Category Archives: Japanese Culture

Samurai Grammar: Pullin’ Ain’t Pushin’.

Screen shot 2013-09-20 at 6.58.36 AM

This is a screenshot of one Japanesepod101 lesson. I like “moving” the bar of progress and I like that the grammar explanations are brief. But the rest of the day, I have Japanese music in my ears or I am doing something in Japanese that isn’t pushing. The grammar seems more useful because through immersion, I already have some of the language. Be careful. If it isn’t fun. Don’t do it.

Grammar is a big block for people who are learning a foreign language, but grammar can be one of your many friends as you learn a language.  Here is one way how!

With my mind on my grammar and my grammar on my mind.  Not.  Lately I have been on a Japanesepod101.com rush.   I listen to a listen on my 35 minute walk to the Writers Room and then using timeboxing, I try to finish up a lesson and then move on to other fun stuff in Japanese.  I have changed my method a little bit.  I used to follow ten or more different kinds of lessons but I have limited it to three (onomatopeia, lower intermediate, and beginner lessons).  Limiting the lesson types to three satisfies my game-playing mind by allowing me to see the progress bars move a little faster from day to day.  Because I am using time limits, it feels more like a mission impossible spy game than mind-numbing study.

I am enjoying the grammar explanation in the Japanesepod lessons.  You would think that this goes against the immersion techniques that AJATT writes about, but I think the fact that I also “immerse” makes the grammar study more fun.  My grammar study is more like a confirmation.  I’ve heard so much Japanese dialogue, movies, Youtube, songs, podcasts et cetera that the grammar is “in there” somewhere.  My quick in and out grammar reviews are less “I have to memorize this!”  and more “Oh, right, that’s what I’ve been hearing.”

Grammar pullin’ ain’t grammar pushin’.  I give a quick listen to grammar lessons and read over grammar explanations but I keep it quick and dirty and don’t really stop to review.  By doing this way, I am probably learning a whole lot more grammar than if I put on my hair shirt and tortured my way through grammar.

Big ups to Khatz at AJATT.com.  I’ve been reading his blog for a long time and while he has recommended grammar resources like Tae Kim and a few books, he keeps riffin’ on the don’t kill and drill message.  Here are a just a few choice tweets were Khatz points the way to Stephen Krashen and his view on grammar:

“The students who did reading did better on grammar tests than those who had grammar classes!” youtube.com/watch?v=DSW7gm… #FVR #krashen

“We don’t need to focus on grammar because if you give people enough…input, the grammar is there” youtube.com/watch?v=shgRN3…

Stephen Krashen says: put conscious grammar study in its (very small, very peripheral) place. youtube.com/watch?v=shgRN3…

I’m not suggesting that there is one way to approach grammar in a language.  Find the approaches that are the most fun and useful to you.   If you enjoy studying 20 pages of rules and exceptions go for it!  Grammar off, grammar on samurai!

 

The Law of Language and Skill Attraction

Keep tinkering with shifts in your environment to attract your skill.  I recently discovered using iTune radio to listen to Japanese radio stations.  Shake it. Shape it.  Your environment that is.  :)

Keep tinkering with shifts in your environment to attract your skill. I recently discovered using iTune radio to listen to Japanese radio stations. Shake it. Shape it. Your environment that is. 🙂

First of all apologies for the title but it just spoke to me.  I’m not some guru who has mastered all skills/languages and can dispense laws from a mountain top.   I am on the path like everyone else, though now I’m enjoying it a whole lot more than I used to.   The other reason that I felt compelled to use the title is because I am reading Thomas Leonard’s The 28 Laws of Attraction:   Stop Chasing Success and Let it Chase You.   This book doesn’t come from the mountaintop either but it’s getting under my skin and helping me ask different questions.

