The schedule. Keeping track of your study time. Knowing what you have done to try to fully take control of what you will do.
Do you have a morning schedule that looks something like like:
5:00: wake up
5:00-6:00: do Anki reviews
6:00-7:00: watch J-dramas
7:00-7:30: read J-novel
7:30-8:00: practice Japanese writing
I think most people have ended up writing out some form of schedule similar to this (not the actual specific items or times). It allows you to reflect back on your day, and either feel good for making it Japanese-study-productive or feel bad for realizing you only studied for 20 minutes over a 24 hour period.
The other major option is to ignore all of this. Study when you want, and just remember that you studied. You are free from the worries of time scheduling. You may also be keeping track of the specific things you did (like read X books) rather than how long you spent doing it.
Which is better?
Early on, keeping records can help keep you focused. It makes sure you are actually putting in the time Japanese deserves, as all your actions are laid out before you neatly. You then only have yourself to answer to.
Later, I think you can drop this kind of strict organization. Since Japanese becomes a bigger part of your life, it naturally ends up wherever you are, and you don’t have to go out of your way to make room for it. Keeping track of it feels unnecessary.
My mindset went from:
“I must study X hours a day doing A, B, and C.”
“What can I be doing right now to make my Japanese better.”
This wasn’t an easy transition, but one that has been extremely empowering and has been my “self scheduling” method for years now.
There was a time when I kept track of every Anki minute, every TV hour, and my immersion minute of every day (using a system like XPNavi), so I could look back and try to plot my progress in some kind of motivation boosting fashion. It often feels like those Anki graphs that show all your progress over time. They can be a bit addicting and pretty in the beginning and then you completely stop caring of their existence.
Then again, I still use a time schedule breakdown for many other non-Japanese related things, so it’s not that far-fetched that I might bring it back for future tasks.
How do you handle it?
Are you keeping track of your daily study time in some kind of systematic format? Or do you just keep track of specific goals? Or have you switched to the “I’ll study Japanese whenever I can and knowing that is good enough?”