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Samurai news bulletin. Samurai Time is on Your Side. Use a stopwatch.

After reading’s Khatzumoto’s article, You Can’t Afford Not to Buy Japanese Books article, I hustled my samurai patootie to Bookoff, a Japanese used book store in Manhattan.   I had fun just looking at book titles and I didn’t feel any pressure to buy.  Then I found a book whose title (毎朝1分で人生は変わる:  One Minute, One Action in the Morning will Change Your Whole Life) seemed to fit with all my latest thinking and experience with the power of small moments.  Even though I have plenty of unread Japanese books lying around, I picked up One Minute, One Action.

This morning I skimmed it using one of Khatzumoto’s suggested techniques.  I set a timer for 15 minutes, and looked at every page of the book.  Lo and behold, one of the chapters in the middle cajoles us to “Use a Stopwatch and Become a Learning Athelete.” (ストップウオッチを使って「学習アスリート」になる).   The author, Hiroyuki Miyake, offers some good advice about using timers and stopwatches while studying:

  • If you get in the habit of using a stop watch while studying, as soon as you push the button your mind and body get in the frame for learning.
  • Setting a limit for how long you are going to study a particular task raises your level of concentration.
  • If you have a longer study time frame, make sure to schedule breaks.  For example, if you study for 50 minutes, make sure to take a ten minute break.
  • Become a learning athlete!
  • Spend the last five minutes of your longer study periods reviewing what you have just learned. (He refers to what Ebbinghaus says about declining memory patterns.)

Weird clock on display at Dejima Island in Nagasaki. Dejima Island was where the Dutch traded ideas and inventions when the rest of Japan was isolated. Clocks and time keeping devices shouldn’t be confused with any sense of superiority. It’s another tool best used ethically and with balance.

This advice is all great but what I like is this whole idea of becoming an athlete.  Many moons ago, I trained for and ran a marathon.  One of the strange concepts I came across is fartleks (insert crude joke here :).  These are basically timed changes in your running pace.   You might run at a brisk pace for two minutes and then return to your normal pace.   These timed “sprints” are supposed to do all kinds of good stuff for you like increase your heart’s capacity and improve your overall pace.

But why limit the goodness of fartleks to marathons.  Life is a marathon.   Use your stopwatch to learn and take on whatever moves you forward, whether it’s cleaning your room, learning a language, or “whatevah.”  Time is on your side.  Fartlek around.  You are your life’s athlete.  Become a stopwatch samurai!