Help me feel a sense of accomplishment
December 18, 2017 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I'm about to complete a fairly major language-learning achievement (learning all the joyo kanji) that I've been working on daily since March. One thing I really loved about doing this was the feeling of having achieved something concrete every day, no matter what else was going on that day. I'd like to add a new habit or undertaking to my daily routine that will have this same effect. It'd be cool if this was related to learning Japanese, but it could also be something totally different.

If you don't care about the Japanese-language specifics, this question is essentially: What habit gives you a daily sense of accomplishment?

Details: I've been working my way through the book Remembering the Kanji by James Heisig, which teaches you the writing and the meaning (in the form of an English keyword), but not the reading, of each kanji. I've been doing a minimum of five every morning, and I love that even on days when I'm hungover, or when I browse Metafilter and don't leave the house all day, or am at work and don't see sunlight all day, I can still say, "I learned five kanji today. Go me!" Things like exercise or reading for 30 minutes a day don't really do this for me - I see those as good habits, but not accomplishments in and of themselves. I also really liked the fact that I was working toward a finite goal. I printed out a list of the 2200 kanji in the book and highlighted them as I learned them, which was a fun visual.

My next step with Japanese is obviously to start learning words that contain the kanji I've just learned. I have a few ways I'm going to work on this (more Anki decks, a JLPT N3 vocab book, just reading more in general), but learning vocab doesn't feel finite or achievable in the way that kanji does, and it's also more of a process (I might come across a word four or five times before I really memorize it). Maybe focusing on the book or on JLPT vocab lists would solve this? I dunno. (My proficiency level is probably at a shaky N3 - I passed it in 2012 but since then have been running in place at best.)

Grateful for any thoughts!
posted by sunset in snow country to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who's done a number of these ambitious learning quests, let me offer just a meta-tip. You're not a computer. You can't just switch in a new variable, and continue to learn/grown in whatever realm you point yourself to.

It wasn't just an intellectual, or willful, impulse that launched you on the joyo kanji project. It was emotional, too. It appealed to your sense of play. Play is how kids learn, and they learn exceptionally well. We train them in school to be less playful, more soberly willful, and, no surprise, by adulthood we can barely learn at all.

So wherever you turn next, you need to take a moment to set up a similar mindset of playfulness and love, not just assume you can simply point-and-shoot.
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:38 AM on December 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

You might think about studying for the kanji kentei exams - get one of the 漢字字習ステップ books and work through one step a week, or two steps a week.

Although you said that reading for a set amount of time didn't give you that same feeling of accomplishment, would you be able to feel accomplished if you read one story a day? Would one of the many books of stories you can read in 10 minutes in Japanese be useful?
posted by Jeanne at 12:54 PM on December 18, 2017

What a fascinating question! I will check back for other answers.

There are lots of small (or not so small) puzzles that you can do a bit at a time. I know someone who buys a new thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle every year and makes himself fit in at least three more pieces every day. Similarly, crossword puzzles, chess or go exercises, code kata / refactoring exercises.

Some people write three pages every morning, or keep a paper journal, or something, and report a similar sense of accomplishment from watching themselves fill up the book.

Also, I know you said no exercises, but have you ever tried crating some sort of tangible record of your exercise? Not your progress, since that will eventually plateau (or you're probably doing it wrong), but something like, crossing out every day in a calendar that you did your exericses.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:58 PM on December 18, 2017

I recently started relearning all the capitals and locations of (almost) all the countries in the world, with an Anki deck "Ultimate Geography" (I deleted the cards about flags). It was really fun to notice that I was improving every day and that that it took only a few minutes per day to learn all this.
posted by blub at 6:11 AM on December 19, 2017

Quisp Lover's answer was the one I needed :) My sense of play says fuck accomplishment, I'm gonna do yoga.

Points also to Jeanne for linking to those books, as I have been looking for stuff to read in Japanese!

Thanks all!
posted by sunset in snow country at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

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