We all have our proud Anki review stories. I once sat down with 1200 cards, and didn’t move for half a day until I finished every last one of them. You smile with victory, and it becomes one of your memorable battle stories. From there on you go back to your typical hard Anki study of an hour or two a day. You sit down with your reviews, and make sure they never build up again.
What if this wasn’t the best way for you? What if your lengthy Anki block was getting in your way, making you unmotivated or causing you to dread Anki?
How about making Anki easier? It only takes 2 minutes to unleash the power.
What is the 2-Minute Anki?
I promise this isn’t a “study 10 minutes a day to fluency” trick.
2-minute Anki is exactly what it sounds like. You only do Anki reviews for a few minutes and you are done. No planning. No extended sessions. No internal struggle deciding whether you have time right now or feel like studying.
Who is it for?
Everyone (yes, even you rolling your eyes).
Why not just set aside a dedicated hour or so and get it done with? Because there are other activities that need this time: Learning new cards in Anki. Watching a Japanese TV show. Reading a Japanese book. You don’t want to use up all your active focus time on Anki reviews.
Why 2 Minutes?
2 minutes is enough time to open your app from your phone, and knock out about 5~10 reviews.
To be able to accomplish this, you need to have your app ready to be opened in an instant. This takes a little practice, but eventually it will be instinctive (ex. place the app on the top left part of your home screen). You should be able to do it with your eyes closed. If it takes you 20-30 seconds to find the app, the 2-minute session won’t work.
The power of 2 Minutes
There are 4 reasons why this works so well.
1. Anyone can do two minutes without much stress
The amount of willpower it takes to study for 2 minutes is minimal. You can be tired and stressed and still manage to go through this.
2. Two minutes is packed with value
Less time is more. A 2-hour session can drag on, with your eyes glazing over, and you wishing you were dead. 2 minutes requires laser focus. You’ll want to race to get as many cards done as you possibly can.
3. Stay engaged with Japanese throughout the day
When you choose Anki in the morning, nothing else Japanese during the day, and then more Japanese study at night, there’s a large part of your day where you don’t touch your goal. Spreading 2 minutes throughout the day makes sure you always stay connected with Japanese, and reminding you of your dream.
4. You feel more productive as a person
No one likes waiting for things. No one likes their perfectly imagined flow of time interrupted. At the same time, people have a large amount of small moments throughout the day that are just wasted. With 2-minute sessions you fill these negatives with positives, making you feel better about yourself.
Where to find these 2-minutes?
This requires a careful look at your day as you go through it. You are bound to find these moments everywhere. If you don’t have as many as you would like, you can purposely create more.
My favorite 2-minute session locations:
1. Shopping with someone in a store that I have no interest in
2. Waiting on line in any store (no more worrying about having to choose the shortest line at the supermarket. Go ahead and choose the long one!)
3. Anytime I have to meet with someone, I will arrive extra early
4. Cooking time (microwave, stove, oven, etc.)
5. I sit down a few minutes early before a scheduled TV show starts
6. I get into the car a few minutes before the other person I’m going somewhere with
7. Brushing my teeth
10. Waiting for (or missing) a train, bus, or uber
12. Waiting for the shower water to get hot (I’m sure I should probably get this fixed…)
These are just some of my examples. The key is to find or create waiting time. If you have your own perfect 2-minute locations, share them in the comments!
The 2-Minute Master
Try it. You don’t have to give up your 1-2 hour sessions if you love them. But you may find the 2-minute version empowers you in a new way.
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
During breaks at work.
Depending on people’s jobs, this may not work for everyone, but it could apply in the following cases:
-If you have 10- or 15- minute breaks at certain times of day
-If you are in an office setting where you have the ability to take breaks at your discretion
-If you are self-employed or work from home and can take breaks at your discretion
Lunch at work can also be used for Anki; even people who usually eat together with a group of friends will probably be able to find or make 2 minutes when you are 1) waiting for the other person(s) to arrive, 2) still sitting at the lunch table after the other person(s) left, or 3) waiting for them to warm up their lunch in the microwave or something.
Totally unrelated, but I love the way the last two photos in this post dovetail with the content of what is being said. They just fit perfectly (and are very nice photos besides).
Great additions. And maybe you can convince an employer that you need an Anki break (similar to a smoke break)
The photos somehow miraculously synced perfectly with the article :)
How do you set Anki to only demand 2 minutes of time per day? I have hundreds of Anki reviews waiting daily which take forever. It is really something I dread. Is there a setting to reduce this that I’m missing?
The Trick here is to split the hours of reviews into little chunks throughout the day.. 2 minutes at the Busstation, 2 minutes in that shoppingline (I love that idea btw) and so on.
This way you can chip your reviews away without the terrible 2 hour face-off versus your reviews
As Dominik says above, it’s just about doing 2 minutes at a time, which when done several times over a day, will chip away at your hundreds of reviews due.
On Ankidroid at least, under Reviewing Settings, there is an option to set a “time box limit”. This will flash a message after however many minutes you set it to. Though I think the idea of this article is just to fit Anki in wherever you can, filling in what would otherwise be unused time.
