Productivity VS activity


When trying to achieve a goal, being “productive” can often be very different from being “active”.

When studying Japanese, this means to be careful about not overplanning your studies, or using 90% of your time planning your studies instead of actually studying.

Does this sound like you?

Let me know if you've ever had an experience like this:

First, you notice a problem, a goal, something you want to change. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to get a six-pack. Maybe you want to save money for a trip to Madagascar.

Or maybe you want to learn a language.

But it's hard to save money and lose weight and learn languages.

So you start making a plan.

If I study French 5 hours a day for one year, that's like 1,800 hours of language study. I'll be so fluent!

If I cut 350 calories per day, then I'll lose 1 pound every ten days, which means I'll lose 10 pounds in ten weeks. Awesome!

If I save $10 per day, that's $3,650 a year. Madagascar here I come!


There's only one problem with all of this:

Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing something.

Thinking about studying French is not the same as learning French.

Thinking about losing weight is not losing weight.

Thinking about saving money is not saving money.

Don't get us wrong — having a plan is a good thing. You do need to work out what times of day you'll study, what devices you'll use, and things like that.

But plans have their limits. And us humans like imagining that we're going to accomplish things because it triggers the same sense of accomplishment as if we'd actually done something.

In fact, fantasizing too much about positive outcomes has been scientifically shown to have a negative effect on the actual realization of goals.

These words you are reading this very second are not teaching you new Japanese. Yes, you are being active by reading it because you're thinking about your approach to studying. But you're not being productive because you're not putting new Japanese into your brain.

Being "active" involves thinking about your approach to learning. Being "productive" involves putting new language into your brain.

Being productive makes you better at Japanese. Being active doesn't.

Long story short, we need to be careful to notice when we think we're "studying" but are actually just being active — are doing little more than thinking about getting better.

When in doubt, press the Study Now button. Read lessons. Do flashcards. Listen to dialogues and Shadow Loops. Schedule a lesson with a teacher or talk with a friend. Go read a book or play a game in Japanese. Interact with the Japanese language. Not just the idea of it.

Productivity > Activity.