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Automated Discipline: How To Stay On Track All The Time

It being early January, common practice would dictate that right now I wish you a happy new year, but other people have probably done that already. Plus, it’s not like I would really mean it: because I wouldn’t. I hate holidays. And I hate how people who are usually mood-swingy jerks to you, will hug you on Christmas/New Year’s/Eve/Day as if nothing-the-heck-were-wrong. That kind of thing confuses me and makes me break out in Stockholm Syndrome rashes. I need consistency; if someone’s going to be a jerk to me, I need them to be jerk to me all the time. Friggin’…

But you know what I hate even more than holidays?

I hate the word “discipline”. Not because it’s only six letters away from being a four-letter word, which it is, but because…OK the number of letters doesn’t count. I hate — hated — the d-word because it has been misused and abused to death. When people say the word “discipline”, what they really mean is some sadomasochistic, pretty-woman-wearing-an-SS-uniform behavior that merely boils down to one word: submission. Submission to authority under threat of direct enforcement by physical or emotional violence. Do as we say, or we’ll beat you up and/or tear your reputation to pieces, that’s how most people experience the word “discipline”.

It wasn’t till I was in college, googling, that I discovered what “discipline” really means, or at least what it should mean. According to the quote attributed to Idon’tknowwhoandIcan’tbebotheredtogolookitup[1]:

“Discipline is remembering what you want”.

Isn’t that much better than all this crap about pain and suffering and crucibles? Tha’ss right, son. This is implying something self-directed rather than self-inflicted. I mean, my gosh, who expects to get anyone — including themselves — inspired to do anything, with all this talk about freaking “no pain no gain” and “pain is left-wing ideas leaving the body” and…you get the idea.

Where was I? Yeah, dude. Discipline is remembering what you want. This doesn’t just make us feel warm and fuzzy and good[2], it also gives us a concrete action step to work on. OK, brace yourself for some fake math and logical fallacies of equivocation:

If discipline is what it takes to turn dreams into goals into realities, and discipline is remembering what you want, then pretty much all you have to do to get from here to there, is remember what you want. Not remember where you are [this’ll just make you sad], not remember where you’re not [another recipe for sadness], but remember what you want.

How many of you have watched, I dunno, let’s dip as low into the pop culture barrel as possible — MTV Cribs, and been like: “I want one of those [gaudy swimming pools/big-screen TVs/STD-ridden groupies]”? Show of hands? OK, good. But then, how many of you, even two weeks later, remember the exact thing that you wanted? I bet pretty few. I bet you all still have a nebulous, amorphous, non-corporeal desire to be blinging it up in or on an air/land/sea vehicle of some kind, while total strangers mill around in the background and spend your money on controlled substances. But how many of you remember exactly the make and model and price of the thing or things you want? Have you gone shopping for them? Have you compared them to similar products? Have you looked into renting them to see if they’re really worth owning? Have you started saving money to acquire them? Can you get them used? Are they on some kind of written list in order of priority, with dates for acquisition[3]? Probably not. And that’s why you’ll always be a schmuck watching Cribs — unless and until you actually start getting more concrete about this stuff; until you stop allowing yourself to forget.

Or something like that. I’m not so sure that I’m quite communicating this idea fully, but…oh well, I never am. Let me just say this. The Internet once told me:

“Many people overestimate what they can get done in a day, and underestimate what they can get done in a year”.

Just imagine how viciously you’re underestimating what you can get done this year, and in 2, 3, 5 and 10 years. It may seem like nothing; it may seem like you’re going nowhere, but the sum of those nothings is what it’s all about and it’s a lot of the philosophy of this blook: The journey of a thousand leagues, Grasshopper, not only begins with a single step, it also ends with a single step and, in fact, is entirely made up of single steps[4]. Imagine if people refused to try to conceive children because “It’s just gonna be one cell! What’s the point?! Two days and all I have is zygote? Are you kidding me?!” Imagine if people stopped brushing their teeth because “they’re all just gonna get dirty again!” Imagine if people stopped climbing mountains after a couple of steps because “I’ve been at it for like fifteen minutes and I’m nowhere near the top!” — countless young, reckless males might still be alive today, screaming into microphones, making angry music[5] for me to have angst to. But noooo….they had to climb a perfectly good mountain.

So, the whole so-called “discipline” problem can reduce itself to a memory problem. Thankfully, we needn’t entirely rely on ourselves for this. Many of us already have a personal secretary on our staff. He doesn’t eat food and he can go days and weeks without sleep. I refer, of course, to the PC[6].

I don’t even know why I brought up Cribs; it says more about my character than yours. But anyway, many of you reading this are trying to learn a language. And the thing, as I have said once or twice before, about a language — in fact, any advanced skill — the real key is that you don’t need to get “good” at it; you just need to get “used” to it[7]. It needs to just become a habit, a reflex for you. Let it get inside the muscles of your hands, face and mouth. And it’s the biggest no-brainer ever, because all you have to do is expose yourself. Expose yourself to “language radiation” until you not only get temporary radiation sickness, but actually develop the “cancer” of fluency in a language. Pretty grotesque example, huh? But if you think about it…the changes that are going to go on as you acquire a language, are going to be occurring at a cellular level — just like cancer…OK, so a lot things happen at a cellular level[8], I know…whatever…you get the idea!


And so, reminding yourself to work on your target language can be made equivalent to working on it. How? Have patience…all will be revealed.

When ego-surfing, one criticism I sometimes read about this blook is that there’s a lot of general discussion and not many specific, detailed steps. Most of the time, I figure everyone has their own preferences in terms of how to get stuff done. I certainly don’t like to read people flapping lip about how they spent six months installing Ubuntu over the firmware for their cat’s litter box and then wrote a Ruby script to make it send status alerts to their iPhone[9]. Also, I don’t like writing things that can go out of date very quickly. But, today, I shall make an exception. Today I’m going to discuss, with detailed examples, the software I use to implement automated “discipline” in my life. In this sense, I was inspired by Timothy Ferris; he’s thick on both theory and execution, and even though his bombastic prose rattles my subtle Japanese sensibilities[10], I liked his book.

No more talk! Let’s go straight to action! I’m black! I’m equal parts dynamic and threatening and I do comic relief! I pity the fool who doesn’t read about this software:

  • TimeSnapper (Classic): The future you is watching you. It is amazing what you will do or not do when you know you’ll have to answer for it, even if it’s just to yourself. I certainly don’t want evidence of superfluous English wickedness on my record! TimeSnapper takes a snapshot of your computer screen every X seconds throughout the day; at the end of the day you can play this back, like unto a movie. Be sure to change the settings so you don’t have gigabytes of data for just one day. A 25% JPEG quality snapshot every 60 seconds seems to be more than enough to keep me kosher, halal and Cantonese. Our memories can be subjective; we can tend to think that we worked harder and immersed deeper than we actually did. With TimeSnapper, you can see for yourself just what you were doing and when. If my experience is anything to go by, then I know you’ll be making the future you proud.
  • LeechBlock: A Firefox plugin. If you’re not using Firefox, you probably should be 😀 . Those open source hippies have a thing or two going for them. The Pareto principle would suggest that a mere handful of non-target language sites suck the lion’s share of our time: In my case, these included Lifehacker, Gmail[11], AJATT Stats and English Wikipedia; I blocked all of these. If necessary, you can block entire TLDs, like *.com and *.us, assuming the collateral damage from false positives isn’t too high. LeechBlock is highly flexible, allowing you to set up time-based blocking, daily time limits, and cetera!
  • Karen’s Countdown Timer 2: Part of Karen‘s Power Tools suite. In a sense, KCT2[12] isn’t that different from Windows’ native Task Manager Scheduler, it’s just that it has a far simpler, friendlier, more flexible interface. Plus it’s free, so…go for it! Why I came to use KCT2 is because I found that two things were endangering my Cantonese immersion environment — [1] the first was forgetting to turn it back on after temporarily turning it off (e.g. to talk on the phone[13]); [2] the second was simply going about my Strong Bad morning routine of Klingon blood rituals[14] and forgetting to turn on the environment until, like, noon. This software takes care of both these situations. I schedule Cantonese radio to play every 60 minutes, Cantonese TV/movies to turn themselves on every 3 hours, and my favorite Chinese/Cantonese websites to open up daily/weekly/fortnightly at the times of day I tend to feel like reading each one, all automatically and without a nag-screen: this is what I mean when I talk about making the reminder (nearly) equivalent to the necessary action.
  • Batch Files: (If you don’t know what these are, or are a little scared right now, you can safely ignore this part) Writing scripts to tell your computer to do a bunch of stuff comes naturally to Linux/Unix/*nix people, and if my college professors’ war stories are to be believed, command-line batch processing was at one point the default, natural state of computing. I guess times have changed and things have gone all GUI, but not necessarily for the better. I use batch files in conjunction with KCT2 to both set up and take down work environments for myself, and I have to say, it’s as if I’d been picking dust bunnies with my fingers when all this time I had a vacuum cleaner. Certainly, the mouse and monitor are a powerful [and in many cases, time-saving] combination, but many of us current Mac/Windows-style GUI-centric operating system users are guilty of under-using our computers’ ability to automate tasks. Highly recommended for those who feel comfortable doing it; in fact, you might get so into it that the limitations of Windows batch processing start giving you linuxlust. Thanks to InspectMyGadget for the guide.

Unfortunately, these tools are almost all Windows-based. Of course, I don’t use Windows myself; I run Ubuntu off a twig I picked up hiking one day. But, my, uh, friend does. If you know of similar or better tools for any platform, please feel free to share. Also, cautious but sincere thanks to English-language Lifehacker, where I found many of these tools, only to exit quietly as soon as my business was done.



Note to non-geeks: this software is all very easy to use, I promise. I just act super-geeky to show off to other geeks; that’s how we roll. If you need help, check the software instructions or just ask here in the comments section, someone will almost certainly rescue you. Not me…I’ll be drinking cassis juice from a cup running Ubuntu-a-la dual boot.

Also, it may seem like overkill to have my computer essentially turn things on and off for me; after all, it’s just a few clicks here and there. But like Rohn said and I keep quoting:

“The things that are easy to do, are [also] easy not to do”.

Besides, over time, this could add up to thousands of clicks saved. The end.

[1] Actual name. I know — rough childhood for this guy.

[2] Admittedly, I do feel good and was fully aware that I would, now.

[3] The dates don’t have to be soon. They just have to be. This is not a “deadline” to be feared and dreaded. Much of the idea here is to impress it upon yourself that there will come an actual Monday when you will be on a beach somewhere, holding hands with a stunningly beautiful woman who absolutely insists that the doctor says it’s not contagious.

[4] Lord of the Rings could have been completed in a single flight, but then there would be almost no slaying Asian people, Arabs and incredibly well-muscled Polynesian men with dreadlocks. I don’t like minorities either, so, I’m cool with it. Always breathing the white man’s air. You give them an acting job and all the thanks you get is snarky bloggers??!! Somebody needs to let those darkies know that THIS IS, IN FACT, SPARTA!!!!! KILL ‘EM ALL AND TAKE THEIR LAND!!!!…Wait…


[6] You thought I was talking about my imaginary friend, Dmitri. Nope. He’s a secret. Ssssh!

[7] In fact, the whole 10,000+ hours business indicates that these are in a sense one and the same.

[8] Speaking of which, part (not all, but part) of the reason academic linguistics still sucks so much is that it’s effectively being bottlenecked by neuroscience. AFAIK, the fundamental mechanisms and units at work with language are still not understood in such a way as to allow you to make neat and tidy predictions like in the physical sciences; it’s all a grey box, if you will. So…professional linguists who study language acquisition can still sometimes get their lunch eaten by anyone who’s actually learned a language and writes a blog about it, like Stephen Kaufmann. At least it seems that way to me.

[9] The pooh is runny. Runny.

I’m only making fun of it because I secretly want one. Oh, Captain Planet, I want an iPhone…Yes, I just prayed to Captain Planet. You may just be weirded out, but I feel dirty. The man has blue skin. Ewwww. Freakin…variant skin colours ruining my childhood.

[10] I’m serious. If you live in Japan long enough (a year is a good start), you start to become Japanese in little ways that are not clear to you until you re-establish contact with your previous culture; just ask Arudou Debito. Whenever I watch a Hollywood movie, I almost cringe when I see people enter a room with shoes, and I find myself wondering how someone can make a heartfelt apology without bowing. When Kenyans living in Japan speak Swahili, they connect their sentences with “さぁ”. Stuff like that. A couple of my Japanese friends only half-jokingly say that the writing style exemplified by Timothy Ferris “raises [their] blood pressure”. I lolled.

[11] Blocking Gmail forces me to check my email in Opera, which is slower than bullet time in The Matrix, causing me to do only as much email checking as need be done to keep democracy safe. And it’s looking like democracy didn’t need me that much.

[12] What? Are you going to type the whole thing out again?

[13] One time…I, like, made a Youtube video, and I didn’t turn off the Canto. I’m proud of that time.

[14] You think I’m joking to inject some “geek humour” and add more “personality” to my blook? I’m not joking. The blood of Qordos the Magnificent is transubstantiated into my morning Minute Maid cassis juice.

I’m serious.. I am that weird.

What’choo lookin’ at?

  46 comments for “Automated Discipline: How To Stay On Track All The Time

  1. nest0r
    January 7, 2009 at 14:23

    Thanks for the tips! I tried using Blocksite for my favourite Japanese forum so I could stop babbling and start doing, but I tended to ‘cheat’ and spend even more time going around it. Leechblock’s time functions I think will fix this! I won’t be so inclined to go around my elbow to get to my butt if I leave myself a little flexibility… a little elbow room, if you will.

  2. David
    January 7, 2009 at 15:56

    I didn’t know Windows Task Manager had that kind of functionality. Hmmm..

    Thanks for the great software! I installed all of it, and I blocked a bunch of English sites that I know I go to often. The only exception I make is this one, which I come to periodically to check for updates like this 🙂

    I have that count down program set to open my SRS every 60 minutes, and start Text-to-Speech early in the morning, so I don’t have to open it myself. Likewise, I also have my music player open, so I only need to press play when I wake up.

    I’m glad I can kind of force myself to not do certain things that leave my open, in a sense. And, that program that snapshots all of what you’re doing is good, too. I think a lot to myself when the going gets rough, “what if I burn out?” but that is quickly countered by “well, I better not see me looking back on it as a thing of the past.” Meaning, I don’t want the future me to feel ashamed for quitting something like this. So I essentially just talk myself out of it. xD

    Thanks for the great post!

  3. Ed
    January 7, 2009 at 17:22

    I think khatzumoto kicked himself in the butt. Many readers will probably use Leechblock to keep themselves off of AJATT. Quite the dilemma…

  4. matt holland
    January 7, 2009 at 19:38

    khatz just went all david foster wallace on us.

  5. nacest
    January 7, 2009 at 20:37

    My girlfriend got worried when I started laughing uncontrollably in front of the screen. That’s the effect Khatz has on me. Are you happy now?

  6. January 7, 2009 at 23:17

    TimeSnapper looks awesome! I wish there was a Mac version (what I use at work).

    Looks like LeechBlock can also be used for keeping track of how much time you spend on select websites, which might be more useful for those of us that don’t need such extreme measures. 🙂 It’s also great in a world when more and more productivity tools are becoming web apps, and simply knowing which programs you ran the most doesn’t help much when you’re in your browser for 90% of the time you’re on your computer.

    So Khatzumoto, you work from home, right? Sounds like it. 🙂

  7. catch
    January 7, 2009 at 23:18

    If anybody knows any good linux alternatives to these, please share them.

  8. khatzumoto
    January 7, 2009 at 23:49

    Extra Info:
    The InspectMyGadget guide says that Windows batch files can’t be used to take down environments…they can if you use the “taskkill” command.

    taskkill /f /im hanconv.exe
    taskkill /f /im speaktxt*
    taskkill /f /im textaloud*
    taskkill /f /im skpmain*

  9. NachieJack
    January 8, 2009 at 01:34

    @nacest or khatz (pref nacest. no offense khats…need a learner and not an pwner!)
    Lol, Howsit going dude. Might be a bit of a random question, but I wanted to find out how u r progressing with the R->Kanji method. As observed by most people here it severely cuts down the number of reps you can expect to do in a day and has left me feeling caught by a 22…
    I am only at a stage where the majority of compound readings are new, so I felt its sorta taken momentum away from my progress as compared to b4. I can see it being a helpful and welcome alternative once I at that tipping point where (reading-wise at least) I am seeing more familiarity than “OMG – Thats a compound!”

  10. nacest
    January 8, 2009 at 04:32

    khatz is not a casual pwner, he’s a pwner in learning, so he would certainly give a better answer than me.
    However I’ll try to answer myself since the above mentioned pwner of this site rarely appears in the comments lately. But you’ll have to do with my sub-par explanation…

    The main thing is, if something makes you feel uncomfortably slowed down, stop doing it. You can take it up again later if you want. I think it’s better to progress smoothly and happily, while always trying to improve actively.
    As for me, after playing a bit with the reading->kanji idea, I’ve decided not to abandon the old kanji->reading format, so now I do both. I’ve set up anki to create both production and recognition cards for the same fact. This makes for an even slower advance, but I’m satisfied with the rate I’m having now, and I can really say that I know those sentences and words!
    Again, the key here is not how I do it, but the “advance” and “satisfied” parts.

    Maybe doing R->kanji from the very beginning makes it more difficult, I don’t know. You have to judge. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful 🙁

  11. NachieJack
    January 8, 2009 at 04:51

    Oh, and on this post. How would one create a batch file to run anki if it is not already running?

  12. January 8, 2009 at 05:58

    Wow, the footnotes thing wreaks havoc with your mind if you have ADD. Lol…

  13. James
    January 8, 2009 at 06:26

    You can do the screen capture thing on a Mac with Automator.

  14. khatzumoto
    January 8, 2009 at 11:09

    This is the hack I found for it online. It basically says, print out a list of active processes, and if the process you want is *not* on that list, then call it.

    cd E:\Appz\ProcessView\
    E:\Appz\ProcessView\pv.exe > result.txt
    FIND “HanConv.exe” E:\Appz\ProcessView\result.txt
    IF ERRORLEVEL 1 start /MIN E:\Appz\HanConv\HanConv.exe

    (replace “HanConv” with “Anki”).
    You need to get a program called ProcessView (it’s free) to do this. It’s very inelegant (see what I mean about “limitations of Windows batch processing start giving you linuxlust.”?) , but it works.

  15. Nia
    January 8, 2009 at 11:13

    Hi, I’m not considered new to this site since I stumble across it last month in attempt to learn a language. This comment might be skipped over because it’s not related to the post but if anyone out there can help me with choosing a language, it’ll be appreciated. (Preferably someone who had reached some success in their language journey)

    Yes I did email Khatz but I think his inbox is already overflowing with other emails that’s a lot more important to read and less lengthy. x]

    My problem is that I wish to learn two languages. One is Mandarin and the other is well…Japanese. =p

    I want to learn Mandarin because I am Chinese but I hardly can hold a well thought out conversation in Mandarin. At home, I speak another dialect but it’s very different and I’m strangely not fluent in it. (Like I have to sometimes really think before I say what I want). I don’t want to make this too long to read so I’ll just list out the others reasons I want to learn Mandarin:

    1) Majority of my friends do speak Mandarin or trying to learn it (through dramas). And my family sometimes speaks it and watches it on T.V.
    2) Various restaurants and stores I go to have people speaking mostly Cantonese but there are Mandarin speakers as well.
    3) There’s not a lot of websites in Mandarin that I know of and interest me but there are a few, even one that I wish to understand so I order some items.
    4) Its really isn’t hard to find people out there where I live that speaks Mandarin.
    5) This last reason is a malicious reason that I won’t say much. But I’m sure people had felt other people insult in back and front of their faces. xP Kind of have to deal with this 24/7.

    Only problem I guess is that I don’t really find Mandarin music interesting as I use to and I’m not a big fan of dramas although sometimes I’ll get curious about a certain part. I tried learning Mandarin before from a textbook and my parents but they stop because they said they don’t have time. Textbook just frustrated me (it was a college textbook for beginners, so it was pretty boring) I don’t know…Mandarin isn’t all exciting but I could ask for drama recommendations from friends ?

    As for Japanese, again, I’ll just list the reasons for wanting to learn the language:

    1) …Anime/Manga and anything relate to it…it’s really why I started to gain interest in it. xP
    2) There are websites, online videos, articles, and two particular novels that I would like to understand.
    3) My songs in my i-pod are like 95% Japanese. I listen to it almost everyday.
    4) I’m pretty much use to hearing to Japanese, sometimes it’ll still sound strange but I feel like I try to understand some Japanese meanings more than I do for Mandarin.
    5) I’m interested in some of the cities in Japan when I look at photographs of them or when I read how different the place and people are from America. I would like to make a trip there at least once.
    6) Few games I like to know about, not really play them but maybe?

    The only downfalls I have are that I don’t know anyone who speaks Japanese or wants to seriously learn it. Don’t where I can use a time to speak it. I might have a job that involves in speaking Japanese but it’s not definite. I’m sure most people have these kinds of problems?

    I hope this doesn’t annoy anyone and I really did try to make this short. I just thought it’ll be a good idea to get an advice on this before I commit myself to learning any one of them. I think it’ll be hard because I’m horrible in time management, (although the Countdown Timer sounds really helpful for…anything!) but I feel that I suck for only knowing English to um…an adult level. (Although I’m strangely speaking Engrish lately…)

    So yeah…any help/advice would be great especially if you sat through reading all this. ^_^;


  16. NachieJack
    January 8, 2009 at 17:04

    Thanks for the info Khatz. A little warya bout having too many new apps on the pc.I found the following that might work. I just don’t know what If statement to use to then run anki…
    tasklist /FI “IMAGENAME eq Anki.exe” /NH

    That returns “anki.exe 5484 Console 1 52,476 K” if anki is running (not these exact numbers tho)
    and “INFO: No tasks running with the specified criteria.” if it is not.
    Anyone know what IF statement could then look at what is returned first, ie INFO: vs Anki.exe?

    Thanks dudes!

    Grand reply. Yeah, I did eventually begin a process similar to the one you are employing now. I just needed to confirm it with someone I knew was definitely someway into using it. Thanks a bunch! And needed you rather than Khatz since Khatz only figured R->K after having fluencified Japanese.
    Sorry, but want something really simple ito the bat file…My PC’s limping along as it is with a lotta apps holding it down.

  17. EusthEnoptEron
    January 9, 2009 at 02:15


    Using TASKLIST, I think something like this should do the trick:


    REM Path to anki.exe
    SET ankiPath=”F:\Apps\Anki\Anki.exe”
    REM Temp file
    SET tempFile=”C:\temp\ankipr.txt”

    tasklist> %tempFile%
    FIND “Anki.exe” %tempFile%
    IF ERRORLEVEL 1 start /MIN “” %ankiPath%

    REM Clean up
    del %tempFile%



    Nice apps. I just installed the FireFox timer and already feel its effects. 😀

  18. NachieJack
    January 9, 2009 at 02:53

    Good sir, you have taken my socks from me. and rocked them!
    Thanks a bunch!

  19. Maya
    January 9, 2009 at 06:42

    Hey Khatz…

    I’m trying out an experiment, inspired by many of the things I’ve read on this blog. I’m calling it the “yellow experiment” (do you like my politically incorrent sense of humour? 😀 … on second thought, don’t answer that ^^).

    Anyway, starting today I’m watching 1-4 hours per day, of anime/dramas/random Japanese TV shows/etc… live, native Japanese audio in context. I’ve studied some Japanese before, mostly with inefficient methods, so I still suck (for now). I’m going to keep doing this everyday for several months on end while I work through RTK (I’ve done 250 or so kanji so far, so I still have a long way to go).

    I’m watching without subs, without writing anything down, using only a monolingual Japanese dictionary (one for shougakkou-sei-tachi, so there’s enough kana for me to be able to read it). Long story short, I’m going to listen to tons and tons of Japanese in context, and see if I can “figure out” Japanese… not the entire language (I don’t think that would be possible without kanji), but maybe to the level of a Japanese 5 or 6 year old. Wish me luck 😀

    Once I’m done RTK, I’ll be able to start reading stuff to pick up more sophisticated words. Btw, the watching/listening stuff is going to be done seperately (i.e. at a different time) than when I’m working on kanji; I suck at multi-tasking. If I try learning to speak and write in Japanese at the same time, the only thing that’ll end up happening is that I won’t end up learning either one properly.


  20. January 9, 2009 at 07:07

    Hey. I’m not khatz, so…if you wanna, you know, ignore me or whatever, then that’s okay. Whatever. I just figured I’d thrown in my two cents

    I’m in kind of the same situation as you. I’ve been watching lots of anime and dramas w/o subs as I’m going through RTK. The whole time, I’ve been wondering about my progress that I’ll make before I actually start real reading and sentences. (except, I’m not doing the monodic thing like you are right now…) I think I’ve seen some improvement. I can pick out words (even if I don’t understand them). There are some things that I’ve come across randomly that I’ve just figured out, but there are even more things where I’ve heard them so many times, but can’t figure out what they mean, so I just go look them up anyway…

    I think you (and I) will make some decent progress on listening etc. before we start sentences. But, like, I’ve been thinking…our progress once we start sentences is going to be even quicker then, right? So…I’m thinking I’m just going to just hurry through the rest of RTK as fast as possible. I’ll probably have as much japanese on in the background as possible until then of course, and I’ll actively watch at least 2-3 episodes of anime (or drama) per day. Something like that. Anyways, best of luck with your experiment. 🙂

  21. Maya
    January 9, 2009 at 11:17


    I definitely intend on using an SRS way later on… to perfect small parts of the language I might still be struggling with, to learn kanji readings, and so on. But… I dunno. It’s going to be a while before I finish RTK, and I feel like I can get a lot done while I’m waiting.

    Btw, I’ve previously learned French to (essentially native-level) fluency, and my method was really similar to what Khatz did in Japanese, except that I never used an SRS; I’d never heard of them until I found this blog. It still works; it’s just a slower process.

    My experiment is mostly to prove to myself (and to my disbelieving peers) that adults are capable of figuring out language just like children… Japanese is a great language to try this with, since it’s very different from English; if I tried it with French or another IE language, people would dismiss it as a fluke because I chose an “easy” language.

    And yeah… I know what you mean about wanting to finish RTK as fast as possible. It’s really annoying, being illiterate 🙂

  22. January 9, 2009 at 17:21

    Ferriss has a blog too. Check the URL on my name.Oh, and he thinks language classes suck too :D.

  23. Sebastian V.
    January 10, 2009 at 12:18

    Wow.. batch files are a lot more useful that I thought. I will probably use them a lot more often from now on. Anki, Audio Recorder, Text to Speech Software or Winamp, Keyhole TV and Media Player Classic with just one click. So useful! 🙂

  24. January 11, 2009 at 13:52

    good blog and nice post….
    keep post oke and teach me more

  25. January 12, 2009 at 15:01

    Nice. Thanks for the software links.
    Keep up the great writing!

  26. January 14, 2009 at 05:57

    Here’s a little something which might prove useful in combo with the programs Katz mentioned.

    I’m quoting the guy who sent it to me:

    “If you want to take more frequent snapshots of your life, there’s an excellent little online app at It puts emphasis on the stuff you’ve already done (the question What did you do today? greets you every time you log on) but you can type in anything you like, as long as it’s 160 characters or less.


    I’ve been using it for a little more than a month now, so I can’t really comment on the long term looking-back aspect. What I’ve noticed, though, is that it’s quite good at making you (re)evaluate your immediate priorities. Keying in “six hours of useless postgrad lectures” for five days in a row, with a couple fields left blank ’cause I didn’t have time to do much else, was an eye-opening experience of sorts.”

    It seems it might be really useful to finding out where you’re loosing your time so you can fill that with even more language immersion goodness (e.g. you can write “went shopping, but didn’t bring the mp3 player. Again”. or “spent 2 hours in front of a TV watching stuff in English instead of Japanese. Again” 🙂 )

  27. January 14, 2009 at 07:29

    “Discipline is remembering what you want” only works if there’s something you want. Like I want to go to grad school so I got off my butt and wrote those essays. On the other hand I DON’T want to work and I don’t care how my job goes, so it took forever to get round to drafting a few things for my boss.

    Luckily Japanese falls under the “what I want” group so we’re cool. :-p

  28. digi
    January 15, 2009 at 02:14


  29. January 29, 2009 at 15:42

    I just read an article on the psychology of procrastination where someone said “Procrastination is about not having projects in your life that really reflect your goals.”

    So my procrastinating work this week to set up and post on my blog is probably good news for my language learning progress (reflects my goals/what I want)…not so good for my actual, paying job. 😉

  30. March 6, 2009 at 02:50

    It would be interesting to see how those saved clicks affect the life of your mouse.

  31. April 29, 2011 at 07:43

    This is a quote by Eliezer Yudkowsky. Quite AJATT in taste:

    To do things that are very difficult or “impossible”,

    First you have to not run away. That takes seconds.

    Then you have to work. That takes hours.

    Then you have to stick at it. That takes years.

    For more go there:

  32. angel13
    May 24, 2011 at 08:10

    I started using the countdown timer and I have to say that I am doing a LOT more kanji reps than before. I use google chrome and use stayfocusd instead of leechblock. So far that has also helped a lot too.

  33. Luke
    May 17, 2015 at 17:59

    My favorite plugin:

    News Feed Eradicator for Facebook

    Now every time I go to facebook, I don’t see anything. I love it.

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