When I read Leonard’s chapter, “Create a Vacuum That Pulls You Forward”  I couldn’t help thinking that Leonard’s ideas were key to developing skills such as learning a language or learning a musical instrument.  Leonard explains that “being pulled forward is attractive; pushing yourself forward isn’t.”   Leonard recommends some steps to make that possible:

  • Realize it’s better to be pulled forward than it is to push yourself forward.
  • Put yourself into creativity-stirring situations.
  • put yourself among friends and colleagues who bring out your best.
  • unhook yourself from who you were; this will let you be pulled forward

When I read this, I felt like I was rediscovering alljapaneseallthetime.com.   (With two children and a busy work life, you have to forgive me that I keep mentioning Khatz’s website.  It’s helped me change a lot of things.  Plus, I don’t get out much.  🙂 )  He was able to learn Japanese fluently not only by studying but by also transforming his environment so it was fun and er, “all Japanese all the time.”  You have to arrange the environment so it pulls you in.  It’s not just about Japanese.   Khatz explains that if you want to run more, have your shoes ready by the door.  By changing my environment ever so slightly–having the guitar out of the case and other small changes–I’ve been writing and playing more.

Here are some quick ways I’ve been incorporating this “Law of Attraction” into my life, especially in the language arena:

  • Create  the environment that pulls you in.
    Surround yourself with the fun and interesting books, music, and people that will pull you into the language or skill.  At first, this meant that I kind of rejected manga and looked at self-help books.  Now it means finding/fumbling around in the manga that I do enjoy.
  • Find the fun part in the hard part.
    Don’t be devastated that you don’t know something in a foreign language or any skill you want to acquire.  If you are looking at a manga page or a flashcard, look at what you do understand or what seems intriguing or just fun.  Keep yourself wanting more.
  • Delete what is dragging you down.
    I fought AJATT’s advice to delete flashcards that just drained me, now I am more like a black widow spider.  I study a card and if it bores me.  I delete.  Create a vacuum by deleting clutter, time and mental drains.
  • Use little gimmicks that pull you in. I am not learning Japanese/guitar, I am just moving that little progress bar a little further today.  Learning all of Japanese may seem like a lot of work but its more fun to just see the “progress bar” move a little on Japanesepod101.com for example.

    Mastering something can seem intimidating.  But hey, I can play the game of "moving the bar" just a little bit.  Satisfy the game-playing part of your brain with little celebratory games.  Who knows?  You just might get further than you thought possible.

    Mastering something can seem intimidating. But hey, I can play the game of “moving the bar” just a little bit. Satisfy the game-playing part of your brain with little celebratory games. Who knows? You just might get further than you thought possible.  This is a screenshot of my progress bars from japanesepod101.com.

There is a time for pushing, there is a time for pulling.  But if you are starting to grind your wheels and not really enjoy or flow in the process, think about how you can create a vacuum that pulls you in.  Enjoy the “suckage.”

Overresponding Samurai: Stop the Drama and Do Something

Overresponding doesn't have to be hectic.  Use your snail power.

Overresponding doesn’t have to be hectic. Use your snail power.

In four  more days, my family and I will leave Japan and we will be back in our semi-hectic work/school mode.  I am spending more and more of my days preparing to teach rather than studying/immersing Japanese and doing all my other side projects.  I needed a little self-help fun, though, and since I am taking classes at CoachU I decided to read a book byThomas Leonard, one of the founders of personal and career coaching.

I am still undecided about what I think about The 28 Laws of Attraction:  Stop Chasing Success and Let it Chase You but I am happy to be doing some trashy self-help reading.  However, one of Thomas Leonard’s ideas keeps getting stuck in my head:  “By overresponding of overreacting, you evolve.”  I”ve already gotten my money’s worth from getting that phrase in my head.

By overresponding, Leonard was talking about being fluid, active, and creative in confronting the issues and problems we come across.   Leonard was unhappy with his chosen career as Certified Financial Planner.  In the process of “overresponding” he became a personal coach and went on to start several coaching schools including Coachville before he passed away.

