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.