ADHD person struggling to start new lessons 😅

Hello there!
So, I’m currently at level 5 and went through level 4 pretty much at full speed, but now my motivation slowly wears off and I can’t get myself to start new lessons. Doing my reviews is no problem for me and I most of the time do them immediately after they show up, but doing new lessons suddenly feels like a very big barrier to me. And it is increasingly difficult depending on the type of items I have to learn, radicals still being easy and vocabulary being super hard. It’s like I have to force myself to sit still and focus on something that feels understimulating to me and I am currently at my limit to make it work. I don’t want this to become something I force myself to do, because even if it works for a while I can see this making it just more difficult in the future and making me drop learning japanese completely for another couple of years (that’s what experience taught me).

Do you experience similar problems? If so, have you found a solution that you are willing to share?
If you have similar problems, but don’t have a solution maybe we can work out something together!


Pinging @yamitenshi who might be able to direct you to the ADHD specific threads.

As a side note, have you ever tried Anki to see if it’s less overwhelming, but possibly still engaging enough?

While I don’t necessarily have ADHD, what I typically do in case of Anki and other more mundane study methods, I just tried to not think about, but just do it instead. To not build up a certain expectation before getting down to studying, but just go on with it. Not sure if that’s helpful, though.



We’ve got the ADHD thread which doesn’t see much activity because we all forget about it until it’s time to commiserate and meme the hell out of things, but you can always go there for more ADHD-specific advice. Other than that a thread like this is bound to give you some things, there are plenty of others with ADHD here :slight_smile:

I personally am not going to be any help to you, I’m afraid. I’ve sort of just accepted that I’m not gonna be able to get into a lasting and sustainable routine of rote memorisation, whether it’s SRS or something else, so I just rode the hyperfocus wave into learning the basics (grammar up to N3-ish and the 1500 or so most common words as well as WaniKani up to level 14 or so) and I’m learning the rest as I go along just by consuming media, answering questions, reading along in book clubs, and so on. It’s going surprisingly well and I can motivate myself a lot more because it’s also a fun activity, it’s not just sitting down to study. Trying to force myself into “normal” studying resulted in exactly what you described, I dropped Japanese after a while and didn’t pick it up again for years.

As for the understimulation, the simple answer is to add stimulation. Put on music. Do your reviews with ASMR streams in the background. Have a show playing. Whatever works for you (but I do recognise it can be hard to find that).

You can also see if some form of accountability works, deadlines and such can help with motivation.

And most importantly, be kind to yourself. If your executive dysfunction is getting in the way of doing your reviews when you were “supposed” to do them, you can beat yourself up over that but that hasn’t worked so far in your life and it’s not gonna magically start working after who knows how many years of it. Accept that you have to kind of take the motivation as it comes sometimes.


Are you ever in a situation where you find yourself with nothing else to do, but are able to study?

I can never get myself to sit down and do lessons on the weekends or days off because I’m usually home and surrounded by distractions. Why study when I can play some games or go down a Youtube rabbit hole? However, when I’m at work and looking to kill time, that usually ends up being the perfect time to get myself knock out some lessons since anything is better than just watching the clock tick down. After that, like you said, the reviews are easy because you can just knock those out as they come.

If you can get yourself in a place where there are no other distractions or means of amusement then that will help a lot. Alternatively, it’s always good to remember your motivation. Write down a list of why you want to learn the language, and go over it every time you motivation wanes to remember why you’re studying in the first place.

Don’t get yourself in the loop of starting and stopping. If you quit now, six months later you’ll get the itch to learn Japanese again, then will be kicking yourself for having stopped. All you can think about then is where you would be now had you stuck with it 6 months ago. A feeling I know all too well. :slight_smile:


Going at full speed could possibly be making the task of doing lessons seem bigger? I believe some people with ADHD find starting big tasks hard, especially when they believe they won’t be good enough to finish, and when the task is not very interesting. I would probably recommend breaking it down. You don’t have to go through the lessons all at once, as fast as you can. Just do a small chunk. You can change your lesson batch size in settings, down to a smaller number, if five is too much. You could just set a target of doing one batch per day. Or even a larger interval if you want. Just doing anything at all will at least make more progress than doing nothing. I think it’s very likely you’ll burn out if you continue to go full speed. I myself just do 10 lessons each day, and less if I have too many reviews backed up, or just am not feeling it.


Hi, I’ve had similar issues over the years and may be able to provide some advice.

Item one, I do as many reviews a day as I feel. As long as I have more than 100 reviews to do every day, I don’t care about lessons. And when I get below that threshold, I do some new lessons.