Another overresponder I constanly refer to is Khatzumoto over at All Japanese All the Time.  He wanted to learn Japanese and “overresponded” to it by “by spending 18-24 hours a day doing something, anything in Japanese (“all Japanese, all the time”).”  He emphasizes using fun materials as a way to actually learn Japanese.

Nowhere in Leonard’s book or Ajatt.com do I see anything encouraging you to flagellate or hate yourself as part of overresponding.   That is overreacting.   Overreacting stops action, even fun actions that can help you develop your skill, learn a language, or move a business or life forward.  Even when overreacting leads to action, the negative crud attached to it can lead to resistance or worse.

I don’t write this as someone who has mastered the practice of overresponding vs. overreacting.  I’m just a motivational blogger who lives down by the Hudson River.   The truth is that some days I am just a hot mess.  I’m writing this to motivate myself because any time I stop listening to the drama and pick up my pen, my guitar, or a fun Japanese book, the universe smiles and a puppy is rescued from a grizzly death.

Become an overresponder.  The life that you save may be your own. Or a puppy.

 

 

Get in the Fun: Learn a Foreign Language

Use your "addictions" to learn a foreign language.  I choose brain books over manga.  It's just how I roll. :)

Use your “addictions” to learn a foreign language. I choose brain books over manga. It’s just how I roll. 🙂

It’s interesting that as I try to learn Japanese and hunt for books to read, it seems like I am attracted to the same book in different packages.   Basically I seem to be reading the same brain book but with different emphases.   This time I am reading  脳の時間割り  (Brain’s Time Table) .   This book explores how to better use knowledge about circadian rhythms in order to use your brain better.   Hey,  some one should start a website called Samurai Mind Online!

If one of your life goals is to learn a foreign language, I think it is fine to read material where you know or think you know, what the text is saying.  And, I think it helps that it should feel addictive.   These days I am attracted to Japanese language books that also have pictures.   I was attracted to the book’s bright yellow cover and the fact that it had pictures.  Plus, it offered me the promise of being able to use my brain better.  But I thought to myself, “Hey, I have oodles of Japanese brain books at home that I’ve only half way read.  Do I need another Japanese brain book?”  I left the section to scan for more books but the harpy of a book kept calling me.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve gotten from All Japanese All the Time is to go for the guilty pleasures in the language that you want to learn:

Your language-learning method should make you feel guilty. It should make you feel bad. It should make you feel a little dirty. Like learning English by watching Jersey Shore. 

The book reinforces things I already practice.  I am an early riser and walker.  The author, a brain researcher, explains how the sun stimulates brain activity.

The book reinforces things I already practice. I am an early riser and walker. The author, a brain researcher, explains how the sun stimulates brain activity.  Familiarity and fun are key ingredients in learning a foreign language.  Get in the sun.  Get in the fun.

Do I really need yet another Japanese brain book?  Yes, I do.  While it helps do study words and do flashcards, etc, I  need a steady diet of brain candy in Japanese to just keep getting exposed to the language. When I read a Japanese book,  I don’t look up words.  I skip over sections when I start getting tired.  I re-read.   I read the table of contents.  I look at the pictures.

Along the way, I meet a lot of unfamiliar kanji, vocabulary, and unfamiliar grammatical structures.   But I let myself float over this because I also devote time to consciously pushing up on the language with flashcards, sentence study, Jpod 101, surusu, etc.

What’s nice is when these two approaches meet and reinforce each other.   That’s what it is all about.

 

 

WTF Samurai

I believe these are cans of oxygen to get you to the last steps of the climb up Mt. Fuji.  Sometimes you need a little help as you take it to the edge.  Make positive reaches.

Cans of oxygen to get you to the last steps of the climb up Mt. Fuji. Sometimes you need to go beyond the edge to the WTF territory.  Get lost, disoriented, and helpless. Metaphorically speaking. 🙂

My last post was about not using force and having fun.   I still stand behind what I think I said.  🙂  But I would also like to advocate for “forcing” yourself into totally new WTF environments.

I came up with that idea in a Japanese Tai Chi class as I was moving my arms and legs in all kinds of weird positions and getting totally confused by the directions.  The teacher was really nice and she said (in Japanese), “Don’t worry, even Japanese people get confused by this.”  It reminded a little bit of my old Silverspoon experience, where Khatz kept encouraging us to buy yoga, karate, exercise videos etc.   I never did get around to getting any of those videos or books but I can imagine that it is a whole new cool way to learn a new skill while immersing in a second language.  Combine body movements with learning a foreign language sounds like some kind of hybrid Brain gym exercise.

Though there’s a lot to be said for comfort and fun,  sometimes you just have to startle yourself out a plateau to develop your skill.  That’s one of the key ideas that I got from Daniel Coyle’s book,  The Little Book of  Talent.  The fact that the Zboys spent a summer skating in dried out swimming pools changed skate-boarding forever.

As AJATT.com recently reminded me, sometimes you have to go a little bit loco on whatever skill you are trying to develop:

Having crazy ideas won’t change your life. Trying even one of them will. Let a teeny tiny bit of that insanity out, like vanilla essence, just a drop, just enough to take you into so-called genius territory. And no more ;)

Go a little crazy every now and then.   Stray a little bit into the WTF territory.   Send samurai mind  a postcard.

 

 

May the Non-Force Be With You

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town.  Easy enough and a little adventure to boot.  You don"t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new.  Look for small but powerful shifts.

For a couple of bucks I left to go to a manga kissa in a different town. Easy enough and a little adventure to boot. You don”t have to kill yourself to try and learn something new. Look for small but powerful shifts.

I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks now.  The jetlag has gone away and I am coming to my senses more.   But I’ve noticed one strange thing.  Up until a few days, I had not bought reading material.  Reading is part of my immersion path (I don’t want to say strategy-because that sounds a little too calculated).  I go to a manga cafe almost every day and I have the opportunity to check out magazines and manga every day and I do.   There are a few bookstores close by and I’ve taken the opportunity to go browsing there a few times.  But I’ve only taken one item home.

I’m not worried.   First of all, the fact that I can stroll into a Japanese bookstore, browse, and realize that I am not interested in anything is a big victory.  I know what each section is, I can skim the titles, the table of contents, etc.  One of the things that I rediscovered through AJATT is that reading doesn’t have to look pretty.  In “Why the Way We Read Sucks” series AJATT really explores how to really get the most out of reading by avoiding the stifling obligation patterns we learn at school.  For me, reading is fun but what makes it more fun is also about making choices, rejecting,  and jumping around the text.  Browsing is a powerful reading activity.

Browsing is also a powerful review though it may not feel lik it.  Browsing is a reminder that the most important review is in real-life, in navigating, hunting, and just plain old having fun.  There is a time and place for hard work and effort in real life but fun can work too.   There is a time to be the worker ant and soldier on for the colony.   But there should be time to be like the hummingbird, flitting around and looking for nectar.  There is a time for “force” and “study” but the fun stuff reinforces it and gives it life, too.

Lots of pictures.  Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know.  All part of letting the non-force be with you.

Lots of pictures. Information I am interested in and oodles of information I already know. All part of letting the non-force be with you.

I finally found a book at the local Numazu bookstore.  It is a visual guide to how to use an i-Pad mini.   Recently, I’ve been looking for books with a lot of pictures.    Besides the pictures, the nice thing about the iPad book is that I kind of know how to use an iPad already and I am really interested in learning how to use new apps.   I already have the inner motivation to use the knowledge in the book.   I already know a lot of vocabulary but what really helps to “read” this book is my slowly growing knowledge of kanji.  I don’t look up words, write down key sentences, etc.  I am enjoying what I am reading and that enjoyment is sealing the deal on whatever worker ant work I’ve pushed through.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa.  This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Fun little book I found in a manga kissa. This manga kissa had different offerings and was a fun, but comfortable to stretch while at the same time getting some work done.

Currently, I am in a manga cafe in Mishima, a quick train ride away from Numazu, where I usually go to the same chain store.  But it was a little bit of adventure to find this place, the books and lighting are different.  I  have work in English to do, but with frequent breaks of intentional Japanese study and just “goofing off.” Currently, I am browsing and looking at book about the pop culture (video games, pop stars, and manga) of Japan in the 80’s.

Use your hard power.  Use your soft power.  Fly like a bee and sting like a butterfly and vice versa.  May the non-force be with you.

 

Rub up Against It, Samurai!

 

Find new and fun ways to "rub up" against your skill.  I like looking at advertisements--they are designed to get your attention. :)  This is a Japanese ad for air conditioners you can control with your smartphone.

Find new and fun ways to “rub up” against your skill. I like looking at advertisements–they are designed to get your attention. 🙂 This is a Japanese ad for air conditioners you can control with your smartphone.  Ads are great for rubbing up against a foreign language.

Learning about guitar has been a lot like learning a foreign language to me.  This means that I get many opportunities to panic. 🙂  I often feel like I don’t understand what is going on and that I need to understand everything all at once.   What I really need to do is to STSU (Shut the Samurai Up) and rub up against the skill instead of trying have it all at once.

I’ve been pretty systematic about just trying something with guitar.  I’m following AJATT’s philosophy of “Getting Over Zero.”   “Just.Do.Something.”  My pull is just to stop playing because I haven’t mastered guitar, so anything that I can do for even five minutes is a huge victory.

These days when I am away from the guitar (these days at the mangakissa), I’ve been watching at least five minutes of David Wallman’s “Theory and Improvisation” lessons on Jamplay.com.  When I have access to my guitar and computer I either learn a small part of a lesson from Jamplay or review lessons.

I use these cards to help target my practice.   I simply follow the link to the lesson, watch the video or simply play using the supplementary materials on Jamplay.  Just one simple way to "rub up on" a skill/game I thought I couldn't play.

I use these cards to help target my practice. I simply follow the link to the lesson, watch the video or simply play using the supplementary materials on Jamplay. Just one simple way to “rub up on” a skill/game I thought I couldn’t play.

To take a lot of the angst of choosing which lesson to review, I create web-based flashcards using surusu.   I create flashcards simply by using the titles and links to Jamplay lessons.   Surusu mixes up the cards and as I pass them and grade how successfully I’ve remembered the skill or lesson.  The cards come up again sooner (hard cards) or later (easily mastered cards).    Having the cards prevents me from having the wasteful pity party of deciding what would be the right card to review.   Since I have the guitar strapped around my neck, I also just “fool around” and try to make cool sounds.

If you are overwhelmed by a potential skill, rub up against it instead trying to tackle it.   Right now, I am at a mangakissa in Japan.   It’s a fun way to have the office space that I have in the states.   I used to be overwhelmed by the choices of Japanese  manga, magazines, and entertainment that lay outside of the little cubicle where I have my computer.  So I would be here in the heart of Japan, studying my Japanese flashcards but also checking Facebook every fifteen minutes.  Now I don’t care if I understand everything.   I look at the pictures or I look at a complicated kanji and just gaze at it~or not.  Life can be a lot more fun when you are just rubbing up against it.

Here are some tips for rubbing up against your desired skills:

  • use time limits: set a timer for five minutes: How bad could five minutes be?
  • find more opportunities to rub up against the skills:  What are the different modes, podcasts, visuals
  • dont’t let rubbing up against a skill become a threat.  Have fun
  • find light ways to be around what you don’t understand .  Look at the pictures of a manga.  Celebrate what you do know.

