Time Management: Too Much Japanese?

No such thing. I think. I don’t think there is such a thing as doing “too much Japanese”. A language isn’t just a hobby, it isn’t just something to kill time, it’s a life skill. LIFE skill. That’s English for “important”. There aren’t many things in life that it’s nearly impossible to function without socially, and that you can use for literally your entire life, but language is one of them.

Having said that, I did have time management problems, especially my penultimate semester of college. I didn’t graduate on time. But Japanese wasn’t the problem, the problem was deeper than that. The problem was my perfectionist attitude to my work, and my not allowing myself to sit down and work on a single project to completion. Now, some might say: “well, Japanese was taking all that time, so cut off the Japanese and focus on your coursework, you can always pick up the Japanese later”. Again, I say “no”.

A project that is going well should not suffer for a project that’s going badly. This is just my personal opinion, but I really do believe this. It’s easy to look around at your projects, and see how well Japanese is going, and be like “if I just take away a little bit of that time mojo that Japanese takes, my other projects can do well, too”. No, son. For one thing, there is no guarantee that if you just give those other projects more time, they will go better. You may just end up making all your projects suck. More importantly, though, what those other projects need might not be time; they may need to just get done more efficiently, especially if they’re projects that have local importance (timewise), but not the direct, lifelong importance and usefulness that true fluency in a language has. I think it’s better to excel in one field and let other fields suffer, than just to kind of be mediocre-to-sucky at everything. And this isn’t just random cruel Khatzumoto advice, it was advice I received during that penultimate semester at college — far better to do well in some of your classes and bomb others, than to try to even things out and pretty much risk bombing them all.

The people who most have this issue between loyalty to an important personal project like learning Japanese, and loyalty to other projects that are also somewhat important, are students. To you students, my advice would be this.

1. Keep doing the Japanese. No ifs ands or buts.

2. Try to work it into your coursework/schoolwork directly or indirectly. Even if it’s just having music playing in the background.

3. When you do your school projects and homework and such, do it to completion in one sitting — this is what I didn’t do consistently that penultimate semester I had trouble. I was almost always jumping from project to project trying to put out fires. Ironically, only when I did sit down and practice single-handling did I get anything completed. Do not leave things half done. Context-switching may work for computers, but it sucks for human beings. Work on your own timetable and not the teacher’s/class’. What I mean is, don’t wait until the homework is “on the horizon” to get it done, don’t wait until other people are worrying about it or the instructor is talking about it. Obviously get it done before the deadline, but get it done well ahead of that if that’s convenient for you. Batch it up and do perhaps a month’s worth all in one sitting. Don’t be passive and wait to be prompted. Take initiative. For more detailed advice, I would consult my sources of advice, a mixture of books and blog posts:

  • What Smart Students Know: pay particular attention to the part where the author (Adam Robinson) discusses what the real difference between various classes is. Hint: it has nothing to do with the subject name. You will never think of school quite the same again.
  • Timeboxing: Have you ever wondered why you often seem to work so well when a deadline is coming? This is kind of why. The key here is simply to set the deadlines and parameters on your own rather than waiting for other people to set if for you — this way is far more efficient and far less stressful.
  • Do It Now: Pay particular attention to the advice to “use single handling”.
  • The Memory Book: Want to learn how to memorize arbitrarily long numbers (hundreds of digits and more?). Plus stuff that’s actually useful as well? Try this book.
  • 10 Tips For College Students: All you perfectionists out there take an especially good look at point # 5: “Triage ruthlessly”.
  • Graduating College in 3 Semesters: This advice is golden:

    “the negative side of type-A (aka “hurry sickness”) need not be present. That type of behavior is in fact induced by a lack of clear focus, trying to label too many things as urgent AND important instead of taking the time to discover the core of what’s most important and meaningful to you.”

  • Time Power / 頭がいい人、悪い人の仕事術: As AntiMoon is to the AJATT Method, so this book was to Steve Pavlina’s time management advice. Yes, there’s a Japanese translation, so “one stone, two bird” for you!

