Is it Okay to Rush a Deck?
You want results fast. You want Japanese skill now. You want to be watching your favorite anime already. Learning Japanese is a very result-focused process and because of that it’s natural to want to get those results as fast as possible. I couldn’t wait till I was able to use my Japanese for what I wanted. I always wanted to go faster, do more, and reach that finish line asap.
When it comes to speed, the easiest measure is how fast you go through a deck. Or more specifically, how many new cards you learn a day. 1, 5, 20, 50, 100+? Once you reach a certain number, you enter the realm of rush.
How fast is too fast?
My official answer is pretty boring and based on averages I’ve seen over the years. This resulted in the magic 5-15 new cards/day I recommend on the Jalup app and Anki. The goal of this range:
- Prevents too slow a speed, not giving you enough progress, and ultimately decreasing motivation
- Prevents too fast a speed, which can cause burnout or start/stop studying.
- Finish each level (Beginner, Intermediate, etc.) in around 3 months, and finish the Jalup series in a few years.
People that know me know that is not what I did, as my range was closer to 20-50 cards/day. And that’s nothing compared to the author here who did 166 cards a day for a week. However, these numbers mean nothing – really. What’s important is understanding the pros and cons of rushing, and then weighing them to form your own personal choice.
The Rushing Guidelines
1. Your opinion is all that matters
Any time you tell a group of learners you plan on doing a rush, expect some kind of backlash. Their opinions are based on their experience. Your opinion absolutely needs to be based on your own.
2. Most people don’t rush
If you think most people do, it’s because you are reading too many outlier internet stories. Rushers are in the minority.
3. Rushing annoys other learners
When people see a successful rusher, it is easy to feel down. You worked your ass off at 20 cards a day, struggling every step of the way. Now someone comes in and triples that, talking about how easy it was for them. Don’t expect smiles.
4. Rushing is actually a strategy
It may not be a common strategy. It may not be the best strategy. But it is a strategy that has worked for people.
5. Rushing is really just a re-arrangement of study time
Let’s assume you finish 1000 cards in 10 days, at 100 cards a day.
You’ve spent a ton of short-term time to get this done, but once it’s done, you’ve seriously level up. That’s much better than taking a full 3 months at 10 cards a day… right?
Rushing pushes back your study time into the near future, despite the appearance you are getting things done first. This is because rushing naturally has a much lower retention rate. Unless you are a memory unicorn, a surge of new information can’t all be maintained. After your 10 days, expect a long period of reviews, forgetting, remembering, re-learning, and other challenges a non-rusher doesn’t have. The rusher doesn’t necessarily gain the time advantage long-term.
6. Forget Zeroing out
Rushers have trouble enjoying the power of zero. When you finish a rush, and are getting daily reviews of 300+ a day, keeping that beautiful 0 is hard.
7. Rushing is risky
Rushing is done because you want results as fast as possible. It puts you in a high paced mindset, where if you don’t succeed, it can be hard to accept having to go back to a slower pace. Unsuccessful rushers burn out fast. The risk is real, and it’s not small.
8. Rushing is not all or nothing
Just because you want to rush a little doesn’t mean that defines you. Maybe for a week you want to do 50 new cards a day. But then after that you want to drop back to a more standard 10 new cards a day.
A temporary rush can be a fun challenge. Everyone changes their speed and gets bursts of motivations. Mini-rushes are not only great, but inevitable.
Have you tried rushing? How did it work out for you?
Founder of Jalup. iOS Software Engineer. Former attorney, translator, and interpreter. Still watching 月曜から夜ふかし weekly since 2013.
I often rushed in the past but I think it always led to burnout and stopping learning japanese for a while.
I think my biggest Problem was that I somehow had in my mind that Anki was for learning new Stuff and immersion was for getting more practice with the stuff I learned but that was kind of wrong. Both of them get you new stuff and give you practice but just in different ways. So I think the most important thing is not doing as many cards as you can but do a number that you can do consistently.
And I think it is important to remember that there are 2 different ways what rushing means. If you decide to do more cards you can either use more time for anki in general or use less time for each card to do more cards in the same time. And i think its important to remind oneself not to do the second one. Because that will just multiply the problems rushin can lead to.
If i compare it to games I think how many new cards you do each day is like how many enemies you pull and fight at the same time. If you fight a lot of enemies at the same time the time you finish them all will be shorter but while you fight it will take longer till you defeat each single one and they will do more damage together and everything will just be harder and more stressfull. And you realy need to be prepared for those drawbacks And that leads then to 2 questions. Do you have enough HP to Survive that fight? And the extra HP and Attack Points you use for more cards are those realy worth it compared to using them in immersion? Or to put it another way are you already using enough for immersion?
I think it can be if you have a very big amount of HP and Attack Points for Japanese but that is definitly the minority of people. The HP and Attack Points are after all a shared resource for everything we do in life. Never forget that anki is just Part of a bigger thing even if we are just talking about Japanese
I’m loving the game analogy there with rushing. It works perfectly :)
I rushed twice. Once was with rtk early in my study. It was not unusual that I did 50 l+ kanji a day. It was intense but it was early and I was super motivated. I would say it worked very well for me. I never really fell behind. Never felt swamped.
The second time was with jalup intermediate. I did 20+ cards a day for most of it. I would say jalup intermediate is one of the worst times to rush because it’s already so hard. But after about half way things started making sense. I do remember though distinctly having days with over 200 reviews and that is super hard to stomach. I wouldn’t recommend it.
Over time for me 10-15 with 12 being the sweet spot is my ideal learning pace. I also like to do it every day, never more never less. I feel like it makes my daily reviews much more predictable and it rarely surprises you with a big review day on a day where you are super busy already.
Kanji is definitely a “high rush” area because it is easy to feel stuck, and like you aren’t making progress in Japanese you can use right now.
Great post Adam.
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of sprints, but there’s a lot of careful preparation that must go into it to make it work, mentally and physically. I think one of the most important cautions is burnout, but from my experience (doing 1,000 in a week and averaging 250 weekly), I’ve found you can make the effort transform into more excitement rather than burnout by moving the emphasis from learning to consumption.
Like, after a sprint, doing an obligatory 200 reviews but then tackling the manga you’ve been waiting to read for a while. This way the objective and reward is no longer the finish line at the end of the sprint, but splurging for Korean BBQ afterwards. You might still have to walk to and from the car (obligatory reviews), but you really do it for the BBQ.
This might seem to downplay the accomplishment of progress, but that success really starts to sink in once you’ve finished the manga or whatever motivates you and it finally sinks in. Or perhaps, how much stronger your muscles have gotten after you begin doing reviews or new cards at an average pace, and it’s so much faster / easier.
Of course, can’t forget the long game, but as far as short sprints go, those are some thoughts on making them succeed without the burnout.
Great point about rushes needing preparation.
This is so important yet so overlooked. Rushing denotes going as fast as possible, and the idea of needing to prepare and spend a ton of time to actually rush seems strange. But that’s what makes a rush possible.