Keeping up Japanese while working full-time

Hi all! Sorry in advance already if this has been asked already, I kind of got lost in the absolute huge number of posts and questions in this community :smiley:

Basically my question is the following - for those of you working full-time, how are you keeping up with your Japanese language learning, the grammar, the vocab, kanji, everything? Is learning Japanese the only thing you’re learning outside of work? I also need to get a certificate for work soon but don’t want to lose my Japanese, so I’m wondering what are the tips and tricks of you all out there.

ありがとうございます already in advance :slight_smile:

stay safe!

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I work from home so it's relatively easy to fit it in, but what I do on an average day:
  • WK/Bunpro/Anki over breakfast + little chunks throughout the day, kinda like how smokers have cigarette breaks…
  • Watch a short documentary during my coffee break/over lunch
  • Up to an hour of reading after work (usually less)
  • Watch some netflix in the evening (one or two shows on average)

If I need to commute for whatever reason, I tend to do some SRS/reading on the train, but if you need to drive, podcast/audio drama would be a good sub.

All in all, on a work day, I probably spend about an hour of focused practice, spread throughout the day, plus up to another hour of reading, and then however long watching stuff. For me that’s pretty manageable, and gives me a bit time to do other stuff like cook/play games/make music as well.

As for tips,

  • Structure your learning around really short sessions. It’s easier to fit around other stuff, and it’s easier to find the motivation/energy to do it.
  • A quick five minutes here and there goes a long way, and if you use them wisely, can be more beneficial than the same total time in one big chunk.
  • Set a small, realistic minimum daily goal (e.g. “do all my WK reviews”) and make it a habit. Treat everything else as bonuses. You’re less likely to burn out/get depressed over not managing to complete everything.
  • If it does get too much, cut back the amount of studying you do! 20 mins a day is enough to improve and is better than burning out and quitting.
  • If it’s an option, make some Japanese friends. It’s really motivating to be able to try to talk to them.

Good luck :+1:

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I am kind of lucky because I work as a night auditor, which means I have a lot of free time at work if I dont finish my studying at home. My routine is every morning after work I spend 2 hours studying before bed, and taking 2 days off a week usually helps. Sometimes it also helps me to divide up my time so an hour here and an hour later. Also, if you do something like Pimsleur (listening comprehension and speaking) you can do that on your way to and from work.

I’m an early riser (about 5), so that helps. This is what seems to work for me.

Before work I add make Flashcards of new things from the previous day.
I listen to podcast when I can at work and when I’m commuting.
I do flashcards when I am commuting.
I read at lunch.
Then I watch a show and, if I have time, a bit of reading in the evening.

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Full time work is 8 hours + commute, which is quite short for me. So, assume 8 hours of sleep I have (24 - 8 - 9) = 7 hours. It’s not a lot honestly, so I have to plan my daily schedule in advance and balance Japanese, working out, social life, and other things.

I have things I have to do and things I can sacrifice. For instance, I have to do WK reviews every day but I don’t have to do lessons every day. So, only reviews could take ~1 hour per day but if it’s also lessons it could increase to up to 2 hours.

Then I have to take 2 italki classes per week to maintain my conversational skills and practice grammar. That’s 2 hours + 2 hours for homework per week. Not a lot.

Overall, I have around 49 hours of free time per week and I spend ~15 hours (30%) of it on Japanese. There’s another 70% for other things. Of course, daily chores will count for a substantial part of it but you have some flexibility.

Oh and sometimes I just feel like relaxing and watching a show or playing a game. Then it’s also an opportunity to do it in Japanese, so that’s some extra practice.

It’s not. Japanese is my primary hobby but I do learn profession-related things too.

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Before covid I used to use my commute as my japanese learning time (1 hour on the train doing vocabulary plus 30 minutes walk listening to podcasts, each way) and that worked really well for me because it meant that my SRS items would all appear at predictable times and I had time to myself set aside each day. Now that both my husband and I are working at home you would think I would have more time but actually I’m finding it a lot harder!

I think that trying to set up a realistic and regular schedule is the key. I have a weekly class with my tutor and a set aside a couple of hours on the weekend to do my homework for that, which is my major time commitment. Each day I do little bits of vocab on apps, try to read a couple of Instagram posts and play Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. I usually watch a couple of japanese films or TV programmes each week as well.

I’d completely agree with all @denzo’s tips. One of the apps I use alongside WK is Flashcards Deluxe (for entering words I come across through reading, my classes, watching TV) and when I look at the stats on that it says I average at 8 minutes a day. That doesn’t sound like a lot but I’ve learnt 4875 words over the last 2 years that way!