As soon as you start hating something, any motivation to do it is drastically reduced. I’m of the opinion that you should only review in a manner that you don’t hate. It’s not worth spending 2 hours straight on reviews if you are going to dread it and get burned out and maybe start to dislike learning Japanese. 2 minute intervals throughout the day can alleviate this.
I use 2 tricks to make Anki manageable. This and morning cram study (I think there is another article on that somewhere on the site :).
Just to add a few additional places where I find time for some studying:
* Riding the elevator at work
* Going down or up the escator to the subway
* Waiting in line at the store
* Waiting for matchmaking in online games (3-4 minutes to find a game? No longer a problem!)
* Waiting for a pot to boil while cooking
Basically the theme for me is that most of the wasted time in my life has been replaced with Anki. I would estimate that 25-30% of my Anki time comes from these small sessions and the rest from my morning Anki routine.
Ah, how could I forget about the elevator. It almost makes you hope people get off on every single floor before you!
“Waiting for matchmaking in online games” This is so perfect, wow! Thanks for the idea!
I find this works really well for sentence reviews!
However I personally have a hard time doing it for kanji reviews. When it comes to kanji, it feels like I need a relatively quiet space and a good block of time to concentrate or I don’t make much progress. I wonder if it’s just me who has that issue >_>
Kanji reviews actually work for these as well for me, but since I write out the kanji by hand, I only do them in my office at home – so basically I only do them during waits for online gaming matches.
I have a general rule rough rule that if I can’t recall something after 5-10 seconds, and it doesn’t look like I am close, then I assume that I don’t know the card, flip it, write it once, fail it, and move on. Perhaps this is something you could try if you are not doing something similar?
I like Jesper’s suggestion. As with sentence reviews, if you are spending a lot of one time on kanji, you probably don’t remember.
I also found that I needed to accept that I am going to mark kanji reviews incorrect, more than I would like, despite having some kanji on multi-year (even decade intervals). It’s just because that producing written kanji is one of the least used skills (at least for me).
Accepting that failing cards in Anki is a good thing was one of the most difficult things during my first year of studying. I have since realized that if I accept failures on a card I don’t really remember, I am missing out on the reinforcement opportunity that a fail leads to. This means that I am quite likely to fail the next time as well, which might be far in the future – in reality I am postponing learning the card. Failing cards will lead to more reviews in the short term, but they also lead to faster learning of the cards that you need to. In short, SRS works! :)
This is a good idea. Sometimes I get obsessed with finishing all my reviews at once, just to get them over with. Then I start rushing and making mistakes lol. I don’t have the Anki app, so I can really only do reviews on my desktop afterschool, but I can still spread them out if I feel burnt out >u<
Please get the Anki app :)
Agreed, get the app. Even if it seems a little expensive, remember it’s a one off payment and an app you will continue to use throughout your entire Japanese adventure.
This is working so perfectly for me, I can now handle way higher thresholds of due reviews than I could before.
The most well-used times now for me are times spend in buses and time spent between sets of my workouts. The time between sets usually adds a good amount of 15 to 30 minutes of review to otherwise wasted time
Great! And that’s a clever idea to do Anki in between workout sets. It’s the perfect amount of time too.
When playing games or other tasks, I do 5 – 10 reviews:
1) Every time I go into a battle on a jrpg.
2) Every time I walk through a door in resident evil or change scenes in a game.
3) Between tutorial videos on youtube (if they are 5 – 10 minutes).
This is an old article, but recently I been reading up on micro habits and it made me think of this. A lot of people procrastinate and avoid doing things, because in their mind it seems like ‘too much work’. Micro habits work around that by setting tasks so insanely simple that you are guaranteed to be able to do it. So for example, opening anki. You set a goal and everyday, no matter what you open anki. If you open anki your goal is considered successful and you can quit after that, or you can continue. Either way you are successful in your goal.
The idea is that the goal is so simple you can do it everyday, and if you do it every single day for a couple of months then it will become a habit. Once it becomes a habit you will keep doing it forever, and never get distracted with other stuff, or forget to do it or anything. Also the hardest part of doing stuff is often starting, so if you actually open anki then you are probably going to do a few cards. Though there is no pressure to do extra. Since there is no pressure you wont avoid it. Then of course you can add difficulty as you go, doing one card everyday, no matter what, then a few cards and so on.
The effect is like the 2 minute anki, except we are going even easier. Everyone is different, but the idea is just to go as easy as needed so that you can always do it no matter what. If you fail even once, then reduce the goal to something even easier. Keep reducing it until you can do it everyday without fail.
A lot of people start studying foreign languages but drop off after time. If you open anki with your Japanese deck in it every single day for a year, then at the very least you will not have quit, and you will likely have learned a bunch. You can actually learn a lot with even minimal effort if extended over a long period. For a lot of people it really is better to do something short and easy related to Japanese everyday, than to do something for an hour everyday but then you end up quitting after a few weeks when your motivation dies.