Find Your Study Sanctuary

If you want to make ongoing progress in your Japanese acquisition, then you should be studying a minimum of a full hour every day.

In the previous section, I talked about habits and whatnot, which should help a bit. There is something else that I personally find extraordinarily helpful when trying to study consistently day in and day out: a "study sanctuary."

Back when I went through the kanji challenge (which we'll talk about in Kanji Mastery, Phase 2), I went to my favorite coffee shop every single morning. Usually I went around 6 am, when it was totally empty. Most mornings a thin fog was hanging in the air. The lights were dim. People were calm, and I had a delicious coffee and a fresh, toasted bagel with cream cheese. It was my favorite time of day. The ambiance was perfect. The food and drinks were perfect. And it was the place that I turned into my study sanctuary. Every morning, I sat down with that coffee and that bagel, and I didn't leave the coffee shop until I'd learned all of the new kanji for that day.

Most likely, your study sanctuary will be different. Maybe you don't like (paying for) coffee. Or maybe you don't like waking up before 6 am. Or maybe you work mornings and it's not feasible to study before work. I was working evenings at a restaurant back then, so it was feasible for me. What's feasible for you might be at home, or in your car, or at the public library. The key is to find a study sanctuary that fits into your lifestyle.

Qualities of a Good Study Sanctuary

  • You can go there every day.
  • It's a blocked off time in your schedule.
  • You enjoy going there.
  • You look forward to going there.
  • It's peaceful (i.e. it's conducive to concentration).
  • It has an internet connection.
  • It's free from distractions.

Maybe you've heard the phrase that goes something like this: “If you don't like exercising, it just means that you haven't found the right type of exercise for you yet." I think that the same can be said of studying Japanese. We just have to trick our idiot brains into enjoying it.

For example, I absolutely loved going to coffee shops, but the idea of studying Japanese kind of freaked me out because every time I thought about it I put pressure on myself, felt stressed, and wanted to quit. In order to avoid those negative feelings, I had to focus on the extremely enjoyable process of going to a coffee shop and studying and ignore the extremely stressful process of pressuring myself to succeed.

Additionally, studying at a coffee shop was also the only time in my daily life that I listened to music because whenever I was in my car, or running, or going for walks I was always listening to JapanesePod101 (nowadays I listen to audio loops, mostly). Seeing as how I'm a human, I love music. So, I wanted to listen to music. So, I wanted to go to the coffee shop. So, I wanted to study Japanese. I was creating a series of rules that formed into enjoyable, positive study motivators.

The hierarchy of rules that formed my study sanctuary looked like this:
  • Rules
    • Every time I go to the coffee shop, I have to study Japanese.
    • I cannot leave the coffee shop until I finish my flashcards for the day.
    • I can only listen to music at the coffee shop. I can't listen to it anywhere else.
  • Mental Process
    • I want delicious coffee and a bagel! I love coffee and bagels!
      • So, let's go to my favorite coffee shop.
        • So, let's study Japanese.
    • I want to listen to music! I love listening to music!
      • So, let's go to my favorite coffee shop.
        • So, let's study Japanese.
    • I hate living with my parents. I need to get out of the house.
      • So, let's go to my favorite coffee shop.
        • So, let's study Japanese.
In time, my brain started to think that studying Japanese was fun. It was something that seemed intrinsically positive and exciting. I wanted to study Japanese every day because it gave me that relaxed, drinking-a-coffee-and-listening-to-awesome-music good feeling. Just writing about it here, I want to put on my headphones and drift away into hours of studying. It is my sanctuary, my place of peace. I am so happy when I go there.

That is the kind of study sanctuary that I want you to search for.
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