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I guess it depends a lot on your commute time. I’m lucky to have a very short commute. But I’m curious, what about the rest of you?

What’s your daily total work commute time (to work and back home)?
(m = minute, h = hour)

  • under 30m
  • 30m - 1h
  • 1h - 1h 30m
  • 1h 30m - 2h
  • 2h - 3h
  • over 3h

0 voters

Note, I can get to my office in 15 mins if I walk in a very fast pace but I usually don’t do it, so it takes me 20 mins one way, therefore I’m voting for 30m - 1h option.

Don’t have the job anymore, but I just answered according to what my original commute was (about 55 mins one-way if I managed to avoid traffic). Coupled with stuff like lunch break I was usually from home 12 hours a day. It really doesn’t leave a lot of time to do anything else, so combining is a must. Podcasts and audiobooks are your friend.

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I’m picturing a caterpillar with a suitcase and hat

Mine is also under 30 minutes with driving. I dont have to go on the interstate which helps a lot, plus traffic is still halved from Covid

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Close but not quite. Indeed I’m wearing a top hat. Instead of a suitcase I have a neat briefcase. And also like smoking a pipe while walking.

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“Hey boss gonna need a week off in mid August…Yeah, going to be going into metamorphosis…”

ok I’ll stop derailing now

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Working from home at the moment but my morning commute is about 40-45 minutes by car, I start at 08:00 so miss most of the rush hour traffic.

It takes 1 hour in the evening though as work finishes at 17:00 so you get all the rush hour traffic. If I manage to get away 5-10 minutes early (if I start earlier or skip my 10:00 break) it really helps avoid most of the traffic.

Edit: just realised I clicked the wrong option on the poll, the joys of a touch screen :sweat_smile:

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I hate rush hour traffic! And driving is such a chore too! When I’m in public trasport I can at least read or do my reviews. And when I’m on foot – it’s a workout :wink:

You should be able to change your vote.

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Ahh I can, fixed it now.

Yeah that was one thing I liked about university, I could get the train there so I could use the 30-35 minutes on the train to do whatever I needed to. It was then a 15 minute walk to the building I was in, it was up a fairly steep hill as well so it definitely got me some exercise for the day. Especially if the train was late and you had to nearly run to make it on time, good days :joy:

The only thing I can do while driving is sing along (very badly) with all my Japanese music or listen to some of the other Japanese soundtracks I have like recordings from Graded Readers.

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I’ve got a full time job from 8am to 5pm, a two month old baby girl, and 3 boys. My wife and I trade off at times with everything except nursing the baby.

My day yesterday went like this:

  • 7:00am Wake up, brush teeth, morning coffee. I do my first batch of reviews with the coffee. Takes about 15 minutes or so for around 40 items. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
  • 7:30am Get ready
  • 8:00am Drop my son off at summer school and go to work. My work schedule isn’t too strict since I’m on salary rather than hourly, so I’ll get there around 8:30am and I get off around 5:30pm or 6:00pm.
  • 12:00pm Eat lunch and then do reviews eating. This is the bulk of my reviews. If I have lessons, I’ll do 20 lessons at this time. I also pick my son up from summer school around this time and drop the car off at work. I have an hour to an hour and a half for lunch.
  • 2:30pm Unofficial snack break at the office. If I have a small amount of reviews, I’ll do them here or just skip it. If I’ve done lessons then the first review is at this time. I’m ok with getting low accuracy for this first review. It basically just weeds out the items I remember well and the ones I have to work on.
  • 5:30pm/6:00pm Depending on what I need to get done that day, I may stay a bit later to finish of some things. Otherwise, I get picked up by my wife and head home from work.
  • 6:00pm I spend time with the family right after work.
  • 6:30pm I’ll take a 15-20 minutes break to do reviews before starting dinner. It usually takes me about an hour to cook and I’ll do lessons as I go or just have a Japanese YouTube video on in the background. This is when those lesson items will turn up again. I’ll spend a bit of extra time on each one to help remember them.
  • 7:30pm After making dinner and getting the family served, I’ll take another 15-20 minutes to do reviews before eating myself. My eldest son and I will usually watch an episode of whatever series we’re currently on while eating.
  • 8:30pm Family time again. I’ll usually keep my daughter company while my wife cleans up. She has the baby all day so this is also her time to relax and do whatever.
  • 10:30pm The family is mostly asleep so this is usually when my wife and I can each get some personal time or spend time together. This is where I can catch up on reviews if I have to, but it’s usually YouTube or reading.
  • 12:00am Sleep time or thereabouts.

That doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of time for lessons and reviews, but I’ve evolved a system of failing early to keep my accuracy high. I run through reviews fairly quickly as well. If I don’t know an item within 5 seconds, I just get it wrong. I’ll spend another 5-10 seconds reinforcing the mnemonic/meaning/reading and then move on.

For me, I’ve found that failing quickly helps me keep the long term memory strong when items come around again. Well, outside of leeches, but everybody has leeches. :wink:

I’m currently averaging around 11 days per level with this so far.

Weekends are more free form, but I stick with the three main reviews: morning, noon, and evening. Anything outside of that is extra.

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Agree with Denzo’s tips!

@d-hermit In normal times I have a ~45 minute commute one-way, but I can’t study on my motorbike :sweat_smile:

Until September my company has a work-from-home policy, but all the lockdown/post-lockdown mess means family life + work life is complicated, and my personal time is squeezed to its limit!

Currently squeezing in

  • 15 minutes for WK reviews (before getting up),
  • 30 minutes for WK + Anki reviews (right after lunch),
  • 30 minutes for WK + Anki reviews + lessons (before making dinner),
  • 1 hour for last WK reviews, grammar, reading (before bed)

Time is a luxury, but we can do our best with what we have :blush:

This is interesting! Is it because you get to see the weaker items again quickly, or is there some other reason? I might be spending too many seconds trying to remember those early apprentice items!

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I’m part of the “can’t study during commute” club (on bike or WFH), although my current position is fully remote.

For OP:

First, think of the little time slots where you usually fit your reviews/lessons. I feel that, for me, the study slot that goes uninterrupted the most is the lunch break one. In the morning it’s easy to rush, in the evening it’s easy to give priority to other tasks or family, but during lunch time I’m usually free to do my own thing even if it’s just for 15 minutes.

I think Denzo’s tips are great, and the only thing I’d add is: find that specific, uninterrupted slot that works the best for you and focus on having a disciplined routine tied to it. Even if that’s just a daily trip to the toilet and you only have 10 minutes and your phone, stick to it. That way you’ll hardly find a reason to miss your daily minimum (even when you’re away on holidays) and can easily hold yourself accountable if you happen to miss it.

Personally, I feel that setting a very small minimum goal and seeing the rest as a bonus works wonders for my motivation compared to trying to fit a bigger, “more productive” goal into a routine that is bound to get shaken every now and then by mundane events. Having a small minimum goal rarely makes me less productive than if I had a larger one (since I feed on that “man, I’m on a roll, let’s do this!” feeling and enjoy the feeling of successfully overachieving), and also doesn’t make me depressed when I happen to miss my bigger goals for completely legitimate and unexpected reasons (which can also easily snowball into a chain of missed goals, since you already “failed” once).

Your miles may vary, naturally, but this is the system I found that works the best for me. Hopefully this information might help you find your own routine.



I’m not the original poster, but in my case (since I feel the same), I think it’s just a matter of human psychology: we remember negative events more than positive ones, and “failing” is something that sticks with you more easily. Part of me feels disappointed for failing and wants to make sure that specific kanji doesn’t fool me more than once, so my memory holds onto that kanji more. Also, it helps to re-study it while isolated, instead of in a batch of lessons where your memory can get muddy and lump several readings/meanings together.

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Thank you all for the responses so far :smiley: sounds like I first need to figure out which times are “free” during the day, like mentioned work commute or bathroom time. And then actually stick to those times for Japanese studying. I find this a bit difficult sometimes because of how unplanned events just mess up previously planned schedules :smiley: notoriously working over-time also does not really help haha

I worry about taking on too much at the same time (not just for Japanese but for all the things I want to study), because in past I’ve had too many goals and then just failed dramatically ^^ So I like @Rainberries ideas of having small minimum goals, as well as @d-hermit s set-up of must-do’s and nice-to-have’s - this one specifically when studying many different things parallel to each other

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haha, my dad used to say about the toilet business: “You go in, drop the bomb, and go out”. I think it’s best not to take a phone or anything else into the bathroom, otherwise you can end up wasting more time instead of focusing on the primary “business”.

If it’s at work by all means take a 30min toilet break to do your reviews, unless you have a strict manager that is

I hope your manager doesn’t manage your toilet breaks :cold_sweat: