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.
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.
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.