Hopefully by now you have a good rhythm to your studying. You should be studying just enough to keep things fresh but not to the point of gagging and locking yourself in a closet for a few months waiting to take the test.
The important thing is that you have established stable habits at this point. If you skip a study session for some reason and you feel something is a little strange, you are on the right track. Even if the amount of time you spend during that session has to be cut short because of something, be sure you make it a point to put a little bit of time.
If a study session does get blown out for some reason. Reschedule it as soon as you can. Keep the pace up, within reason of course. Near the halfway point here is a good time to take a snapshot of your study time and do some adjusting.
For example, are you spending too much time on something? If you are spending half your time on SRS or drilling grammar or something similar that doesn’t involve using the language, try to shift the balance more towards actual use like reading, listening, talking, etc…
On the other hand, if you aren’t spending any time on drilling, maybe now is the time to start adding that in if you are serious about taking the test.
Or if you are struggling to squeeze in studying time here and there, now might be the time to scale back your study plans and take a little bit more realistic approach to passing the exam. Or, it might be time to cut something non-Japanese out of your schedule to make some more room to study.
Or, you might be having a little trouble staying motivated and seeing your progress, so you might want to consider keeping more records or a diary of what you are learning, complete with examples of things you learned how to say.
You might find some habits just broke accidentally because of a change in your schedule or lifestyle. For instance, a few of my students struggle to keep up when they get transferred to a new department, move, get married, or have a child. These are pretty big events that can dominate your time.
If that’s the case, just try to keep the habit up, even if you are doing it for a very small amount of time (even 5 minutes). If you are trying to establish a new habit, you might want to wait a for awhile. It’s difficult to start so many things at once.
Another trick to starting habits that I haven’t mentioned before is adding in triggers. For example, studying every time you eat lunch. So, in your mind you start to form a pattern of behavior that feels more and more familiar to you. If you break the pattern by not doing the certain behavior you feel a little strange.
Think of it like this. You usually have some kind of sequence for leaving your house in the morning. First, you get your keys, your wallet, and your phone. Then, maybe you pack your lunch. Next, you put in your shoes and lock the door. If you happen to miss one of those steps everything seems a little odd, and maybe you’ll stop yourself and go back.
This whole process is automatic, you don’t have a written down list anywhere of what needs to be done. You just do it. That’s what you want to move toward when establishing study habits. You wouldn’t walk out the door without brushing your teeth, so why can’t the same be true for a little studying.
Time for a change
And now that you have worked so hard to put those habits in place it is time to do some changing. This may seem a little counterproductive, but it will help you out a lot. You might be wondering why on earth you should go through all the trouble of switching it up.
Well, doing the same kind of practice can start to dull your senses. You end up just trudging through drill books and not really focusing on what it is you should be actually studying. This is especially true if you have attention deficiency problems which is a big problem that I have.
In my personal experience, I’ve found that I have the determination to keep going and keep studying, but my focus runs out pretty easily and I just find myself going through the motions without actually learning something.
This crop rotation of studying can help to refocus you on your studies and get you ready to head into the second half of the year studying for the JLPT. A steady rotation of different kinds of studying keeps things interesting instead of just a matter of eating your meat and potatoes.
You will also want to focus on other weaknesses as one particular weakness gets better. I have found focusing intensively on a particular skill, taking a break, then going back to that skill later can be a great way to study because it helps what you learned to get cemented in place.
I can’t actually explain how this works, it just does. For me, I’ll study grammar very intensively for a few weeks, then take a break for a month and when I come back to it, I seemed to know it better without actually practicing it. I’m sure it has something to do with my subconscious working out all the details in the meantime I suppose or maybe some other magic. All I know is it works well.
Another reason to shift habits a bit is that there are always new tools coming out to use. There might be new anki decks or Memrise courses that focus on what you want to do or a different way of looking at things. Or there might be a handy new app that wasn’t available just a few weeks ago. Or you might have just heard of a new studying method that you want to try out.
One at a Time
Now, of course, you want to take it easy with your changes. If you try to change absolutely everything you’ll have way too much to focus on and none of it will get done. You don’t want to undo all the wonderful work you have already done. So, let’s just focus on one thing for now.
Good candidates for habits to change are activities that are starting to bore you to death. If you are actively dreading doing a particular activity and you’ve been doing it for more than 30 days, it might be time to give it the boot or at least rethink it a little bit.
Another candidate for removal is practicing of activities that reinforce something that you have become quite good at or are good enough at. Especially if it is a skill that you might not end up needing in real life like reading.
After you choose a habit to replace or modify its time to make a change. The easiest way to do this is to simply switch out the activity with another one in the same time window. This will help to keep your momentum. If you have to change the time you are doing something it will be like starting a whole new habit.
As you start doing the new habit, focus on the change. Keep it on your mind as something you need to spend time on. Don’t just assume it will fall into place because you started it. You might have to spend a few days faking it till you make it. Avoid the temptation of taking a break from it. Keep at it, remember the rule of 21 days. Just focus in that first 21 days to get the habit established.
Eliminate barriers that might be preventing you from making the habit stick. For example, if you keep forgetting to do your grammar drills in the morning, put your grammar book next to your coffee mug the night before. Be sure to have a pencil or pen there too. That way when you get your cup of coffee (or tea or milk) you are reminded to do your grammar drills.
What change are you going to make?
How are you going to change your study habits to keep from lulling yourself to sleep with your practice? Or how do you stay motivated to drill through words and grammar you need? Let me know in the comments below.
This is just an excerpt from the JLPT Study Kit. Inside the kit, you’ll also find:
- Different kinds of activities to use to study Japanese
- Detailed examples of different crop rotations for different kinds of learners
- Special tips for those taking the July test
- a PDF checklist of what to do each month
- and more…
If you haven’t picked up the kit, why not give it a try? It has a 90 day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose!