Tag Archives: learning

In a Learning State of Mind: Samurai Reading is Samurai Singing

Get in a Learning State of Mind

The time that you can wake up to what you can do is now.  As you follow your dreams and learn what you’ve always wanted to learn you need persistence.  You also need to bob and weave.  You can change your materials and your learning approaches like a time shifting ninja.

I’ve been taking photographs of pages from books that I find inspirational or interesting. This is from Kenichiro Mogi’s Japanese book, “Only Do Good Things With Your Brain.” This phrase here means that developing happiness helps your brain grow. Happiness, learning, happiness. A non-vicious cycle.

However,   I’ve also come to realize lately is that you can also change your state of mind.  Yes, you can change your materials and your methods and you should always be awake to that.   But you can also change your mind, and that can make a world of difference.  Before I lose the thread of what I want to say in a jet-lag haze (just got back from Japan two days ago), here are some quick tips to help get you get in a learning state of mind:

  • Check your breathing and your posture.   Open up.  Breathe deep.
  • Smile towards towards your work and tell yourself, “I am going to look for what is fun in this.”
  • Be gentle with yourself.  Do you point and laugh at children that are learning how to walk?
  • On the other hand, don”t try to bliss out.   You don’t have to motivate yourself to do what is odious to you.  Put that Napalm for Idiots book in the trash.  You don”t have to know every fact or keep every flashcard.  Choice is a loving act.

The other day, I was looking at my Samurai notebook and really feeling resistant about looking at it.  I had been resisting looking at it for days.   Part of the reason I was feeling this resistance was because I had filled my journal with “obligatory” notes from online courses from my job, etc.  I realized this recently smiled, took  relaxed breath and a looked at one of the positive goals in my Samurai notebook and turned a chore into a joy and challenge.  I also made a decision to quickly skip over things that didn’t interest me at the moment.  My samurai reviews have been going better ever since.

“Don’t focus on being negative.  It won’t work anyway.”

In one of Khatzumoto’s emails as part of my Silverspoon (a Japanese immersion service) experience he writes something like, “don’t focus on being so negative.  It won’t work anyway.”  (Khatzumoto sends out emails containing both an inspirational quote—sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime, sometimes cheesy. )  In the daily “sprints,” Khatzumoto asks that you do what I would call an affirmation (though I think the youngster would probably choose a “hipper” phrase.)   “Why do I choose to touch Japanese every day” is just one example.

A sign for guitar classes in Numazu. I want to take guitar classes and study how to play guitar with Japanese materials. Use what you love to learn. Loving two birds with no stone!

Part of the reason I keep recommending Khatzumoto’s site, ajatt.com, is because he is constantly finding ways to challenge states of mind that get in the way of doing what seems impossible.  His site is about learning Japanese but just check out his site and replace learning Japanese with whatever “impossible” goal you have in mind.  Here’s a start.  I want to turn this into a bumper sticker.  (I just need a car first):

“Keeping the Game Alive: Self-Abuse Ruins Everything, So Be Nice To You


Take a look around you, inside of you.  What seems impossible?  What’s one little step you can take.  Breathe.  Smile.  Open a new page.  Samurai reading is samurai singing.  Samurai singing is samurai learning.

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Happy Feelings Bring Happy Learnings

Yes, I guess my mind is turning into a Japanese t-shirt.  That’s a good thing  While I’m at it, here is a whole string of truisms coming at ya:

  • Do what you love and love what you do.
  • Love what you learn and learn what you love.
  • Bored or frustrated with what you are learning?  Here are two options:  change what you are learning or change your mind.
  • Fun doesn’t mean easy.

The other day I was doing my Chinese exercises by the beach and was graced by both the sight Mount Fuji and a fleeting glimpse of a rainbow.  I caught it all on my iPhone.  In between Nei Kung sets, I did little flashcard reviews using my Midori app.   In these brief little sprints, I stop when a word repeats or when I get bored.  (AJATT and other immersion experts recommend studying sentences rather than single words but I enjoying having little bursts of vocabulary exercise.)


Sometimes the clouds just lift and you can see Mt. Fuji

As I went through the cards, I noticed that I was really  remembering the cards I had some fond, personal connection to rather than the cards I just collected by more formal ‘studying.’   I remembered that どじょう was loach fish (wth?) because it was a word I had collected while my daughter was singing karaoke with my father-in-law.   I could picture the cartoon face. Last night I looked up ひやひや (chilly or fearful) and can remember that it was a word a Japanese ping pong player used to describe her team’s close game.

Love what you learn and learn what you love.

It’s a non-vicious cycle.   Turn to the things that you want to learn and master (guitar, economics, starting your own business, the interwebs) and it makes it easier to learn.   Turn to the things that you love, and it will help you learn (and do) more.   My Japanese ‘studies’ improved when I decided to use it to read self-help books, my guilty pleasure.

Change what you are learning or change your mind.

Change it up.   AJATT has a hilarious post called,  ‘That Righteous Feeling, Or: If You’re Not Feeling Naughty, You’re Doing It Wrong.’  Khatzumoto basically argues that if you are reading a book in your target language out of duty or obligation instead of fun, you are actually hurting your learning efficiency.   I think this is true even if you aren’t learning a language.

I think it’s also possible to change your mind about what you are learning and ask what’s the fun in this?  Sometimes I get a lot more out of just reading the table of contents of a Japanese book rather than boring myself by struggling through every page and killing my desire to read.  Everything is fair in love, reading, and learning.

Fun doesn’t mean easy.

Kenichiro Mogi, author of several books on the the brain ( 脳)  loves  to talk about the dopamine effect.  He explains that overcoming mental hurdles and challenges releases endorphins and dopamine that create feelings of happiness.  It’s why some people love video games, mountain climbing and even algebra.

A  lot of people idolize Jimi Hendrix as a rock god.  (Yes, I am not worthy.)  But what a lot of people don’t acknowledge is all the hours of work that he put in to play the guitar so well.  He walked around his apartment with his guitar strapped on.  And he didn’t forget the fun.  Hard work + love + fun= dope (dopamine)

Learn what you love and love what you learn.  Become the Jimi Hendrix of your life.  Climb the mountain!  Catch the rainbow!
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I ‘caught’ the rainbow!


Use Time Limits: Samurai Time is On Your Side, Part 3

“Prepare yourself in the subject so well that it shall be always on tap: then…trust your spontaneity and fling away all further care.”” William James

“A man grows most tired while standing still” Chinese Proverb

‘Deadlines and things make you more creative…’  Jack White of the White Stripes

Check in slip from manga cafe. If you exceed your time, there are extra fees. Often I am most productive when my time is running out. That’s what time boxing is all about.

I am at a mangakissa in Japan and I have 45 more minutes left on a three hour package.  I am on day 439 of a 595 day Japanese immersion experience through Silverspoon.   I have fourteen more days in Japan.   I don’t know how many days I have on Earth, but as far as I know they are not limitless.   I have just enough time to tell you that Time Limits Work!  Here are some reasons why:

  • limits have the power to turn tasks, goals into a game
  • time limits can turn things into a Mission Impossible thriller …how much fun would it be if Tom Cruise had all the time in the world to defuse a bomb, jump on a couch, etc?
  • limits have a way of increasing rather than decreasing creativity . . . can you say haiku?
  • time limits are a way to work through fatigue, perfectionism, procrastination and a seeming lack of inspiration

Confession.  This post did not begin in inspiration.  I arrived exhausted at the manga kissa.  I decided to just take a nap and check my emails and not expect or push much.  I clicked on an article from brainpickings.org on Tchaikovsky, the work ethic and inspiration.  Mr. T basically explains that you can’t wait for inspiration.  You’ve also have to put in the work.

Brainpickings also includes a youtube vid of Jack White talking about not waiting for inspiration.  White also talks about how the and White Stripes make limitations part of their work, to force creativity.  Though White is very wealthy now, he limits the studio time that they purchase to record an album.  He also continues to use old guitars even though he could buy a thousand better ones.   White does this to force himself to work within limits.

White talks about how creativity can come about by working within the box.  Time is the ultimate box and as any two year old will tell you, boxes are for play.  Khatzumoto introduced me to the concept of timeboxing and led me to other people like Steve Pavlina who use it as a productivity tool.  Basically, timeboxing involves using timers to set small limits to start or finish tasks.   Time boxes as small as one or five minutes can be powerful little tools for smashing through procrastination and opening up creativity and competence.

Spending a shorter time at the manga cafe allowed me to have time to walk around and see Fuji fully revealed. A lot of the times it is hidden by clouds.

I once took a drawing class at the Art Students League.  The class began with little one minute timed sketches of a model.  (no clothes, whatever).  You had to draw fast and loosen up because the (nude!) model would change positions once the time was up.  Then the poses became longer.  However, having those little drawing sprints helped loosen me up and I began to draw better.

Are you stuck on any big project or idea?  Take out a timer and play around with timeboxes.   Work with your limits and let it be your inspiration. The fact that I had limited time at the manga kissa today actually made it easier to start and keep moving.   I didn’t finish but I probably got more done than if I had all the time/money/breath in the world.

Get your timers and continue to let samurai time be on your side!

Structured and limited “push” time allows you to have more unstructured activity that can also help you learn and grow. I spent some time at a Book-off and found this cool book about angels, demons, etc.

Push, Relax, Have Fun, Repeat: How I ‘Read’ Japanese News

Here’s a quick little Samurai success formula to take on whatever you want to do or  know more about in life:

  • Push.  Find little windows where you can push yourself to learn a little more and push.   Write down a new word, concept, do push ups until you are tired.
  • Relax.  Congratulations on pushing yourself.   Take a few breaths or a nap.  A relaxed learner learns more than a self-loathing ball of nervousness.
  • Have Fun.   Find a fun angle on what you are trying to learn, do, or accomplish.  Find a comic book version of what you are trying to learn.  Zumba!  (WTH!)
  • Repeat.  Go back to the seat of the crime and take a fresh samurai stab at it all.  Be persistent like water, grasshopper.

Yesterday’s Yomiuri. A foreign newspaper can seem scary, but it can also be a game. You can look at pictures can’t you. Any goal has opportunities for pushing and having fun.

Case in point–the Yomiuri News.   Yomiuri Shinbun is kind of like the Japanese Wall Street journal.  It’s the most interesting newspaper lying around my father-in-law’s house.   I already know a lot of kanji and a lot of Japanese vocabulary, but if I try to read every page my eyes start to swim in desperation and confusion.

But all is not lost.  My vocabulary has increased since doing AJATT but what has also changed is my attitude.  I’ve begun to take on Japanese newspapers.

Bad stuff happening in Syria and the ongoing mess at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Yomiuri is the best paper in the house and I’ve decide to at least open it every day.   Push.  I scan the headlines and pictures for things that interest me.   Have fun.  I find a story that interests me and find one word or more that I don’t understand and look it up with my iPhone app, Midori. At the touch of a screen I instantly add it to my flashcards.  This word will be with me for a while.   Push.  I start to feel like it’s turning into homework and I Relax.   I like reading the small ads at the bottom of Yomiuri hawking all sorts of diet, sports, business, and self-help books.  I enjoy the language of promises and I also like the bite-sized、digestible bites they come in.  Have fun.  The newspaper comes again the next day and I Repeat.  PRHR! (Like a cat with spelling issues.)

The ads are like little candies. Small and chewy!

I’m hoping to PRHR through more of I want to learn:  financial and investment literacy, Spanish, and playing guitar.    Today Yomiuri, tomorrow the world.

The Importance of Browsing: Samurai Browser

Now that I am in Japan for the summer, I find myself browsing a lot.   In the mornings, I go to write at a manga cafe where I can have some semi-privacy.   When I goof off, I browse through the free movies available through their Cinema Channel.

Fuzzy screenshot of manga kissa cinema channel.

Sometimes I even get up and look through real comic books and magazines.   I also go to the Numazu library to write and think.   To take a break, I will just walk around and browse.  I can read the section titles more easily now but sometimes I just wander down the aisle pull out a book and see what I find.

Sometimes, I find myself getting annoyed.   I feel like I am wasting time just looking through books.  I should just be doing something productive!!  But lately I have had a change of heart about browsing.  I think browsing does a few key things:

  • Browsing allows you to stumble upon new ideas.  (Hey someone should come up with an internet program where you stumbleupon new websites!) 🙂
  • Browsing helps you point you back to yourself.   As you relaxedly allow yourself to pick up and put down books that bore you or interest you, you are getting information about what is important to you.  Relax and listen to what you discover about yourself as you browse.
  • Browsing is a form of review.   As you look at information and making decisions on whether to pursue it, many learning actions are happening.  You are tossing aside knowledge you have already learned, you are putting  ‘bookmarks’ on information you want later, etc.
  • Browsing is a great way to support libraries and bookstores.  (A bookstore is a physical place where you can buy physical books.  Yes, they still exist.  :))

Of course, don’t make browsing a chore.   If it’s not fun it is not browsing.  In this day and age anything that sounds like loafing seems like a waste.   But the earth needs you to be you.   Samurai browsing is samurai becoming.  Trip the library fantastic!

Life is an SRS: Create your Learning Environment

One of the more fun lessons I’ve gotten from ajatt and other sources is that you become what you surround yourself with.   If you want to learn Japanese, surround yourself with Japanese people, music, and experiences.   Maybe it works for other things as well.  If you want to be rich, surround yourself with rich people, or at least with books and audio that explore ethical and fun ways to create wealth.  Life itself is an SRS.

Signs signs every there’s signs. Walking around is just one big kanji and vocabulary review.

An SRS is short for spaced repetition system.  A spaced repetition system usually involves creating flashcards.   Using various online and offline computer programs these cards come up in an algorithm based on how successful you’ve been at remembering the various facts.   The harder to remember facts come up sooner, while the easier facts come up at increasingly longer intervals.  An SRS is an excellent way to consciously push your learning further.

I guess I could sit at my computer and look at flashcards all day, but maybe walking around the park and realizing that the sign I thought was some kind of haiku years ago actually says, “Let’s clean up.  Dog poop is the responsibility of the owner.”

When I first came to Japan, I thought these signs were haiku. This sign means it is your responsiblity to clean up your dog’s poop.

There are a thousand opportunities to learn.  The conscious pushing of study opens up more possibilities but the random discovery of real-life experience “cooks in the flavah.”

Use this symbiosis between conscious effort and environment.   Yes, you can push but also think what’s around you.  Khatzumoto often says something like, “You learn the language that’s on your walls.”  You don’t want to be hermetically sealed off but you want to think about your environment.  It’s the reason that the Dali Lama didn’t attend Chico State, the party college of California.

Some random, unsolicited hints for a better Samurai Repetition System:

  • Stop watching television or be more selective about the content and amount of time you watch
  • Hang out with the kind of people you would like to become – come on you funky line dancing hipsters – come to Samurai Juan
  • Read the books you want to become
  • Create little opportunities for adventure—eat somewhere different, talk to someone new—you might not know where you want to go unless you occasionally stray off the beaten path .
  • Pray and meditate.  I’m going out on a limb here.  Your thoughts are part of your environment.  If you are not a prayer person at least imagine good things for people.

Let me know how it goes and thank you for making samuraimindonline.com part of your learning environment.


One Minute, One Action, Every Morning Change Your Life: Samurai Book Thruview

Nonsense leads to making sense. Let me know if you can identify this temple statute.

Summer is finally here and I am following the read ’em or leave ’em strategy for finishing books.  If I am no longer interested in a book (especially those in Japanese), I am leaving them in the dust even if I paid bookoo dollars for them.   I am inspired by AJATT’s column on “Reading and Respectability”:

If you have to limit your reading to what is considered respectable, you might as well physically remove your brain and personally hand it to whoever’s making those respectability rules1. Because that’s kind of what you’re doing already. And while you’re at it, have the Rulemaker come over to your house and pick out your clothes and thoughts, too.

Read Japanese. