Keeping it Simple: tips for simplifying your language study routine

I’ve been experimenting with my study routine recently, and I’ve realised that it has become much easier to stick to my study plan now that I have made some changes. Since focusing on better habit building, I feel like I’ve been making more progress.

Especially with the internet at our fingertips, there are more language resources than ever before; we can instantly download an app or watch a video if we want to start learning a new language.

The problem is really that we have too much choice.

Japanese language resources, in particular, are in abundance online. Combined with the difficulty level of kanji and grammar, learning Japanese can feel overwhelming whether you’ve been studying for 3 days or 3 years.

Here are three of the changes I have made recently that have not only simplified my own routine, but also stopped me from feeling overwhelmed:


Evaluate my study space

I don’t actually have a dedicated study space myself – I normally sit on my sofa or bed to study.

I wish I had a desk like this! 

One thing that has helped me despite not having a desk is having a study notebook or novel near me at all times, whether that be in my work bag or on my bedside table. When I was studying for my school exams, I always used to put my study notes in a place where I couldn’t avoid seeing them, such as near my glasses or house keys.

Just seeing my Japanese notes on a daily basis, especially first thing in the morning, reminds me to fit in some time to study whenever possible.

If you do have your own study space, I suggest having a look at it to see how it can be improved. Only have the items that you really need for your studies (dictionary, textbooks, pens, pencils) and hide anything which could be a distraction. Having a tidy space will make sure that when you do sit down to study, you will be able to fully focus.

Similarly, with online resources, it is a good idea to put the apps or websites you use in a prominent position on your phone or internet browser. If online distractions are a problem for you, there are plenty of helpful apps out there to minimise distractions.

For example, I make sure I have a list of podcasts that I add to on a weekly basis: this ensures I always have something to listen to when I do have some spare time. This leads me nicely on to the next tip…


Identify dead time

I’ve written about using your time most effectively in my other post on Getting Your Language 5-a-day. The post mainly deals with splitting up language learning into smaller chunks and identifying ‘dead time’ which can be better spent working on your target language.

Our lives obviously vary from week to week, and so if you haven’t looked at your schedule recently it might be worth taking some time to re-evaluate your dead time.


It’s important to be realistic about how much time you have to study, so that you can adjust your expectations based on how busy you are.

Don’t think that only having small amounts of time isn’t long enough for studying Japanese – consistency is better than the length of time you study for. By keeping up with that 5-10 minutes daily, you’re going to be making more progress than a longer study session of 1 hour a week.

The benefit of this for me is that I’ve realised that I actually have lots of time in the day to listen to Japanese than I thought. I especially enjoy listening to podcasts while doing housework.


Decide on what resources to focus on in advance

If you know exactly what you want to study and how you’re going to do it, you will be able to ensure you maximise your study time and minimise distractions. Studying Japanese (or any language) is better in short sessions, and knowing which resource I am going to use beforehand prevents me from wasting time before I’ve even started studying.

Not pictured: my haul of Japanese textbooks and resources!

This also gives you the chance to assess what resources work better for you than others. There really are so many resources out there for Japanese, that when a new shiny app or website comes along, it is easy to forget about a tried and tested resource.

That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try out new resources, especially if it appears to suit your learning style. If something isn’t working for you, it is much easier to identify if you are using it consistently rather than sporadically.

In my case, I am working towards the JLPT again, so my study is more focused on vocabulary and grammar from textbooks (I like the Shin Kanzen master series so I am using their grammar textbook in particular).


Tracking habits

I am a big believer in cultivating good habits in order to help achieve your study goals, and for the past few months I’ve been using the Habitica app to track my language learning. On the app, I have a list of Japanese study habits to achieve daily (basically to listen/read/write/speak Japanese), which I can tick off when completed.

There is a great Japanese learning challenge on Habitica which I recommend if you already use the app!

The biggest change I have noticed since using a habit tracker is that my mindset regarding Japanese study has changed. I do not strictly schedule study sessions at certain times of the day, so I just fit study in when I can.

When I do have a spare 5 minutes, I now think “what can I do in Japanese in 5 minutes” rather than “it’s only 5 minutes, I’ll check Facebook”.

Habit trackers are a really useful way of positively reinforcing new habits – I get so much satisfaction from ticking something off my daily goal list. Even after a long day, the fear of losing my habit streak has pushed me to open up a book or to finish my flashcard reviews.

There are tons of apps out there which allow you to track your habits and/or study time. Alternatively, if you use a bullet journal there are lots of cool ways to visually represent your habit building offline.


So this is my list of things that have helped me. Are there any changes you have made to your study schedule that have really helped you? Let me know in the comments!

0 thoughts on “Keeping it Simple: tips for simplifying your language study routine”

  1. I’m having the problem where I have too many books I want to get through. So what I’ve done is put some aside for study from mid-May.

    With the books that are left, I’ve put them into a few different pouches depending on what they cover. This lets me grab a pouch to stick in my bag to study on days I can’t grab all my current study materials.

    I also have put grammar points into index cards with a brief explanation and a sample sentence (but without translation of the sentence), plus a reference page number. This lets me grab some cards and use the grammar points to make sentences. Keeping these in my pencil case means I’m going to come across them at least once a day.

    Thanks for the habit app link. I’m going to take a look at it.

    1. That sounds like a really great system 🙂
      I used to make use of index cards for sample sentences a lot, but ditched them for online flashcard systems like Anki – I’m tempted to give them another try as I found them very effective for quick study sessions.

  2. I’m all for tracking habits 🙂 I find it very motivating to be able to clearly see whether you’re achieving all your daily targets and how often you might be engaging in different types of studying over time.

    I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track. Essentially I moved my 2016-17 bujo habit tracker system to a digital format, where it was less time consuming to set up. Everything is colour coded so it looks pretty when I achieve my targets ^^

    1. Hi Jeannie, thanks for commenting 🙂 I would love to have a bullet journal but setting them up can be so time consuming. I will definitely look into using an Excel spreadsheet though, it should be much easier to make it all colourful and pretty!

      1. Hey! Sorry for the late reply, I didn’t realise you’d answered! Recently I switched to using my spreadsheet with Google sheets because it was easier to sync it across all my devices and easily fill it in 🙂

  3. I have this problem with podcasts: if they’re for language learners (like JapanesePod 101), I find that there’s too much English going on; if they’re Japanese tracks for Japanese people, they’re too hard for me to understand and it feels pointless ☹️ what kind of podcasts did you start with? Listening has always been one of my main deficit, I reaaaaally need to get to that before it’s too late 😅

    1. Hi Julia, sorry for the late reply. I know exactly what you mean about podcasts, getting the balance right as a Japanese learner is tricky!

      I would recommend trying out News in Slow Japanese ( Each episode is a short article on recent news stories or aspects of Japanese culture entirely in Japanese. You can listen to the podcast at normal speed or at a slower speed. The transcripts are available on the website, along with vocabulary lists. I think it’s a pretty good podcast to listen to an episode once, and then listen again with the transcript to see what more you can understand 🙂

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