I’m getting a lot more out of the paid websites (Jamplay, Japanesepod101.com, iKnow, etc) because rather than beating myself I’ve decided to rub up against the skills I want to have.   This is a lot better than the months (and probably years) that I did not use these websites because of my perfectionism.  There is definitely a role for going gang busters at a skill, but if perfectionism is stopping you from even trying you need to “rub up against it.”

Life is short.  Rub up against it.

Back In Japan: “Getting Over Zero”

I’m  back in Japan for a big part of the summer.  The jet lag hasn’t hit  yet, my wife is busy, so I’m in my home away from home—the  Aprecio manga kissa.

I managed to stay in a Japanese bubble for a large part of the trip.   I recently bought an iPad mini.  Part of my ‘packing’ involved loading the iPad with Japanese music and podcasts.  It was kind of like stepping into a time machine because my computer loaded in a lot of podcasts that I hadn’t listened to since 2009.

Re-discovered this.  It's interesting that materials for Japanese wanting to learning English can also help you learn Japanese.

Re-discovered this. It’s interesting that materials for Japanese wanting to learning English can also help you learn Japanese.

One that I particularly enjoyed was G+ 英語館 (Eigokan) a play on the Japanese word for movie theatre, ‘Eigakan’  (映画館).  This is a program that uses movies to teach English to Japanese viewers.  Each episode concentrates on two English phrases from the movie.   A bilingual English speaker explains in English and Japanese.   What’s nice is that even though it is geared towards learning English, a lot of the explanation is in Japanese so I get exposure to Japanese phrases.   The biggest selling point is that the episodes were interesting enough to break up the times when I woke up during the flight.

The Youtube clip has a lot more English because it includes an interview with Vigo Mortenson.  However, as I watched this, I realized I have made some progress with my Japanese.  Teaching and raising children has been intense so my Japanese “study” usually consists of 30 minutes of intentional study in the mornings, followed by little bursts of immersion when I can get it throughout the day through music, etc.   It’s not necessarily “All Japanese All the Time.”  However, I am the living embodiment of AJATT’s article, “Stop Trying to Do Things Well:  Getting Over Zero.”  Khatz writes:

Say no to 0. Do something. Anything. Any. Thing. Now. Play that Japanese. But don’t play Japanese that’s good for you. Don’t play something you “should” learn. Don’t should all over yourself — you do not have mental or physical bandwidth to do the right thing, let alone a right thing or even a good thing, all you can do is something. Don’t even bother to make sure the volume is up all the way; don’t bother make sure it loops forever; just play it. Now.

So yes, Eigokan had a lot of English.   But I was tired, bored, and on a thirteen hour flight.  This little podcast was entertaining enough to keep me interested in between heavy naps.   As I watched, I noticed myself doing a couple of things:

  • checking the Japanese subtitles to see how they were translated
  • waiting anxiously for the hosts Japanese explanation of phrases that I already knew well in English

During my time here in Japan there are actually a lot of things that I have to do in English:  writing projects, courses I have to plan etc.   Luckily I am in an environment where I am constantly “Getting Over Zero.”

Jet-laggedly yours, Samurai Juan.

Ronin Samurai: Go for Nuggets

No matter how long the path, don't forget to stop for nuggets!

No matter how long the path, don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

Yeah, well I don’t really know a lot about samurai despite the title of the blog.  But I do know that ronin samurai were masterless samurai, who lost their position through various events.  According to Wicker-pedia, in Japan “ronin” also refers to “salarymen” who have lost their jobs or students who failed to get into university and will try again.

In this shifting economy, we can all become ronin at some point.   That can be terrifying and at the same time liberating.   Furuichi talks about spending 30 minutes each day in continuous improvement.   I think in terms of placing little nuggets of inspiration and skill in my samurai mind notebook.   I love self-improvement books and one of the ways I reward myself for study “pushes” is by using little five minute explorations of self-help books.

One of my recent nugget discoveries is the career guide What Color is Your Parachute?  2013.   What I never realized about this book is that Richard Bolles, the author, updates it every year.   Every year he rethinks his advice and also thinks about the economic climate.   In the 2013,  he makes a point of really addressing folks who are unemployed.  He paints a useful picture of the difference between two unemployed folks.  One is glum and ready to blame.  The other one is not happy about his situation but:

 . . . he wakes up each morning glad to see the sun, puts on beautiful music, walks a great deal, counts his blessings, is in a job-support group, focuses on other people’s troubles, not just his own, is a great listener, spends each new day trying to be a better person than he was the day before, remains active in his job-hunt, tries to learn something new each day, essentially sees life as an adventure, and is willing to wait patiently for the next Act to unfold . . .

I think this is great advice even if you currently have a job.   Job hunt your own job to make it more interesting.  It’s also great as you are approaching your various learning projects.  Khatz over at ajatt.com  points to this “hunt for the nuggets” approach when he explores how to learn a language:

The journey of getting used to a language is so psychologically long that it can’t merely be a means to an end. It must become an end in itself. It must become its own joy, its own reward. And this perspective, this mental state, doesn’t require too much imagination or discipline or training to reach. Anyone who’s been on a road trip with friends knows: the destination is almost incidental.

Wherever you are in your ronin journey, find something to enjoy.  Don’t forget to stop for nuggets!

Samurai Cleaning is Samurai Learning

Still waters clearly reflect the possible.  Clearing your desk/room is one way to clear your mind and learn more effectively.

Still waters clearly reflect the possible. Clearing your desk/room is one way to clear your mind and learn more effectively.

A big snowstorm hit a few days ago and unfortunately my oldest daughter had a fever and we didn’t head out for sledding.   Before cabin fever set in, I resorted to extreme measures–I began cleaning.   I didn’t clean the whole apartment but focused on the stacks of books and paperwork that was starting to make the apartment look like New York City on the second day after a snow storm.   Before I take off on another six hundred word essay here are some reasons cleaning is learning:

  1. It’s important to throw things out.   It’s important to decide what isn’t important any more.  It’s taking up space physically and mentally. ( This goes for your flashcard decks, too. See AJATT on the importance of deletion.)
  2. Cleaning and arranging is an active way to arrange priorities.   Sorting gets you to think about what is important, inspiring, or fun.  For example, which of the 15 books around our bed do I really want to read?
  3. Cleaning is like an spaced repetition system.   Sorting and trashing is like a review of your whole life and priorities.  It reminds me of places I’ve been and places I want to be.   Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, suggests cleaning out a closet when you are creatively blocked.
  4. It’s a “one-minute” reading opportunity.  I get a fair amount of professional literature.   A lot of it is interesting material, but just letting reading pile up doesn’t help me.  I quickly skim headlines, headings, quotes, and ideas before I throw the articles out or selectively save.
  5. Having a clean, calm space is like having a clean mirror.  It’s much easier to see and clearly reflects your mind.  Anybody who personally has seen my classroom, desk, or room knows that I need to practice what I preach here.  However, I’ve noticed that when everything is neater, I “feel”  more capable.

    Half of the suggestions in this book are about keeping things neat.  Neatly arrange your shoes, notebook, etc.  I don't quite live this book, but when I do arrange things neatly I feel calmer and accomplished.

    Half of the suggestions in this book are about keeping things neat. Neatly arrange your shoes, notebook, etc. I don’t quite live this book, but when I do arrange things neatly I feel calmer and accomplished.

I’m not alone here.   Both STUDY HACKS and  Zen Suggestions for Simple Living call for cleaning and simplicity as way of

clearing your mind and getting better results.  Studyhacks recommends that you start any study session by cleaning your desk.  (A principle I often break. :).   Don’t wait for the perfectly organized space to pursue your dream, but remember make cleaning and organizing part of your learning toolkit.  Clean up your act!