Have you ever been watching something on TV that you started to lose interest in, but you noticed that the remote control was out of your reach. You could summon the energy to stand up and reclaim that remote, or you could just continue watching what you are now. You’d think standing up would be the obvious choice, but that controller is a bit far away and your couch is a bit too comfortable. It’s easier to just stay seated. Starting something new, even if you know it will be good for you or bring you more enjoyment, requires energy.
Avoiding the above is simple: place the remote control near where you sit. This is what you need to do with all your Japanese studying.
Studying may or may not be easy for you. Even if you find it easy, the hardest part is starting to study. Switching from your normal life mode into Japanese study mode; this is the moment that defines whether you will actually study or not. It is a window of opportunity that closes quickly. Creating the optimal conditions makes sure your willpower is strong enough to take that opportunity.
Recently I discussed the power of 2-minute Anki sessions, and how you create multiple study chances throughout the day. The key element to achieve this is to have the Anki app ready to be pressed and started in an instant. Your mobile device needs to be easily accessible (from your pocket or bag) without any searching involved, the second you have that down moment of time. The optimal condition you created in 2-minute Anki sessions should be applied everywhere else, regardless of what study resource it is.
1. Physical textbook
Have the textbook open to the page you are on, in the place you typically study, with whatever tools (writing, notes, dictionaries, etc.) all set up and ready to go.
2. Immersion Player
Surprisingly, I don’t use my mobile phone for my immersion player. The time it takes to get headphones, plug it into the phone, turn it on, put in the pass code, open up the app, start up the playlist, adjust the volume, and actually listen, is enough to make me say to myself “Hmm… maybe later.”
I use a cheap mp3 player that always has a pair of headphones in it ready to go, with a long lasting battery life, and is started with a single button press. This makes it a designated immersion powerhouse and removes the thought process completely from it.
3. Kanji Practice
Many people practice Kanji Kingdom or other kanji learning resources by writing out the kanji. I always say that you can either write out the kanji by pen, by hand, or just visualize it in your mind. I actually prefer the latter two, because they require no preparation. Finding a pen and paper, a possible 20-30 second endeavor, may cause you to skip the entire study session. Writing it out visually using your finger or mind has many of the same memory benefits without any of the start time requirements.
4. Setting up any native media
Whether you are going to read, watch, listen to, or shadow something, you may want to split up the “search” and “do” portions.
If I was trying to start a reading session, and I thought:
1. I have to find a good book to read
2. I have to download it to my device
3. Then I can finally read
That spontaneous study session may just not happen. So I split up setup time and study time. If I need an audio book for my daily Shadow walk, it is going to be there ready to go. In advance, as part of a non-study session, I am going to spend several minutes finding good audio books that I want to shadow to. It’s only when I have a nice stockpile going, will I then at a later time shadow.
Finding what your personal optimal condition are
Everyone’s optimal conditions are different. The above four may be completely different for you. For example, some people really enjoy the search for a book, and then reading it as soon as they find one. The idea of getting to search for a new book may actually be the spark to start a study session, because there is fun in that for them.
When you are about to start a study moment, and you end up failing that start, try to figure out what thought in your head got in the way.
What are some of your optimal conditions?
What do you do to make sure that you can act on a study urge immediately, without any wasted time or tired thoughts getting in the way?