Currently I’ve got some 400+ reviews and do between 10-20 per session, because that’s exactly as long as I can sustain my focus. There is no need to do all the reviews in one go, so I do up to ten sessions a day. Especially if your “this is new” stimulus wore off by now, it’ll be hard to just enjoy the pleasure of working with kanji and Japanese through the reviews, if you can make yourself enjoy this at all. (I say “make” because that’s one of the many tools in my box for working with ADHD, self-manipulating myself into liking things enough to get the kick I need to stay awake.)

Item two, variety. It started with WK, then I got Genki, then I started reading Japanese manga together with the ABBC here on WK. Having ADHD, asking more of myself than what’s on my level is usually a good way to stay focused, if you can manage the frustration of never being good enough. (Personally, I’m rarely frustrated by failure these days, the association with progress is too deeply engraved with that condition by now). But during the last two months, with the help of the ABBC people, I figured it out for me - what tools and apps and web source to use - so while I just finished WK lvl 6, I read the ABBC manga and some things on satori.

Reading is way more stimulating than SRS systems of any type, and within a month I’ve learned a couple of vocabs, kanji and grammar rules just by reading, without using a single flashcard or similar additional systems.

Don’t push yourself too hard and stay on the lookout for spicing things up. Tofugu has a lot of material about Japanese Learning that was like a candy box of diversity to me, and I hope it can be for you, too. :slight_smile:

Never thought about discussing my ADHD publicly, it’s always been my personal problem and I made it work for me as best I could over the years. Maybe it’s time to try something new, so maybe I’ll head over and look what other people have to say. Thanks for the hint. :slight_smile:


Wow, thank you all for your fast and incredibly valuable replies! :open_mouth: I’m feeling overwhelmed, but in a good way, haha :heart:

Having read your replies I feel like I have a lot more pieces to the puzzle now, I try to organize my thoughts: (sorry that I don’t reply directly to each person, I hope you all feel seen!)

-Vocabulary is especially hard for me, because when you use a reorder script, which I do, it is (kinda) optional for going full speed, but my brain knows that I should do it nonetheless because I want to learn vocabulary and I also want to be able to apply the kanji I learn. But the part of my brain that gets motivated by going full speed views vocabulary only as an obstacle. Not a challenging obstacle, but a bothersome one. So when all the vocabulary lessons drop when I level up, It’s like a huge mountain appears in front of me, turning my marathon into a climbing session and my first instinct is to run around the mountain to keep my momentum. That’s why I avoid the lessons, feel shame for doing it, the shame intensifies my avoidance and this negative feeling slowly creeps into all the other parts of Wanikani and learning japanese in general. So I avoid it. But I’m very early into that cycle so there’s a good chance I still can do something about it.

-Vocabulary is especially hard for me because it requires a special setting for me more than the other items. I want to learn the correct pitch accent patterns so I listen to the audio samples, repeat them loudly and read all the example uses loudly. Which means I need to be in an environment where I can speak freely AND have an internet connection, which most of the time boils down to being my room where, surprise, I have the most amount of distractions all around me. This works perfectly fine for me when I’m hyperfocused, but it’s terrible when I’m not. So maybe I have to lower my expectations for when I’m not hyperfocused? Just do it without doing the loud repitition when I’m on the train or in the library? Something like that.

-Maybe I need to organize my Wanikani experience into sprints. Times when I go full speed, and times when I just do reviews, practice writing kanji, listen to some japanese podcasts, the whole immersion thing. I don’t see myself doing a fixed amount every day no matter how I feel, I need to trick myself into thinking that I’m sprinting even if I’m actually doing a marathon.

-Music would really be helpful and I think I need multiple playlists for different moods, like a relaxed City Pop or Bossa Nova playlist for when I’m taking it slow, and a high-energy Eurodance playlist for when I’m going full speed.

-Dropping Wanikani and going for a different direction on learning Japanese is currently not an attractive option for me because I paid for a year and I’m stubborn to make something out of that year and I want to utilize this stubbornness :joy:

-I also think about doing lessons with the expectation to fail them on the first review. Just to lower the entry barrier to get them into the SRS system.


If your ADHD is anything like mine, you absolutely do :smile: You’re looking to ride that edge between “not enough stimulation, can’t do anything” and “too much stimulation, can’t do anything” - and that’s a fine line to ride sometimes, but it also likes to shift around, so one day you might be super productive listening to something pretty low intensity and the next day you might do much better with 280bpm and aggressive vocals.

Also finding something that fits your extremely specific tastes at that moment can be a rabbit hole in and of itself, so beware :joy:

Sounds like you might be trying to do too much at once. I get the urge to want to do everything right, but one of the most helpful things you can do is determine what’s good enough.

If learning pitch accent at the same time is getting in the way of being able to do your vocab, maybe separate that? You could make or find an anki deck specifically for pitch accent patterns and do that when you have the time and motivation, but not having the right environment won’t have to get in the way of your vocab studies.

Absolutely, and that extends beyond learning Japanese. Hyperfocus can be this near-magical state where you get everything done in the blink of an eye but it’s important to realise it’s not sustainable.

Think of it this way: a Ferrari can go ridiculously fast, under the right circumstances. Put it in city traffic though, and it’s not gonna go nearly as fast. Do you think your Ferrari is broken when it takes you half an hour to commute to work 10 miles away because your car can’t go 200 mph? No, you just think traffic is bad and the city is not a racetrack, and your car is performing exactly as it needs to, you can’t expect the top speed of your car to also be the average speed it goes all day, every day.

Your hyperfocus is the same. You can go ridiculously fast, under the right circumstances. Put you in normal everyday life without hyperfocus however, and you’re not gonna be that fast. You might even struggle, depending on circumstances. Does that mean you’re underperforming because you’re not going at hyperfocus speeds all the time? No, it just means you’re not under the right circumstances to do that, you can’t take the best possible result and expect to perform like that always.

Expecting hyperfocus performance from yourself all the time is how you burn out.


That’s a very good idea! I totally see myself not doing it, but maybe I can tell myself that I will do it someday to lift the pressure from me right now :joy:

So, about hyperfocus… I’m currently standing on that all too familiar crossroad, where I have the option to go into hyperfocus on doing something else (in my case at the moment it’s drawing) and use the Ferrari speed on that new thing, OR I keep my focus on studying Japanese and go slow af and feeling like I’m eating a very dry piece of bread that takes an eternity to chew. That’s where the hobby hopping cycle starts again. Do you have any advice what works out for you in that situation?

Nice, I will take a look too. Also very cool to meet someone on a similar level in a similar situation! I think connecting with other ADHD people is the best thing we can do to find a healthy way of doing this and also learn a lot about how our brain works and doesn’t work (and making friends along the way!)


Accept it as a part of who you are, I guess.

That might sound weird but in my experience it’s impossible to not get drawn into something else. You’ll hop from hobby to hobby, that’s a given. I actually kind of like that.

The only thing you need to figure out is how to do both in the somewhat long run. Sure, while that new hyperfocus is taking all your attention, other things are gonna stagnate. That’s how that works. But that’s also not gonna last forever - it might be two weeks, it might be a month, but your interest is gonna wane. Get back into learning Japanese when you have the attention to spare again, just don’t expect to go at maximum speed. And depending on what the new hobby is, you might even be able to integrate Japanese into it a bit - but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t.

Of course you can try to stave it off a bit, or even sometimes decide that this is not the time for a new fixation to take up all of your attention, but trying to stop that entirely is a fool’s errand.

One common thread in what has worked for me and the advice I give is actually pretty simple in principle (but hard to internalise): You have an attention disorder. You are not neurotypical. Don’t hold yourself to neurotypical standards.

Hobby hopping is a thing. Try to work with it, because trying to stop it is like bashing your head into a wall and expecting it to give.


I’m 34 years old and I’ve went through this cycle for about half the time. :slight_smile: I abandoned archery, basketball, story writing, poetry, coding, computer science, philosophy, history, e-sports, kendo, HEMA and a ton of other things along the way.

My personal goal throughout these years was to keep looking until I find the things that really sticks and keeps me going, period. It hurt a million times and I was constantly disappointed with myself. But it payed off! :smiley:

I had no musical education to boot and people from my childhood always told me that I lack any musical talent whatsoever. So I sub-consciously avoided music, or blocked myself by never trying it for real.

Until last year, when I bought my first violin. And just started playing. Turns out I’ve got every talent to make it work. And I’m glad I abandoned hundreds of other hobbies and projects on my way to finding my real passion in life.

So I keep Japanese as a fun little side-quest I do just because it’s nice when I do it. I had to abandon it two times over the last five years, almost a third time, and only because I got my real passion now I can keep it as a close second. :smiley:

This worked for me and no matter how much I hope it can work for anybody, I realize it doesn’t have to. But still, that is my success story of “failing forward”. :slight_smile:

In any case, remember that you didn’t start WK because you wanted to reach lvl 60, but because you wanted to learn Japanese. If WK brought you as far as it can at the moment, look for something else. If you feel like drawing, perhaps explore calligraphy, or at least stick to drawing manga and Japanese style art until your battery for WK is recharged by exposure.

Whatever you do, don’t force yourself. I burned out three times in my life, and that never payed off. Do what makes you happy, and stay on the look out. Your true passion will find you eventually. :slight_smile:


I try to be mindful of either time or energy; rather than really lesson or review counts.

Trying to allot into 5 min, 15 min or something, allows me to stretch the endurance against the waxing and waning of energy. (A clock with seconds hand is important.)

Diving in energy allows to set time allocation further, so bigger counts. But giving too much comes with rebound, so awareness.

Then, of course it also depends on accuracy and ease.

Otherwise, just remove distractions, or use your prime time.


About study logs, I started with weekly rather than daily, and it is strongly helpful. Something like daily and monthly feels hard to keep consistent.

After being in the zone, daily, rather, feels hard to break.


A little dive into how hyperfixations/special interests work for me: (AuDHD person here)

I have special interests that I have for all my life now, which are drawing, games and japan. And these three kind of form a triangle, you could say the “Triforce of Interests” and they have strong intersections. Almost every videogame I play was developed or inspired by japanese people, I like japanese (inspired) drawing styles the most, and I prefer games that feature drawn or heavily stylized graphics over 3d graphics and realism.

My hyperfixations result from combinations of these and happen in cycles. Typical hyperfixations for me are: gamedev, drawing, learning japanese, cooking (mostly) asian food, (sketch)bookbinding, pixel art. So it’s not just random stuff, it follows a rhythm and repeats. I traced back that I typically pick up learning Japanese again every four years and do it for half a year at most. Last time I managed to barely pass JLPT N5 by squeezing it into one of these phases, but in the end most of the stuff I learned was just memorized in my short term memory. It’s 20 years now from the first time I picked up a list of Hiragana and Katakana from a page in a Manga Magazine and decided I want to learn this language. And I’m not willing to make this slow progress for the rest of my life, I don’t want to be at N4 level when I’m 50 :smiley:

But what I described above is the ideal setup to make it work once I passed a certain point: most of my interests and fixations are strongly related to Japan and Japanese culture, so once I reached a certain threshold of understanding I can just incorporate a little Japanese into everything I do.

So that is my main motivation, at the moment.

Somehow I have mixed feelings about this, because I don’t believe there is one true passion :smiley: I think I have found most of my true passions from a very young age and they stick with me through everything. So for me it’s less about finding my true passion but more about finding a way to combine them a little bit more effortless, I guess! But I see many parallels to me in your story and I also want to make learning Japanese a fun side-quest! I’m also happy to hear you found something that works for you and lets you express yourself :slight_smile:

(I also picked up the violin when I was 16, hated it, made no progress, got so frustrated that I smashed it. Now I know that I love making music, but I hate playing instruments. Got myself a digital audio workstation program and once I had a visual representation of what I’m doing and can treat it like a canvas that I draw notes on, it finally worked)


I dont have ADHD but everytime I do new lessons I feel like this in the first reviews for the new items


even in late levels It is still the same as early lvls :rofl:


I give you that, for I don’t do either. :joy: But as you put it so well a few lines later, the violin gave me something to express myself through. I am a passionate reader of fiction, and will never lose my passion for writing or the occasional art by the by, either. Or all the other things I do quite passionately. :smiley:

But it turns out that I can’t express my-self through words or visual art. And keyboards or fretted string instruments were too narrow in their range of sound. The violin is giving my feelings a voice I never found elsewhere, and only ever since I have this voice I can write poetry, draw pictures and enjoy most of my life with a peace of mind I simply never knew before.

I believe in your medium of expression and your Triforce of Interests, and wish you all the best at mastering it to your heart’s content. :slight_smile:


Now I have to go grocery shopping with tears in my eyes :sob: :heart:

Now I have to go grocery shopping with tears in my eyes AND laughing how beautifully dumb this return to the original core topic is :joy: :heart:


By study log you mean a thread in this forum where you update what you’ve been doing? That could work for me, i guess :thinking: (if only for a little while)


Anything that works for a little while is good! That’s another thing I’ve noticed in myself - it’s easy to not start something because you don’t think it’ll stick, and to get bogged down in not doing anything until you find that “perfect” thing to do, but something that sticks for a week is still much better than doing nothing. You can always try something else later.


This may not apply to you at all, but…

I came to WK after having learned enough Japanese to call myself a not-quite-intermediate-level-advanced-beginner.

I know lots and lots of words, from hearing them in anime, to reading them in kana-only, from long-ago experiences with kana-only textbooks. Over the years I had had so many false starts with attempting to learn kanji (in the wrong way) that I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I started learning kanji only to fail and give up.

A couple of years ago I was encouraged through my use of an Anki deck that maybe learning kanji was not as hopeless as I had previously thought - and after discovering WK six months ago, I’m even more certain now that learning a substantial portion of the Joyo kanji is do-able.

I am finding that it’s a real ‘treat’ when I study a new lesson and encounter a new vocabulary word that I already know, in kana, or by ear - and suddenly I have a ‘eureka’ moment where it all comes together - so that’s how that word is spelled, with those characters and made up of those radicals - and now I understand the difference between on-yomi and kun-yomi in a way that never before made sense to me, whether it was from doing paper flash cards or reading learn kanji for beginners books or whatever.

So it’s all of those ‘aha’ moments that I find to be really rewarding, and they keep up my motivation to continue attacking new lessons, as well as all of the reviews.