I feel you.
Last year I started with Genki and was doing WaniKani plus two flashcard decks (Genki + Core 10K). I burned myself out after 4 months. I finished Genki, was at level 8 in WaniKani, and felt like I should take a week or two to study up on conjugations I was weak on. This lead to me wanting to just put studying on hold for a little bit so I could relax, but every day flash cards were due and it was like every hour WaniKani was giving me 10 or 40 reviews and I just couldn’t sit down for a few hours without having to do something and I hated it, so I put everything on hold for 8 months and ended up forgetting just about everything.
I’m now in the early parts of Genki 2 (after re-starting from Genki 1), level 15 in WaniKani, finished the Genki flash cards and am 2K+ in to the Core 10K. I still feel like reading よつばと！ is beyond my level because I just lack the vocab (if I really wanted to I could force my way through, but I’d spend too much time translating everything. There’s also some really odd quirks in some character’s speech that Japanese Ammo covers in her review of the manga). You can also find vocab decks for よつばと！and some other manga on Memrise I believe, but you’re gonna have trouble with the grammar most likely (I’ve heard that よつばと！is around N4 level). As others have said, “beginner” here is a bit deceiving.
FWIW, here’s a comparison of what I was doing wrong before and how I’ve fixed it now. I have no idea if it will be relevant at all for you though.
- Studied EVERY day
- Was so desperate for more vocab I would double up the # of new cards per day (not realizing how this would lead to even more card reviews later)
- Never took rest days
- Did not space out WaniKani and didn’t have a system that worked for me; I just did the reviews as they came in unless I was sleeping
- Study Mon-Thurs and take Fri - Sun off
- Stick strictly to the number of new cards per day I know I can handle
- Do WaniKani in the morning and evening and not worry about it in the afternoon unless it’s just 1 review or something. I also found a method that works for me and my goals. That I don’t feel the strong urge that I absolutely have to do everything immediately is very nice.
- Spend collectively about 30 mins a night re-reviewing all the flash cards I got wrong (+new cards). I’ll just look them over a few times until I feel like I know them, come back in an hour, do it again, etc. I end up spending very little time on the reviews (5 to 10 minutes?) and each successive review is a breeze (to the point where I don’t feel like it’s eating away at a huge chunk of my time).
- Don’t bother learning English loan words that are so easy to remember that even if I had to look them up while reading, I’d remember what they were after seeing it a second time. This helps me squeeze in more Japanese words.
If you have to prioritize one thing, personally I’d suggest to make WaniKani the priority for two reasons:
- It is time consuming. It’s not as time consuming as grammar, but it’s something that you have to do in addition to everything else. Finishing WaniKani gives you more time for other things.
- Knowing the kanji helps a great deal with memorizing vocab. Even if you don’t know the meaning of a word, you will have a general idea based on the kanji and this really helps make things much easier.
If you’re not already using tools like the override script or reorder, you should be. I found this guide to be incredibly helpful and the advice has saved me a good amount of time and frustration. I’m still figuring things out as well, and learning how to better tweak the method that is already working for me. But I’m getting my reviews done and I’ve surpassed where I was at last year (by almost double) without feeling burned out.
If you’ve got the cash, I suggest buying the graded readers (CD Japan has them the cheapest. There is an app available now as well, but I know nothing about it). Some of the Level 0 books have grammar that is taught closer to the end of Genki 1, but it’s still a good way to read at your level (and you’ll pick up some new vocab from each book). I bought the entire set and I’m thankful I did since my vocab isn’t completely up to a high enough level for regular manga.
It also goes without saying but you should designate a specific amount of time to studying grammar. I have a lot of free time right now, so I spend the bulk of the day doing that (because that free time won’t last forever). You can even set a goal of 1 chapter per month or 1 chapter every 2 weeks. This will help keep you on track and moving forward.
With your build up of reviews, personally I’d suggest to either take care of all of them first (use the reorder script and do one level a day if you need to go at a slower pace or don’t have much time). You could also just start from level 1 again; there’s nothing wrong with that (I had to do it once myself).