How can I find time to study?

We've spoken with tens of thousands of people learning Japanese over the years.

A large percentage of those conversations have revolved around why a person finds themselves unable to study as much as they'd like. By far, the two most common reasons we are given are:

1. I can't afford it

2. I don't have enough time

Both of these reasons can be valid, depending on your perspective. But it might help to look at this a different way.

A different perspective


Every day, you can mathematically calculate how challenging it will be for you to study for a significant amount of time, your daily "progress difficulty", so to speak. Here is the equation:

Priority/minutes available = progress difficulty

For example, say these are your priorities listed in order from most important to least important, while omitting your occupation (be it a full-time job or attending school full-time as a student):

1. Be a great husband
2. Be a great father
3. Write a book
4. Exercise
5. Socialize
6. Learn Japanese
7. Learn Korean

This is actually a fairly accurate list of my own priorities at the moment. (Niko here btw)

The lower the number for progress difficulty, the more likely it is that you are going to study a lot. Say it's my day off, so my minutes available is very high. In theory, let's say I have 720 potential study minutes (12 hours), since you'd have to be a pretty amazing human to spend every waking minute on something productive.

The progress difficulty of working on "Write a book", then is 3/720. This is a smaller number than 7/720, which would be my progress difficulty for "Learn Japanese".

When minutes available is high — such as when you have 720 of them — you might still get to the tasks that aren't as big of a priority. But when minutes available is low, it becomes very unlikely.

Say I have a long day of work, then my minutes available might be something like 120, a mere two hours. I should still be able to dedicate time to being a great husband (1/120) and great father (2/120), but I'm not sure I'll be able to exercise (4/120), and it's especially unlikely I'll be studying Korean (7/120).

As you might guess, I don't get much studying of either Japanese or Korean done. Luckily, my Japanese still gets better because I use it for my full-time job and I'm trying to write a book about it.

When someone tells me, "I don't have enough time to study", what I want to tell them is, Actually, studying just isn't a very high priority for you. 

That can sound callous and judgmental, however, which is not how I mean it. One is simply unlikely to make consistent progress toward a goal when its progress difficulty is a high number.

It's math ^_^

Along the same lines, I wouldn't worry too much if an unexpected life event throws a wrench in your studies.

If you have a loved one in the hospital, dealing with that will probably jump to the top of your priority list, which raises the number of your progress difficulty for something like "Learn Japanese".

That's the way it should be. And you can lower the progress difficulty number when your priorities list normalizes again.

What I would worry about, however, is not being able to create an ordered list of your priorities, which is a recipe for failure when it comes to achieving any kinds of goals.

The shorter you can get that list, by the way, the more likely it is that you'll see success. The FOCUS approach is hard to beat:


...but it's also a lot more difficult once you get older and are burdened with more responsibilities. I learned a lot more Japanese when I wasn't making lunch for three little humans. ^_^

In any case, making it as simple as possible to study efficiently will be a great help when "Learn Japanese" gets pushed further down your list of priorities, which is why we have the Study Now button at NativShark.

Just one click, and you're making progress.