My takeaways from a two-years break and my strategy to get back in

Pre-pandemic, I used to have a wanikani routine during my commute, which worked really well (I was consistent with progress and reviews). Got to level 17 in roughly 6 months of wanikani. Then, in march 2020, when I did not need to commute anymore (yay!) the first thing that got scrapped was my routine… which led to what essentially was a two-years break.

Takeaway: Routine is everything. If something removes the foundation of the routine (in my case, the morning commute), even a routine you believe is solidified and time-proven might just evaporate on the spot. In retrospect I am pretty shocked how easy it was for changing circumstances to just bring my consistent progress to a halt.

Now of course I cant just start where I left off. With some 1000 reviews and a lot of forgotten items (burned ones also!), this would make things unrewarding and frustrating.

But I also dont want to reset back to level 1. There are a lot of items from the earlier levels that I still remember. Takeaway: SRS is surprisingly powerful and long-lasting for a lot of items.

And I dont want to rely on scripts to self-study everything back to where I could just continue where I left at level 17, because the wanikani “engagement” via the progression system is quite a motivator for me personally, and I dont want to risk slipping into script “abuse” (another takeaway). And last but not least, I am glad I became a lifer with the crabigator, because I wouldnt have considered getting back in if I had cancelled at some point in the last two years (final takeaway :D)

Now my strategy is the following:

  1. I will reset back to the level I had about 3 months before my routine dropped (which means resetting from level 17 to level 11 for me). Reasoning: Anything past that point was never mastered well (due to 3 or less months of time actively reviewing), and starting off with a clean slate here will be very helpful, even if the partial reset feels painful.
  2. The content from levels 1-10, while also a lot, is more manageable to manually go through. And this I will, going through the items that I have burned from level 1-10, and manually resurrecting each and every burned item that I consider lost to the sands of time.
  3. I will now have a backlog of all items from levels 1-10 that I either never burned, or burned and forgot. Do this backlog with the initial strong motivation from getting back into it.
  4. Find a new routine that can ideally be decoupled from possibly changing external circumstances. Something like bedtime reviews (because I will be going to bed on most days, whether I work remote or not on that day). And then limit my apprentice/guru items to keep things manageable, even if progress is slower than before, so that the routine is realistic.

Has anyone considered a similar strategy after a possibly looooong break, or maybe something wildly different?

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my breaks were never that long, but i did pile up over 1600 reviews pending, twice :sweat_smile:

your strategy sounds reasonable to me. i also reset a few levels to get everything which hadn’t had a chance to reach at least a certain srs level out of the queue.

i would recommend being cautious about how many items you resurrect at once. otherwise you risk overloading the srs. you want to be able to get through all your pending reviews every day before adding more items to the list. and keep in mind that even a small daily number of new items piles up into a lot of reviews.

if your review pile is unmanageably large, i recommend using a script to re-order your reviews by srs level, at least in the beginning. that way you get the more urgent items at lower srs level first, and can then decide on how many of the older items you want to go through.

if you’re working your way through a large pile of pending burns, the failed reviews won’t come back for quite a while. so in order to keep a balanced spread of srs-levels, i add a small amount of lessons daily. but if you’re working your way through and resurrecting items which were already burned, they start at apprentice 1 again, so that wouldn’t apply.

like this i’ve been doing 5 lessons a day, and about 100 reviews daily. most of those are “current” reviews (apprentice and guru), and then some 20-30 a day are potential burns. like this i’ve gone from over 1600 pending reviews to just 800, all of which are burns, in 3 weeks. i reckon it’ll take me another 4-5 weeks to work through those burns.

this works for me because it gives me steady and measurable progress, and integrates well into WK’s srs ^^

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I’ve never missed more than a day or two of reviews (I think the most outstanding reviews I’ve ever faced was around 300) but your plan sounds reasonable to me.

I know all about this, though. I agree that the key is a consistent routine.

While two or more sessions each day might allow you to progress faster, I’ve always done just one review session each morning with my first cup of coffee. It’s definitely a personal preference.

I believe it’s a very good idea to associate your reviews with something you do every day (and ideally also enjoy). You also want to remove every possible impediment, making it as easy as possible to do your reviews: quiet, distraction-free environment, everything out and ready for you with minimal rigmarole (searching for chargers, clearing desk space, whatever). In my case, I can’t have a cup of coffee without at least thinking about my reviews!

Personally, I find mornings better than evenings, though. I’m more alert and if something comes up or I just can’t summon the energy at least I have the rest of the day to try again.

Some script recommendations:

  • I’d STRONGLY recommend installing the ultimate timeline and configuring it to show upcoming reviews by SRS stage for the next 120 days. You want your reviews spread out fairly evenly over the coming days, but with your reset and other factors things might get lumpy. At the very least it will let you know what you’re in for (and when). If reviews are lumped together it will be better NOT to do them all at once.
Mine looks like this:

  • Streak tracking is an incredible motivator. You can do it manually with a physical calendar and marking a big red X through every day you perform at least one review (the goal is all outstanding reviews, but reward yourself with the X whenever you do any). You can also use @Kumirei’s wonderful heatmap script to do the tracking for you automatically.

  • You might also like my Ganbarometer to help manage your workload.

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I am already using the heatmap, but the ganbarometer and timeline sound like very useful tools for my plan! Thank you. :slight_smile:
I have now gone ahead and reset to 11, already purged a lot of 1-10 burned content so my review count is now over 500, so these tools will help a bit (as well as the vanilla recent failures and lessons Extra Study).

