Tips for recovering from burnout?

Long story short I burned out hard on Wanikani and japanese in general after spending hours every day on it. Went three months without touching WK and now have 1600 reviews piled up. Every time I get some motivation to jump back in I just see that number and feel completely overwhelmed and the motivation disappears. I even feel like this is keeping me from using other resources like anki or bunpro (which also have hundreds of piled up reviews) because I feel as if I should catchup on wanikani first before going back to those. Any advice for catching up on reviews and getting back into it?

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Maybe quit WK and do something else? Start an anki deck with words and i+1 sentences you find in shows you like?

Might be worth doing a reset a couple of levels down in this case and then get back on track.

With Anki I’m not sure. Just do a couple of reviews daily and then with time slowly increase that number?

The nice thing about Anki is that you control the schedule so unless you actively add new stuff, your review pile will steadily decrease.

And perhaps try not to do too many SRSs at once. Set vacation mode in WaniKani, for instance and then focus on Anki.

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(Disclaimer: I’ve never had to do this myself, but I’ve read other people’s accounts of what they did, so this is based on what seems to work for others)

I’m seconding the recommendation to reset back a couple levels in WK. You could visit wkstats.com to get a good overview of the SRS stages that all of the items are in. It’s probably best to assume that you’ve forgotten anything guru stage or below, so you could try resetting back to a level where you have mostly master stage items and see how that goes. If you’re still failing too many reviews, you could reset back to a level where you have mostly enlightened stage items, which should be easier to remember.

As far as tackling the pile goes, most people seem to have the best success by downloading a script that lets them reorder their reviews, and tackling them either in order of level or by SRS stage. Basically, you’ll want something that will allow you to tackle a small amount of reviews at a time without having to worry about the rest of the backlog. I don’t have links to any of the review reordering scripts handy, but you should be able to find them with a little searching.

Once you’ve reset to a more manageable level and have a reorder script installed, the trick is to figure out what a reasonable daily workload looks like for you. This is different for everyone! For me, I’m able to handle 100-130 reviews daily without any trouble. Some people can happily do 200 or 300 reviews each day. One of my friends can only keep up with about 60 daily. If you’ve struggled in the past, it might be wise to stick to 100 or less to start with, even if you feel like you could do more. You want to choose this number based on what you can accomplish on your worst days, when you’re busy or unmotivated, and not what you can accomplish in ideal conditions.

Then, armed with your reorder script, aim for getting that same number of reviews done every day. At first, your accuracy is going to take a hit, and you’re going to get a lot of items bouncing back to guru or apprentice, but that’s okay! If possible, try to spread out your reviews over the day so that you can hit the 4 hour and 8 hour review intervals for those apprentice items. That’ll help you remember them better, which will push them along to the further stages more quickly. Make sure you keep an eye on the number of apprentice items, because those are the ones that will come back most frequently and will make up the bulk of your daily reviews. If things start getting overwhelming and your accuracy dips again, the apprentice items are probably the culprit.

If you don’t reorder your reviews, you can still gradually chip away at the pile, but it will be a lot more frustrating and demoralizing because you won’t get to take advantage of the SRS timers, which are designed to help your memory.

I recommend doing a consistent number of reviews each day because once you get back to 0 reviews, you’ll get a gradual stream of new reviews coming in each day (much more manageable!) instead of getting flooded all over again by huge batches. So you want to make sure that the work you’re doing now won’t overwhelm your future self!

Once you’ve gotten through the entire review pile and are in a position to start taking new lessons again, I highly recommend 1) going a much slower pace than you were going before, and 2) doing a consistent number of new lessons each day instead of binging all your available lessons.

5 or 10 new lessons might be a good starting point? I do 10-13, which means I level up about once every two weeks. I believe your average daily review count will eventually come out to be about ten times your daily lesson count, assuming you do a consistent number of lessons every day. So you could choose the number based on how many daily reviews are comfortable to you, keeping in mind that you’re going to eventually add more study outside of WK.

I hope this helps give you a place to start!

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i found myself in a very similar situation to yours about 2 months ago, with over 1500 reviews pending.

i can second fallynleafさん’s suggestion: use a reorder script to order reviews by srs level, and reset a couple of levels (i only reset 2 levels, most of which hadn’t reached guru2 yet).

i use WaniKani Reorder Buttons to re-order my reviews.

then, keep to a steady pace which you can maintain.

at first, you will be working through piles of apprentice items which re-appear quickly, and it might feel like you’re not making much progress. indeed, your review pile might actually continue to grow as more enlightened items get ready to be burned. don’t worry about that. when i started working on my pile, i wasn’t even getting through all the apprentice items in a single review session.

soon enough, in a review session you will be working through all the apprentice, and starting digging away at the guru 1 items. then the guru 2 pile. some items will drop down, that’s okay. i think of those as my “current” items. each session, my goal is to work through the current items, and then chip away a bit at the lowest level remaining from the original pile.

at some point when i was working through the master items i had so few current items that i started doing a few lessons, just to balance the workload. this might not be smart, but i liked the feeling of making at least a little progress.

i wasn’t able to work steadily all the time, i had a few days at the beginning of september and then a whole week towards the end of september where i had very little time to do reviews, and of course then the pending review pile grew again. but those proved to be relatively small hurdles, and the established system continued to work. by october 7th, 2 months after starting, i was down to 200 enlightened items waiting to be burned.


at that point i went for a short trip, and was expecting the pending reviews to increase by about 200 over the duration. however, i caught a very bad cold, and haven’t been able to do a significant number of reviews since. yesterday my pile was back up to 1000 items :sweat_smile: but at this point i feel quite confident that i’ll be able work through this pile within about 2 weeks. despite this setback, i feel that this system definitely works.


i wish you courage and success working through your own pile. it will take some time, but you will be using the strengths of the srs system, and it won’t require any heroic efforts.

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also, some extra measures: i started diversifying my studies. doing more grammar, reading (for pleasure), listening, and generally enjoyable things. that did much more to get me motivated again than trying to brute force my way through my WK pile.

i use a script which shows me how many reviews of which srs level i’ve got pending, keeps me more motivated than just staring at that huge number.

i’ve massively reduced the amount of work i do daily on WK, from almost 300 reviews a day to an average of just over 100.

after all, my goal isn’t to study japanese, my goal is to use japanese. and by this point (level 22 or so) we ought to recognise about 3/4 of all kanji in a text. so it’s time to start using these skills! :smiley:

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I feel this. I actually just reset to level 2 after having burned so many kanji, but all the “most recent” stuff I learned months ago was making me dread picking this up. It sucks to go back down some levels, but I figure it’s actually faster for me to just speed through the levels I already know and feel confident again, than to pick off like 50 or so kanji a day and get only 40% correct.

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I’m just getting back into it after taking about six months off. I don’t use any scripts or anything. I totally reset once before after several years off, and I don’t relish doing that again, so I just try to stay calm and unbothered.

Usually what I do is ten or twenty reviews at a time while I build back up to it, and try not to worry about the total number or percentage correct and such. I also tend to keep it rounded to even tens left over, so if there’s **6 left after I feel about done, I’ll try to do those last six as well. And I try to keep it under certain numbers, like this time, I came back to about 750 reviews, so I’m trying to keep it under 700 built up if I have a day where I just don’t feel up to it.

After a while of doing this, I expect I’ll get back into a swing and able to do 50-100 at a time as I used to.

Hope this helps.

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This was me over this summer. I got really into some non-Japanese media and completely bounced for several months and had absolutely zero interest after burning out from a ton of study at the beginning of the year.

I got back into things by watching some Japanese dramas on Netflix and rewatching Evangelion and doing some YouTube deep dives of interests I have from Japanese users and it reignited my desire to study.

I had to bounce back a few levels because I completely forgot certain things, so my biggest advice is to turn on vacation mode if you haven’t already until you find the will to study again and consider sacrificing some of your progress to clear out your review queue. Good luck!

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I’m in a similar boat (although sitting at about 600 reviews right now) due to my schedule being majorly different to when I was hitting 0 reviews every day. I’m sure I’ll be doing reviews consistently sooner or later…
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I had a similar experience a couple of times. The first time, the feeling of burnout wasn’t so bad, and I was able to just slowly plug-away at the reviews (holding off on adding any new lessons until I was back to a reasonable daily review rate), but the second time I spent too long away and even though I was level 28 at the time, I couldn’t remember most of the kanji from level 10 up. So, I reset to level 7. Wrote a quick write up about it back then if you’re interested: After a long absence, I reset (to level 7), and I’m glad I did.

Also, since then, I’ve decided to stop trying to finish WK at some arbitrary fast pace (playing the SRS game, so to speak) and just focus on enjoying learning Japanese through WK at a gentler, more comfortable, and ultimately more sustainable pace. I found this thread for like-minded WK folks: :durtle_hello: Let’s Durtle the Scenic Route :turtle:, and I enjoy the little ‘philosophy’ or whatever you want to call it behind it, and there’s some good tips and tricks in there as well for how to use WK in a way that’s most enjoyable for yourself. I’ve even posted a couple of the tricks I use in there as well. They’re easy and don’t require any user scripts, just the built in WK features. Not that there’s anything wrong with userscripts! I used to use them a lot. But I had to start on a fresh computer recently and didn’t bother to take the time to install any scripts. Still it’s pretty straightforward to ‘take the scenic route’ with the ‘no frills’ option. :blush:

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Try to do a set amount of reviews everyday at the same time, however many you think is OK. Don’t do any new lessons until your reviews are back down to 0 again. I once had 500-600 reviews piled up and did various amounts per day (25-50) and it took me a few months to get to 0, but I got there eventually.

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I got overwhelmed around that level and didn’t do new lessons for a month or two. Eventually you get on top of your reviews, even if you only do 20 at a time.

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I got stuck a few weeks back and reset from level 12 to 10. It took a while for me to get back in the swing of things but that made it a lot easier. It’s hard because I forgot a lot and so I couldn’t really work down the pile. Having fewer items to focus on helps a lot.

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I think it is normal to feel overwhelmed by learning Japanese from time to time.
What’s important is, that you don’t start to dislike it.
Looking back, what I would do, is do find out what part of learning you enjoy at the moment.
If it is Wanikani, put everything else on hold and do only that.
If it is grammar, don’t do Wanikani for a while.

In any case, it is much more efficient in the long term, to do just what you want at the current moment,
because that is the thing you can be good at.
Once you don’t feel overwhelmed anymore, you will automatically want to do other things as well.

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This. And if you get overwhelmed just try to calm down every once in a while and take it easier, don’t push yourself too hard. You will come to a point when you start to feel overwhelmed and then it’s ok to just go easier on the lessons and just do the reviews. Doing more than you can handle will do you no good, it’ll affect memory and the power to continue. The most important part is showing up every day and get better every single day. It’s like building a house out of bricks, some days you might just have the energy to put up one brick, another you might have the energy to put down ten. But you’ll get there eventually.

Your only enemy is not showing up one day.

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