Effective Timeboxing: The Power of Randomization

Learning Japanese has taught me about many other things on the side, and one of those things is timeboxing. Really all it means is giving yourself a certain time limit for a certain task. The idea behind it is that is gives you focus and a push to get into action by containing it in a certain timeframe. In other words…

  • You know the beginning and end of the time spent on this task.
  • You know it won’t take too long or end up going nowhere because you’ve limited yourself on how much time you can spend on it.

Quite literal…

This technique works in a few different directions. Your timer might end when you’re really at the height of whatever you’re doing (playing a game, reviews, etc.) Great, stop now because you’ll be that much more excited to keep at it next time. Other times your timer ends when you’ve really been getting nowhere with a task. Great, stop now because you’ve used enough time on it already. It’s also good for when you have trouble starting on a task because you don’t know where to even begin. No matter, just hit start on that timer and sink your mind into it. You could be surprised that just by taking that leap, you’ll end up making progress.

I usually follow the TV episode theory when setting the duration of a timebox. Most programs are aired anywhere from 30-60 minutes, actual showtime being 22-42 minutes roughly. You can really keep up some variety in your Japanese activities with timeboxing. Just think as the next box as changing the channel when the next program is up. You could go from doing a few Anki reps, then to a TV show, then to some kanji review, then to a video game. Seeing Japanese in different contexts is very useful, so timeboxing makes it even easier to go back and forth.

But what do you do when you can’t decide? This is often why I would end junking out on the computer doing nothing in particular, which made me feel like I wasted my time. There is solution here too.  You can leave it to chance. What better tool to randomize your choices than the almighty dice. Just about everyone is familiar with the D6–the cubical, 6-sided wonder common in board games. But there are actually many other dice such as D4s, D8s, D12s, and the D20s, which are all practically synonymous with traditional role playing games.

Rrrrrrrrrroooooollllllllllll the dice, rollllll it now!

So how can you use a dice roll to decide what to do next? Simply have a look at your favorite Japanese activities, figure out how many there are, and choose and appropriate dice. I happen to have a small collection (as well as fascination with) different types of dice, but I actually just use an Android app called D20 by Ambergleam to generate rolls. Despite the name it actually has a variety of dice options.

Here is an example with a D6 (regular six-sided dice) with some activities that I personally do.

  1. Watch a drama or anime
  2. Do SRS reps in Anki or level up in Reading The Kanji
  3. Read a snippet from a website with the help of LWT
  4. Play a video game
  5. Read a manga
  6. Allow myself some “About Japanese” time (ex: blogs, grammar guide) This one is especially important to limit, unless you’re reading this blog, then you can just go wild! 🙂

So looking at this this example f I rolled a 4, I’ll be playing video games for an hour or so!

Setting time limits really is a means of focus. By saying “I’ll limit myself to one hour for playing a video game in Japanese, what you’re really saying is “For one hour, I’ll only be playing video games in Japanese and not getting distracted by other things that I can look at later.” To use your time effectively it’s important to know/define exactly what you’re doing before hitting start on your timebox. Again, the computer can especially be a time sucking vampire if you just press go on your timer and don’t really know what you’re going on there for. Personally, learning Japanese has truly become a life goal for me, so I feel all the more fulfilled when I know I’ve made good use of my free time to progress towards this dream.

Media Recommendation of the Week: JapanFM

JapanFM is a streaming radio station from the French network Hotmix Radio. All you have to do is watch an ad once every couple of days, and non-stop Japanese music streaming from your browser is yours! They have a lot of variety from pop to rock, even songs you’ll recognize from your favorite dramas or animes. I’ve actually found a lot of new bands this way. Sometimes music can be less distracting than videos when you’re trying to multitask, and it often gets me pumped in the morning, Japanese-style! Happy listening!

3 Responses to “Effective Timeboxing: The Power of Randomization”
  1. PandaChan says:

    I really like the idea how using die for making it random. We used this in french class to pick verbs to conjugate and it made it fun. I also used this concept for date nights. I never thought to apply it to Japanese. Thanks!

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  1. […] plugins that I’ve mentioned before, I’ve become a big fan of e.ggtimer.com for timeboxing. You can bookmark custom URLs for certain times, and even though it’s browser based, there is […]

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
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