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I have a similar experience. In spring 2020 I had to cancel my planned trip to Japan. This killed my motivation to go on with Wanikani.
Now there is a slight hope to be able to visit Japan again perhaps in autumn. So some weeks ago I restarted first with Duolingo. Now since a week with Wanikani too.
With a backlog of 2000+ lessons and reviews :face_with_hand_over_mouth:
After this week I’m encouraged. I still remember some of the kanji. Also until now reviewing the stories for forgotten kanji feels pretty efficient.
Because my priority is reading Japanese stuff I concentrate on training meaning.
Let’s see how it works out again in let’s say a month :rofl:

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I’m more in the “don’t wanna reset” camp, but then again I never had a really good routine anyway… After my last biiig 3 years break, I didn’t have a huge backlog (because of vacation mode) but of course I forgot a lot. But mostly I just plowed through. I did use the self study script rather extensively on the items I failed to get them under control a little more quickly (I still cycled quite a few items down to apprentice). And I also did some extra study on the radicals of the last few levels (because not knowing the building blocks was holding back relearning the other items) but that was mostly it. I think over all I was mostly fine after two weeks.
Here’s my review heatmap from back then:
image
The dark blue was mostly somewhere in the ~200 range. After two weeks I added in a few more lessons, but stopped again soon because I went on holiday at the start of February (that’s also why reviews are a bit inconsistent in number there, because I did my reviews a little more sporadingly)
I do keep cycling some items down, but it’s actually not as bad as I thought.

Even before this big break I sometimes needed to tackle some backlogs. For that I think I mostly just reordered by level and then did a more or less set number of reviews each day. (e.g. 100 in the morning, 100 at night or sth like that). It usually was fine earlier than I thought as well. (The set number of reviews was more to not clump up future reviews too much either)

Funnily enough, for me it was finishing Wanikani. I had visions of all this stuff I would start doing as far as reading and doing more immersing but that never materialized.

I was still reading here and there and still watching anime, but progress kind of meandered.

It wasn’t until I started doing a Jalup deck that things got back on track.

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Pacing the re-entry was good advice. I’m delaying the level 11 lessons (even though lessons will be a bit easier for a while due to having seen them once already) until my reviews clear, and I do about 200 reviews per day (for now) to move them into guru staggered before its time to do lessons for the first time in 2 years again :slight_smile:

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@Rrwrex the Ganbarometer works excellently now! Ill stick with the default values, they seem good. However initially, after the reset to lv11, the script seemed to be confused for a week and always displayed a maxed out gauge. I guess thats normal behavior (and it does fix itself once the reset is >1 week ago).

This time around though, im complementing WK with bunpro. Should have done that back then, it really helps to have multiple 戦場 active and “connect the knowledge”.

Also, public accountability time! I can see the initial consistency, followed by two years of shame (slowly fading out before nothing for ages). And now back on track!

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I’ll admit I didn’t consider resets when I wrote the script. I’m unsure how they effect the logic. I’m glad it worked out eventually, and that you’re finding it useful!

I’ll try to look at the issue in a future version. I’ll post in the ganbarometer developer thread when I do.

I dont think you need to specifically cater to resets in particular when its a rare thing. I mean the resetting meant i had a very unusual distribution of apprentice/guru… for the first two weeks. It also screwed with my RKV script and I think even wanikani itself (cant correctly obtain “locked” information for items flushed out via reset). Only just got to a point where wanikani is in a flow state again. SRS really seems to work though, so far im blazing through lessons, seems like I remember a lot more from levels 12 to 16 than I thought.

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I’ve done both types of restarts. The first was after I completed Level 30, which took a year and a half. I had to take a year off, then when I went back to it my retention rate was so low I decided it would be too frustrating to try and slog through 1,500+ reviews to get back to where I was.

Since I had the lifetime subscription I figured I’d start over from Level 1 and the review of everything would do me good in the long run. After taking another year to reach Level 20, life got in the way once again and I had to take another year off. This time there was no way I was going to restart again so I spent over a month from where I left off at Level 21 diligently reducing my 1,500+ pile by 50 a day, which took more time than it sounds.

After a little over a year I reached Level 45, but reached a burnout point at the start of last summer and basically ended up taking the entire summer off. This is a regret I will take to my grave. Upon renewing the Wanikani journey in mid-August, I had 2,572 reviews waiting for me. The road back to completing that pile was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The time off plus the increased difficulty of the kanji meant that I was starting off with an average success rate of 12-14%. The first two months were spent just trying to increase the success rate while preventing the review pile from increasing. By Halloween the review pile still languished at over 2,000 with a success rate of about 33%. Finally by Christmas vacation I was able to get my success rate up to around 60% and made a mad dash of doing Wanikani 5-6 hours a day to get through the remaining 1,500 reviews so that I was at 0 on New Year’s Day. So basically I lost seven months by the time I got back to where I was at the end of last May. I have now made it to Level 53 and am determined to complete Level 60 even if it kills me! Certainly that will be the happiest day of my life (not the dying, the finishing of these levels!)

So my advice is:

  1. Don’t restart from Level 1. I would have continued on from Level 30 the first time no matter how frustrating if I could have done it over. I’d be done by now if I’d taken that course of action. You’ll still save time by continuing one from the level you stopped at no matter how frustrating rather than going back to the beginning. I’m not sure I’d even go back a few levels either.
  2. Keep your routine if at all possible. At the higher levels especially even a little deviation can cause you to very quickly be hundreds of reviews behind. Last week I had to take three days off. Even after that short time off my success rate dropped from 75% to 45%. The rest of this past week was busy too so now I’m staring at a 700 review pile to make up.

Onward and upward. I have total “summit fever” to get to the top of this kanji mountain.