier for me to work for one hour on one type of exercise than do 5 different sorts of things that would all last around 10 minutes. Typically, when I am done with one task, I need a rest. To be more precise, I feel a sense of achievement and I allow myself an unnecessary rest. And then, it’s hard to start again.

As a consequence, I am changing my study plan. Instead of thinking “I will do this task every day”, I simply think that I will be studying Japanese every day and allocate a task to each day.

For example:

  • Monday: do grammar exercises (revise N3)
  • Tuesday: do a listening exercise
  • Wednesday: read the news and take notes
  • Thursday: add new words in Anki (every time I look up a word in my electronic dictionary, I save it in a deck. Once a week, I add all these words in Anki.) This is not a heavy task, so I can also add: read my history book
  • Friday: write my journal in Japanese and try to use the things I learnt or revised during the week
  • Weekend: watch Japanese dramas or films

If I skip one day, I know what activity I have skipped and can do it during the weekend.

The only task that remains a daily is studying Anki. Reading is also a daily activity for me, but I don’t consider it as a “task”. For example, I will try to open the news, if not every day, more often than once a week. However, I will only try to understand as much as I can without using the dictionary and really study one article in depth only once a week.

The only thing that I am not happy with is writing in Japanese. I really wanted to go on writing in Japanese every day, but with the multiplication of tasks, I often end up writing only one or two sentences with basic grammar, and I limit myself to kanji I know I can write. I don’t know if I can really make progress like that. Maybe it is best to only write once a week but take time to do it well and challenge myself with writing a long text, using different kinds of grammar point and systematically checking the kanji…

I think this kind of study plan can solve two problems we often come across as self-learners:

  • Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with tasks, as was my case. We are ultra-motivated, we want to improve in all areas and design a lot of things we want to do. The problem is that we might feel demotivated when it comes to actually do the tasks and not just design them. Or, some great ideas might get lost and be forgotten because it is impossible to do everything in a single day.
  • Sometimes, it is the opposite: we have one hour free to “study Japanese” or any other language, but it is not concrete enough. What do you do when you think “now I have some time to study Japanese” and sit at your desk? Me, I would spend half of these precious time wondering what to do, start something and then decide I should have done something else, or even spend time on the internet looking for new resources when I already have so many things at my disposal.

I usually don’t like having a rigid study plan… what will happen if I don’t want to do the Monday task on Monday? But to be honest, if I don’t want to do a certain exercise on Monday, there is little chance that I will want to do it on Tuesday. Either the task is ineffective, boring, not fitting your goals and you should drop it, or it is just a motivation problem and you should force yourself a little because self-learning does require self-discipline. 😉