Like I said, I’m not a time management genius by any stretch of the imagination. I did get straight A’s for most of my college time, with two spectacular exceptions:

a. The first was the one semester where I registered for one class, never went to it and never did the homework…I did go on a roadtrip to Colorado, though — I don’t know what I was or wasn’t thinking, but there you go; I have dubbed this one “The Summer of Procrastination on Steroids”.

b. The second time was where I simply never sat down and focussed, and spent the whole time worrying about what to do — but not actually doing anything. I call this one: “The Winter of Anxiety on Steroids”.

So, I was an A student. But those A’s usually came at immense personal and temporal cost. I became a stranger to my friends and the shower. Because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. And I even practiced time management to some extent, but (looking back) for all the wrong reasons — under a set of false premises. Back then, Khatzumoto time management was a way to “schedule my oppression”, as it were. Schoolwork always came first. If in doubt, school it out. That type of thing. I certainly scheduled personal time, but that was merely time I used to rest up so that I could…do more schoolwork. Any time I made “for myself” could be and was replaced by schoolwork time. Classic type…whatever type of behavior that is. Masochism? And it was only really towards the actual end of my university career, and really maybe after that even, that it was brought to my attention what the real purpose of time management was, and it is this: to get the crap you have to do or need to do out of the way, so you can focus on what you want to do and actually give a care about.

So work efficiently and “work all the time you work”, and get that crap out of the way, so that you can focus on Japanese. Yeah, there is such a thing as the joy of a job well done, and putting your soul into your work and all that good noss. But you can’t do that soulful job for everything, you simply can’t. So get the “necessities” out of the way chop chop, so that you can lose yourself in manga or something, free of worry and commitments. There is nothing wrong with rushing certain things. There is nothing wrong with something being good but not perfect. I recommend you consciously choose what to do well, and what to let slide, and be happy with that choice. You have stuff to do and a life to live, don’t waste it on stuff that only tangentially matters to you any more than is actually necessary.

4. You are more important than your schoolwork/job. The suggestion to “do your best, but give it a time limit, and once you hit that, screw it” (timeboxing) is all well and good, but I don’t think one can actually apply that advice until one has an intrinsic (as opposed to extrinsic) sense of self-worth. Dude, you are more important than that schoolwork, more important than that job, more important than some random test. You matter. Your preferences matter. Your choices matter. Your desires matter. And you have the right — the duty — to make executive decisions that take you into account. Hey, no one else will.

5. There is no time management. Then what the heck have I been talking about all this time? Something else: self-management. There is no time management. You can’t “manage” time. You can’t store it away and keep some for later, and shift some to Barbados to save money on taxes. The time passes of its own “free will”. And you can’t stop it. All you can do is make fun choices for yourself as that time goes.

6. To conclude, we often talk about people having some kind of personality type, as if they were born that way and could not change: “I’m a type A person”, “I’m a packrat”, “I’m messy”, “I’m organized”. Well…forget that biological determinism. Just, be what you want to be, or need to be. I used to be a packrat, too. I couldn’t throw anything away. That changed rather quick fast hayaku when I came to Japan. Now I live by “if in doubt, throw it out”, and my life is much better because of it. What am I getting at — you don’t have to be one way or another, you can change, you can adapt, you can become better. Your performance levels right now are not fixed; they’re not “because that’s just how you are”. They’re more to do with your workstyle — your technique. Improve your technique and your results can improve dramatically. And some of those techniques are really simple.

Anyway, I’m a bit out of my depth here with this time/self-management stuff, I don’t really feel qualified to speak on it as an expert. But listen to the people I listened to; they’re right. Don’t rob your future to feed your present. Don’t let the urgent hijack the important. Figure out what’s just important to other people versus what’s important you. And keep doing Japanese.

  32 comments for “Time Management: Too Much Japanese?

  1. quendidil
    February 4, 2008 at 15:46

    Ah! I remember you emailing me a few months ago on the same topic, you recommended that “What Smart Students Know” book too. I actually had it, and believe or not, I bought it for myself about 2 years ago. I did try to apply what the book said but I found some of it really too time-consuming (or maybe I was spending too much time on some of the 12 questions?) and besides I had been getting straight As for the subjects that matter.

    The past year I’ve mostly been somewhat like your
    “case b”, just the about the only thing I didn’t procrastinate on was Japanese and that was around June or something when I discovered this site. Lol, if you have seen らきすた I was exactly like Tsukasa when she calculated out and planned her homework time during Golden Week but ended up doing nothing. Again, another らきすた reference, when こなた was trying to get some studying done and she noticed that 涼宮ハルヒ was airing, she went off to watch it? I think I’m sort of like that.

  2. Chiro-kun
    February 5, 2008 at 03:01

    That REALLY helped. I was just thinking about “Man, exams are approaching, maybe I should go a little easy on the Japanese? Mmmm….let’s visit AJATT and see if there’s anything new….” You have no idea how much!
    Students really have it hard…. *sniff* 🙁

  3. Brian
    February 5, 2008 at 09:28

    Hey, I gotta say I absolutely loved this post because I’m off to college next year and I was seriously wondering how college and Japanese could both be done at the same time. Thanks a bunch.

  4. Sutebun
    February 5, 2008 at 10:01

    Just reminds me… The students with the best grades aren’t always the brightest ones in the class, but the students who know best how to get a good grade — the people who know what they need to do with how much effort.

    Other advice to college students (and especially incoming college students): Don’t be afraid to take a class non-graded (my school calls it Pass/No Pass(P/NP)) if you don’t (ie, your major/degree) require it to be graded and you think the class will take too much effort and time. A few of these won’t matter. Getting a C- in a class requires almost no effort, so this is a good solution to classes where you just don’t want the A but you don’t want it to hurt your GPA.

    Also, if you find yourself doing a class you don’t need whatsoever anymore, don’t be afraid to drop it and take a “W” on your transcript if you don’t care about the monetary loss and you’ll still stay at your required credit amount. However, this should probably only be done once, twice at the most.

    Both being things I’ve done myself, of course!

  5. Brittany
    February 5, 2008 at 12:51

    1. Agreed, the best students are the ones who know how to work the system the best. My mom has a 4.0 GPA, I have a 3.77 GPA. She works approximately Way Too Much Fucking Time on her homework, I work Just Enough To Get The A. I am very good at making sure I know what my professor’s expectations are and then meeting them. I don’t want to go above them unless it’s in my Japanese class.

    2. Agreed again with taking no grade. At my school it’s called an ‘audit’. You go to class, you don’t get a grade. I almost auditted Japanese last semester. I’m glad I didn’t, because I recieved an A, but I still stressed about it more than I needed to and I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have.

    3. Do everything in advance. I try to have all my coursework done before Thanksgiving break and Spring break, both of which come about a month before the semester ends. I do as much as possible in advance (I take a lot of literature classes, so I have to write a ton of notes to myself so I remember what the heck I read) that way I can focus on what I really want to focus on.

    Time management is an amazing skill. The girl who sits next to me in Japanese is only taking 4 classes, doesn’t have a job, and her Japanese is awful. I’m taking 5 classes and work 24 hours a week on top of doing pre-student teaching, which has a lot more work than a regular class. My Japanese is far superior. She’s totally amazed “I don’t know how you do it”. Easy. I don’t watch TV and I am pretty efficient.

  6. Chiro-kun
    February 6, 2008 at 02:44

    This is a little off-topic but…
    Quite some time back, somebody (Oliver I think) had dug up this link: tatoeba.fr/
    Are the sentences safe? Just to be on the safe side…I haven’t used them yet.

  7. quendidil
    February 6, 2008 at 14:28

    Not all of them are, I believe. They’re from the Tanaka Corpus.

  8. quendidil
    February 7, 2008 at 01:01

    Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! 新年快樂!

  9. Nivaldo
    February 7, 2008 at 06:38

    Yo, Khatz! I’ve “finished” Heisig’s RTK 1(left kanji 1999-2002 because I don’t know what a deer is YET and the last grouping of kanji I’m going to do softly. I was so anxious to begin sentence mining that I just couldn’t wait more). But now I have some doubts.
    (1)Did you learn to count in japanese through sentence mining or you used another method? The same for date and time.
    (2)I’m looking through materials intended for beginners and in them I see examples from mangas but some words have kana in place of kanji. Should I SRS them as they are or should I replace them with the respective kanji?

  10. Nivaldo
    February 7, 2008 at 07:18

    One more doubt. Should I sentence-mine music lyrics or that must wait until some day?

  11. Nivaldo
    February 7, 2008 at 07:19

    One more doubt. Should I sentence-mine music lyrics or that must wait until some day?
    It’s just that when I look at the lyrics while listening to the respective song, comes an anxiety to sentence-mine those lyrics. (And I think that the word here in the AJATT is PATIENCE, right?)

  12. Wan Zafran
    February 7, 2008 at 10:13

    Congrats on finishing RTK, Nivaldo! (BTW, make sure you become acquainted with the ‘deer’ kanji, because there’s a certain, very common word that employs it — ‘baka’.)

    And Khatzumoto, I would second Nivaldo’s question on becoming fluent with dates/time/numbers?

  13. February 7, 2008 at 13:18

    I would say that numbers are one of the few things that you should just learn outside of sentences. It’s pretty easy to learn to say 1-10 just by chanting them. Perhaps even add an SRS entry which says ‘1-10’ and prompts you to say them in order. This way you won’t forget them before you encounter them in sentences.
    Japanese is pretty simple above 10. 20 is just ‘two ten’ etc. Then you can just add in 100, 1000, 10000 etc as you encounter them.
    Who cares if you have to count from 1 when you want to know what 8 is. That’s what children do when they’re learning numbers, and you’re just a Japanese baby after all!! With practice and exposure to Japanese you’ll just find yourself able to say them in any order.
    I guess you could do the same for dates and time too. Any other counting systems (and there are lots in Japanese thanks to the counters they use) you could just look up the first time you encounter them, to familiarise yourself with, but not actively learn.

    P.S. A really good hint is to count your kanji strokes in Japanese when you write them.

  14. Chiro-kun
    February 8, 2008 at 00:57

    @quendidil – そうか。。。仕方無いなああ。。。 🙁

    Japanese in Mangaland (the first volume) treats numbers and counting very well. Same goes for days and time. Also, I write the date (as 平成20年 and not 2008) as well as the day on everyday homework assignments and stuff. It really helps you to get acquainted with days and stuff. For numbers, I occasionally translate results of my calculator while doing Maths. That way, I get to practice everyday 🙂

  15. Nivaldo
    February 8, 2008 at 02:20

    Sorry, everyone for the question (2).
    I didn’t see that Starter Pack 1. Going to use it right now.
    @Wan Zafran
    Thanks for the congrats. I have already met the kanji for ‘baka’ (a few hours ago) and was surprised to see how probabilities are just what they are, probabilities.
    Well, it would be a good idea but I can’t buy the book and I don’t have any way to get it. 🙁

  16. Nivaldo
    February 8, 2008 at 04:45

    Hey, Khatz! Sorry for overloading you with questions but I’ve got one more. I was going through the starter packs and the last left me wondering “Why did you stop doing the sentence packs?”, considering that there are no more sentence packs beyond the sentence pack 5.
    Anyway, it’s a pity at least for me.

  17. Sutebun
    February 8, 2008 at 06:37


    I think the sentence packs were only meant as a sort of demonstration of how Khatz did it and at the same time to teach some Japanese. Khatz addressed this in a few posts earlier, but AJATT shouldn’t be confused as just needing to input and practice a lot of sentences. It’s important to have sentences, but it’s also important to see sentences in their natural context.

    Even if a sentence is natural/native Japanese, seeing it mangled in a list with other sentences takes away the natural context. So while those starter packs can help you, it’s also good to start looking for sentences contained in natural Japanese things (songs, movies, product labels, whatever) that have context.

  18. Chiro-kun
    February 8, 2008 at 18:27
  19. Nivaldo
    February 9, 2008 at 02:22

    Yep, it’s true and I don’t disagree. It’s just that in the fifth sentence pack Khatz had talked about a “next” sentence pack that (if I went well through all the articles) doesn’t exist. So I was just wondering why he had stopped. And to be honest I haven’t looked at those starter packs yet.

    Well…hmmm…It’s somewhat the old way, right? I think so at least. If it has to be that way, then be it but that’s why before going that way I asked Khatz how he had learned the numbers/date/time and now (sorry again, Khatzよ) names.

  20. Tommy
    February 11, 2008 at 06:25

    thank you for answering my previous comment with this awesome post 😀
    keep it up ^^

  21. dancc
    February 11, 2008 at 21:02

    Hey does anyone know a good program to rip audio from a dvd. I remember reading a post by khatz but can’t find it. The one that allows the audio to be chopped up would be the best.

    P.S. I started using Japanesepod101 to sentence mine .. it’s awesome so far. Line by line audio transcripts ftw.

  22. khatzumoto
    February 29, 2008 at 14:30

    CONGRATULATIONS on finishing RTK! w00t!
    >(1)Did you learn to count in japanese through sentence mining or you used another method? The same for date and time.
    A bit of both. If you google “Japanese numbers” and “Japanese dates”, etc. you should find plenty.
    >(2)I’m looking through materials intended for beginners and in them I see examples from mangas but some words have kana in place of kanji. Should I SRS them as they are or should I replace them with the respective kanji?
    I always replaced with the respective kanji. Sure, people often use kana when they could use kanji in daily life, but it is better to do this out of choice than out of ignorance. In my sentences, I kanjified everything that could be kanjified.
    >One more doubt. Should I sentence-mine music lyrics or that must wait until some day?
    Yeah, go for it. Music lyrics are fine. Sure, some of it is more metaphorical than literal, but it’s fun, it tends to rhyme and you learn words. Go for it.

  23. khatzumoto
    February 29, 2008 at 14:32

    >P.S. A really good hint is to count your kanji strokes in Japanese when you write them.
    Great advice

  24. Nivaldo
    March 1, 2008 at 18:06

    Thanks for the reply. It was a really clarifying one. It is a great satisfaction to be able to read a kanji, a compound and still hold its meaning. It’s like being in heaven(ok, exaggerated a little bit here).
    Well, Khatz, do you know of any place(website) where I can get computer science ebooks for free(I’m in no condition of buying things, right now)?
    Also, how did you do with the 入る verb? I mean, it has different meanings for the same form. It confuses me a lot when I’m picking sentences.

  25. Nivaldo
    March 1, 2008 at 22:08

    Oh, japanese ebooks, of course. 🙂

  26. khatzumoto
    March 9, 2008 at 13:15

    >Khatz, do you know of any place(website) where I can get computer science ebooks for free
    I don’t, but you could start by just reading Wikipedia articles on CS subjects…
    Also, there’s the e-words IT dictionary: e-words.jp/

  27. Nivaldo
    March 11, 2008 at 03:04

    Thanks again. I think I’ll like the e-words site. Also thanks for NOT answering the first question. 😀
    The answer is pretty obvious, isn’t it? 入力だ。

  28. May 7, 2009 at 16:25

    Great tips! Maybe it’s cause of this site that I’m first in Japanese! AHAHAHA

  29. Aspiring
    June 14, 2013 at 14:16

    never read this before 😮
    great post

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