Proper habits to stay motivated?

I’m sure this gets posted often, but I’m looking for help with how to properly stay motivated in studying Japanese. As of right now I am at most able to consistently do WaniKani, but that is about it. I have proper resources to teach vocab & grammar but I can’t manage to use them in long enough intervals that it’s really beneficial.

How do you go about keeping yourself going while learning all the fields of Japanese, it can be a bit much to do everyday. Is it better to set smaller goals? Any advice would be appreciated.


Habits are there to keep you doing something even when you’re not motivated. But lack of motivation can still break a habit… Once you get to the point where the keep up the habit no matter what, though, it’s a lot easier to keep going.

For me, aside from using SRS daily for learning kanji/vocabulary (mostly though WaniKani, but also Anki now), a “motivator” to get me into reading was to join a book club here on the forums. Having a weekly schedule with a set number of pages to read, with discussion threads to help learn grammar, helped keep me mostly on track until I reached the point where I can read completely on my own.

From there, I’ve tried various things to see what works best to keep me reading. (Once I start reading, I can easily spend half an hour or longer at it. It’s getting started reading on any given day that can be troublesome.) Thus, for 2021, I’ve aimed to read a minimum of one manga chapter per day. So far, I’ve missed only a couple of days, and some days I get in extra reading.


What would you say your current “goals” are? I’ll bet they can be revised into systems.


In addition to all of Christopher’s great advice, you could look here on the forums for an accountability study-buddy, or start a study log and join the Master List of Study Logs and post your intended study schedule each week. Knowing there are a few pairs of kind eyes watching my progress has certainly helped me :blush:

Here’s my schedule for the week from my log, including grammar study, just as an example:


I think the best motivator for me is to have something I want to read/watch/play that’s in Japanese that’s FUN for me. Right now I’m playing a video game called Eastward which is super cute but I can only play it in Japanese. I’m motivated to study WK because I see kanji in the game every day that I’m learning.

Also signing up for the JLPT. Nothing like a looming deadline to motivate the soul.


The book club sounds interesting, thanks.
As for goals, I’ve mostly been following the generic goal of becoming conversational in the language. I’d also like to catch up my grammar to the N4 level where most my other knowledge is currently at. I haven’t done a proper job of coming up with deadlines though.


That looks interesting, I’ll check it out later. Thank you.
How long would you say you spend each day going through the schedule?

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I’ve had my eyes on that game for a while, I’ll definitely consider doing that. Do you just look up the kanji or words you’re unfamiliar with?

Goal: “catch up my grammar to the N4 level”

System: “Read a chapter from a Japanese grammar text book (or equivalent from a site such as Tae Kim) every day.”

System: “Watch a Cure Dolly grammar video every day.”

System: “Read/watch native material every day, and look up unknown grammar as it comes up.” (I often recommend the Absolute Beginner Book Club for this, especially if you’re mid-N4.)

Note that none of these systems are specific to N4 grammar. Instead, they’re for grammar in general. Some of these will help you learn all N4 grammar, but you’re also picking up N3 and higher grammar along the way.

Goal: “becoming conversational in the language”

For this, systems would minimally include a daily schedule for learning new grammar and new vocabulary (very important to be able to speak!)

You might also include a system of daily shadowing, but that might be better saved for when you know more grammar and vocabulary.

There’s a section here on the forums for writing in Japanese which can be useful to participate in, such as a system of posting something in every thread that comes up. (I’m not familiar with that section, so I don’t know the details on how it works.)

Whether having such a variety of things to do will impact your motivation, I don’t know. But getting into the habits for daily activities that will slowly improve your knowledge in various areas will also increase your capabilities. As your capabilities increase, you can do more (read more quickly; write more complex sentences), and that may result in a motivation boost.

That said, always remember that motivation is not your friend.


In addition to the previous suggestions, I’d like to share what has been working for me.

I have always been a sucker for a good story – so much so that I would often neglect my other duties under the guise of “just one more episode”. When I started learning Japanese I cut out most English media: youtube, anime, manga, light novels, and visual novels. By doing so I’m forced to learn Japanese in order to once again experience those mediums which I love so much.

If you are addicted to media like me, this may be a great motivator, although you will have to abstain from consuming English content which takes a bit of discipline. You’re essentially putting yourself in a “life or death” situation where you can either learn Japanese or quit media entirely.

Also, it helps to understand why you’re learning Japanese. Imagine the future you who understands the language: what aspects of that image excites you? In my case, I imagine how much fun experiencing media in its native language will be, showing off to my friends, and being able to freely socialize with natives when I visit Japan for the first time. That always gets me fired up.

I find that adding emotion to my journey is much more reliable than statistical goals, although many people find the opposite to be true as well, or maybe both. Test various things out until something works for you, and avoid beating yourself up over short-term failures. Failure is a learning experience, a stepping stone to success. And don’t forget to have fun!


Yes. I use either a google translate app or the Midori app on my phone. You can draw unfamiliar kanji so it makes it easier to look up.

I’d wait til you’re WK level is in the mid 20s to do this though. When I was in the 10s it was really painful to read anything, games just weren’t fun. Now in the upper 20s, I’m like Oh okay, this is kind of enjoyable now.

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Daily workload:

WK: ~ 40 mins over 3 sessions, including BishBashBosh reviews/practice

Grammar: between 15 to 40 minutes (end-of-week reviews are the most time-consuming).

[note: I alternate weekly between grammar and kanji writing/usage practice]

Reading: about 10 minutes (it would be more but for ChristopherFritz’s vocab sheet saving so much time on vocab look-ups)

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I’m seconding the recommendation to start a study log here for accountability! Mine has really helped me. I have different sections for different aspects of study (WK, textbook study, reading/active immersion, just fun observations about the language, etc.), and if I don’t have anything new to report in one section after leveling up, I feel guilty :sweat_smile:. It helps keep my study workload diversified, and reminds me of the progress that I have made if I ever think I’ve plateaued.

Definitely set smaller goals! I take things day by day, and if I accomplish my tasks for the day, I feel satisfied.

I’ve had a lot of success motivating myself to use a textbook by breaking down each chapter/lesson into concrete steps, and then focusing on making at least some progress every day on whatever step I happen to be on. Some days this means I do a lot more work than others! But as long as I get something done, I feel good about it.

Here are my steps for completing each MNN lesson:

  1. Prepare Anki deck with the new lesson vocabulary, double-checking all the cards and adding audio. Add the kanji to the spreadsheet I’m keeping.
  2. Learn how to write the vocab with new kanji, and do Anki every day until I’ve run through the new vocab and feel comfortable enough with it.
  3. Read the grammar explanation in the translation text, then put that book aside and read the lesson in the main textbook.
  4. Do the exercises in the textbook.
  5. Do both workbooks.
  6. Finish the last section in the textbook, which I save for reviewing at the end.
  7. Add all of the new grammar concepts to my notebook.

No matter which step I’m on, I complete my Anki reviews every single day. Anki takes me a lot more time during step 2, then once I learn the vocab, the cards quickly get pushed into the future, and it takes less than 10 minutes a day for me to run through the deck. It takes about two weeks for me to get through each MNN lesson, and half of that time is just spent on step 2, learning the vocab.

What’s handy about having concrete steps to follow is that I always know what my task is each day. I never feel directionless. None of the steps require a large commitment of time on any one day, which helps me not fall off of studying if I happen to miss a day because I’m busy or not feeling well. I’ve been able to keep this up extremely consistently for seven months now, so I feel pretty confident recommending it as a strategy!

What vocab and grammar resources do you have? Maybe we could help you come up with a plan for forming a study routine?

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This! Thank you for putting into words what I was trying to show with the png. (sometime a thousand few words are worth more than a picture)

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Hey I’ve very recently played Eastward in japanese as well! Really cute, although the story gets sort of confusing towards the end. Great game for practising japanese, I’d definitely recommend it for N4-N3 people.

Another game I’ve played in japanese was pikuniku, which was much easier than eastward, easily N4 level IMO, and also much more relaxed atmosphere overall. Highly recommend as well!

Currently I’m playing through deltarune chapter 1, which I’m struggling a bit more, since I’ve already played the english version when it came out, meaning I’m not that motivated to find out what’s going to happen. But the japanese in it is pretty manageable, and has very few kanji.
We should start a japanese game club lol that would be awesome.

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I’m down! How would you want to go about it?

On a daily basis, I find the pomodoro technique super effective for any kind of studying: set your time for 25 minutes, study, then take a 5 minute break and repeat as many times as you want. I usually put on a video from Youtube with the timings, e.g. this one: 2-HOUR STUDY WITH ME🌦️ / calm piano / A Rainy Day in Shibuya, Tokyo / with countdown+alarm - YouTube (in English and 日本語 with views from Tokyo :slight_smile: )

It’s a super simple technique, but I find it useful in getting started and maintaining focus, plus completing a 25 minute block gives me a sense of accomplishment and I can easily quantify how much work I’ve put in. If 25 minutes sounds like a lot, start with 15 or 20, even though it doesn’t sound like a lot, it all adds up.

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yo, I just started a thread to write about games you played in japanese, with little reviews and such. Mostly to help people looking for recommendations. Please go ahead and write something about eastward there!

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