What Reviews Due Number Pushes you Over the Edge

Skipped your Anki reviews today. Skipped them yesterday. Skipped them the day before that. Wait, you also missed the two weeks before that as well. Does this sound familiar? Were you plowing through Japanese every day, your path crystal clear, but somehow your Anki deck started to get left behind.

What Reviews Due Number Pushes you Over the Edge 2

You are still fully engaging in Japanese every day and in every way, but Anki is no longer your most powerful tool, but your most powerful chore. You are starting to question Anki. You start to recall the “Studying should be fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not good” methodology. You’re still improving, but you start to develop thoughts that maybe it’s time to put Anki down for good.

You already know about the inevitable encounter with the Anki avalanche. Decrease new cards. Review a little at a time. Set the timer, or daily card limit. As you get better review time decreases, correct answers go up, your speed increases. That’s nice and would be ideal. But I’ve recently come across a more brutal reality which takes all these ideals out the window, and leaves you with one truth.

There is a number of “due reviews” in your Anki deck that will make you reach a point of no return. This is different for everybody, depending on how long you’ve been using Anki and how many cards are in your deck. But it’s there. Once you reach this threshold number, you are in for some big trouble.

Anki can be pleasurable. It is a great feeling to see your review number go down to 0 for the day and get a congratulations screen. You accomplished your Anki training for the day. You can go back to the more enjoyable part of your Japanese studies.

You missed a day? Well you have +50~200 extra reviews adding up. Still doable. But as the days accumulate, you reach that magical number. My threshold number is around 700-800. What happens when that number appears is quite simple: I don’t want use Anki. I try, but usually get tired after a short amount of reviews. So what happens next? Over the next week, the reviews due rise to 1000, 1500, or more.

At this point you have three options:

1. Quit Anki for good
2. Delete your Anki deck, and restart from scratch

Or the only realistic option that I believe in:

3. Suffer through the hell of getting your reviews down to 0.

We all want to avoid this hell, since options 1 and 2 are not really viable for the hardcore Japanese learner.

Understand The Problem

You may already be fully aware of the issue, but sometimes it can be good to see it written out. As in all video games and the way Anki was built, there are some really addicting features. Completing your training (leveling) for the day gives a rewarding feeling. Every day is slightly different (random battles) with the reviews we have. Sometimes you do well, sometimes you don’t. But at the end of the day you gain experience points and level up.

Once you reach your threshold number, all the positive addicting features of Anki jump out the window. You won’t get your reward, because you probably won’t reach it in one or two days.

I also like to think of the Anki threshold number like those trying to go on a diet. When you start to gain unwanted weight (Anki reviews increasing), it is still within reasonable grasp to fix the problem. If you go on a diet now, start exercising and working out, you can recover from a reasonable level of temporary weight gain. You are rewarded in a decent amount of time, and return to your desirable weight.

But what happens when after gaining those unwanted pounds, you gain more unwanted pounds. And then a little more. You are now 30 pounds overweight. Which you know would be a huge challenge to knock off. You still want to lose the weight. You still plan on losing the weight. But now, your desire to lose it, while still strong, causes you to want to push it off. You should be able to push it off a bit. What’s the difference if you start your diet now, or in a week when you gained a few more pounds. It’s still going to be the same hell to drop 50 pounds or 52 pounds. Hold off. 2 weeks later, what’s the difference between dropping 52 or 54 pounds. Still hell. You will do this, but you can mentally push it off and are justifying yourself for doing this.

The Solution

Don’t let the problem develop in the first place. Figure out through experience what number pushes you over the edge. Once you are aware of that, make sure you don’t go over that number. Just don’t. No matter what. Make it a top priority. And if you feel like you are slipping, recall the horrid experience you already had of recovering the last time you fell.

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Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.


What Reviews Due Number Pushes you Over the Edge — 13 Comments

  1. I think each person needs to find his own path with Anki. For people at a certain level and with the right learning method predisposition, I think you’re right…stay on top of it or suck it up and get back in shape.

    Personally I tried Anki once, used it for a couple weeks, and haven’t gone back. I just found myself slogging through, not seeming to make significant gains, and I didn’t like the pacing of the reviews. Rote repetition just doesn’t work for me if I am not fully engaged, and I find it very difficult to get mentally involved in the kind of study that Anki requires.

    I still do use Anki as a tool for recording cool Japanese phrases/sayings/etc, but I don’t use it for memorization anymore.

  2. I personally don’t care about my stats on Anki, so when I kept skipping my reviews and reached 500 reviews I found a simple solution to get that number down is what I call the super click. What I mean by this is I repeatedly hit the “show answer” button and right after clicked the “hard” score until I reached zero as fast as I could. I did this to pracrastinate my reviews and push them away for a later day but not too far away. This way my reviews would go down to around 15-20 and I’d be able to get back into the grove easily after.

    • I just did the “mash the ==> button” method today too (had ~1100 reviews due over ten decks), except I had a slightly different method: Look at card briefly, if I know the answer, hit Very Good, if not, hit Good. I didn’t bother with the Hard button this time.

      Oh, and I also deleted the premade “8500-Something Japanese Sentences” deck because I just really did NOT want to deal with it, I didn’t have much commitment in it in the first place (only about 300 cards in), and I’m planning on doing Korean this fall anyway… Also found out how to correctly merge decks (got the three fragments of “Tofugu Ultimate Nouns” into one, further bringing my deck-count down to 7), and discovered that I actually have to manually enable syncing for individual decks, and all this time it had not been statesaving to the server :O

      Really gotta keep trying to do the reviews daily now (this is my fourth hiatus this year), as well as WaniKani (a sweet kanji+vocab site from Tofugu, which just went into closed beta today).

      • Super click is super cool! I’ve done it a few times and it feels very liberating and motivating. So far I didn’t experience any drawbacks.

  3. I’ve fallen into a pit several times with Anki, but luckily not many. All you have to do is do your reviews. Even if you aren’t feeling like it, at least do some.

    Timeboxing really helps with this. Just do a few minutes of study, then more minutes of rest, and repeat.

    About 3 weeks ago, I was totally disappointed with my current Japanese comprehension level. I don’t know, I can almost understand Bomberman Jetterz (anime) word for word, but others animes it goes in one ear and out the other, sometimes. Suffering the disappointment, I made a pledge to go even more hardcore. In the past 15 days, I’ve added 500 cards. And since it’s the summer, I have all the time in the world! (almost)

    Plus, I might be going on a foreign exchange to Japan (My dad is supporting it, and already got profiles and stuff), so I need to get my Japanese level as high as possible before then. Right now I have about 4300 sentences.

  4. I don’t think this post could’ve come at a better time! I just reached 800 reviews today and it was awfully disheartening… And as per usual, I immediately came here to find something motivational to get me to carry on.
    I had been doing 100 or so reviews every now and again, but adding 25 new cards everyday eventually overwhelms the 100 I did a week ago…
    I think I’m going to try what Robert did just so there isn’t such a large number there making me feel like poop about the whole thing. Especially since, once I’m done adding cards, I’ll just have reviews to do for eternity hahah

  5. One trick I do with this is to time-box “Super-click” with writing out cards I don’t know. Typically I would do sets of 5 minutes (5 minutes fast, 5 minutes concentrated). It sort of turns it into a lottery for which cards get really focused attention and which ones get a quick glance. I’ve found that it does keep me motivated when the Anki mountain rears its ugly head.

  6. I came to the same conclusion of “screw it, I’m gonna just click the s*** out of “Difficult” right before I found this site. It’s funny and a relief to find out others have had success with the same idea, caused by the same stress from huge review counts.

    After years of intensive study I’m now pretty much fluent in Chinese, and I had literally thousands and thousands of cards piling up, including a significant number of totally new cards from books or wherever. I’d do a few hundred and it would take a couple hours, and the next morning I’d wake up with hundreds more than the number I had when I went to sleep! Like a freakin monster! Anki literally started to become a significant percentage of my life stress.

    I did the super click and you know what I found? The vast majority of the cards I actually know, and when I had made the decision that “I will super click “Difficult” for every card at lightning speed,” my brain was more focused, alert, and I was actually able to run through cards at 10x the speed or more, because my brain wasn’t spending more than half the time analyzing which button to click, and then moving the mouse. Having done about 50% of them without even looking, simply super clicking through them, I started to “semi-“super click and at least look at the card in that split second, and only stop if I have no idea whatsoever… kinda fun actually. I’ll probably finish the remaining 3k in the next couple days, simply to space it out. Then, after I hit 0, I can be more discerning with which button I press, having killed the review behemoth.

    Bottom line: If reviews are piling up exponentially, super click of “Difficult” is HIGHLY recommended as a good reset and stress reliever that doesn’t compromise learning and on the contrary actually improves it. If you’re still in beginning/intermediate phases of your learning, the super click seems to make even more sense as I can imagine the stress being even greater, and the vicious cycle of large reviews more powerful.


  7. I’ve kind of declared bankruptcy and set a max on my reviews for a while and caught up that way. I basically just maintained with no new cards for almost a year. I’m adding new ones now, since I’m pretty motivated. I’m keeping my number or reps stable while adding cards, which seems like the right way to do it, but I do have a growing fear of cards silently waiting to bury me. :)

  8. I was at that point once already , 500 Kanji in my RTK deck and I somehow managed to do them all on one evening, now I’m here again haha. It’s pathetic, but I’ve spend some time on this blog (probably hours), and now got my motivation back . Thanks for this blog and I’m gonna some Kanjis ass now!

    • Congrats on getting through that large amount all at once. And If this site can rekindle your motivation, the hours are worth it!

  9. 毎日、300文章があるのはとても難しい。でも、まだできます。私の限界です。

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