So I’m back in school, entering the second semester of my junior year of college, and I’ve started experimenting with different “life management” habits, for lack of a better term. Not only am I trying to manage my time better with everything I need and want to do, but I’m trying to find ways to keep myself motivated and not burn out. I’m not taking an actual Japanese class this semester, and while I’m not really worried about this, I’m no longer required to spend time with the language like I used to be. So now I need to make my own time for it, apart from school, and this can be quite a challenge, although it definitely does not have to be unpleasant. I thought I might list some of these personal tips in case anyone was interested.
Mind you, this is all very experimental, and I’m just trying to work them out myself, so they may not work for you (heck, they may even not end up working for me!). This is just to maybe give you some ideas to pick and choose from. Hope it can help you and your Japanese studies! :)
Start off strong
Every semester, I always tell myself to stay on top of my schoolwork, to start working out more, to spend time studying Japanese everyday, etc etc. Honestly, these habits rarely make it all the way through the semester, but I do feel that setting a few goals and making a clear effort at the beginning makes a difference. Better than starting off “weak”, right?
Have fun with Japanese
Hopefully your classes are interesting, but in all cases they’re bound to take up much of your time. This is why you have to make your Japanese time precious. Even if you can’t find the time or effort to actively study anything, make sure to have fun with it no matter what. Love the Japanese shows you’re watching, the music you’re listening to, the manga you’re reading – love it. Then whenever you have a break from your schoolwork you’ll want to spend it having fun in Japanese. If you’re doing a menial task, maybe try adding some Japanese to that. You can still listen to Japanese or maybe even watch it while doing things like cleaning your room, doing the dishes, showering, etc. Even as I write this blog post, I have a Japanese show playing in the background. Just make sure you enjoy it!
Change your environment
Last semester, I finally switched from being in a dorm to an apartment, and as I had a living room area in which to study, I tended to stay at home a lot. I rarely left the apartment for the sole reason of going to study somewhere. And, honestly, while relaxing at home is nice, I started feeling closed up and rather sluggish after a while. Now I try to go to different study areas, and especially go outside if the weather is nice. You’d be surprised how much fresh air helps your brain. Try going to a nearby park, a coffee shop, a library, etc. to study every once in a while. Walking there is even better – again, taking a moment to get some fresh air and light exercise will do wonders. I’ve found that simply changing my environment has helped me to keep up my focus and motivation. I do still spend time studying at home, just not as much as before. I now find it extremely relaxing to sit at a table outside, listening to Japanese radio while practicing kanji.
Write things down (use checklists)
When it comes to my schoolwork, I love making checklists. I often hear that goals are much more likely to come true if you write them down, so why not try that out? I also try to keep a constant list of tasks on a whiteboard and in planners. This is mainly homework assignments and whatnot, along with things that I have to do but don’t necessarily want to (such as phone calls, meetings, errands, etc.) I find that writing checklists of things that may be unpleasant help in making those things a little easier – it just feels so good to cross those tasks off! I also try to split things up into the smallest possible task. For example, if I have to read Chapters 6-8 of something, I would separately write out 6, 7, 8, and cross them out individually. The more you cross out, the more you get that satisfied feeling, the more motivated you feel.
I don't personally do this so much with Japanese studying, actually, as I’m honestly not sure how I would structure that. Aside from maybe SRS items, I don’t really have anything I try to “complete” per say, I’m just always trying to “do things” in Japanese every moment that I can. This is just a personal thing (always subject to change), and if you want to make checklists for your Japanese studies, I don’t really see why you shouldn’t.
[An awesome suggestion by my good friend @CarisEll:
My dad has an even spiffier system, wherein he'll mark an item with something different depending upon whether it's been started or totally finished. I tried it (with empty, half-full, and filled-in circles), and it does help to know what you're also in the middle of doing.]
Be efficient and feel efficient
We all have so much that we need to get done on a daily basis; as a college student, I can definitely say that for myself at least. Homework, studying, internship research, study abroad applications… it can get a little overwhelming. It’d be nice if every time you sat down to work, you’d accomplish something no matter how small. Being efficient is great, but I think it’s even better to really feel efficient – if you feel like you’re accomplishing something it can keep the motivation way up. This is where the checklists can come in. Keep checking things off, crossing things out, and even if you haven’t gotten very much done in actuality, you can keep going with high spirits. I realize this might not work for everyone, but I feel really great when I “buckle down” and take care of a ton of little things – and the little things really do add up. I hope this part makes sense… I really feel like people underestimate the power of keeping yourself motivated.
Here’s hoping someone can make use of my floating thoughts! I’ve only been in school for a little over a week at this point, but so far so good. I might make a similar post later on down the line… Good luck with your Japanese studies along with all the work you need to do! がんばれ！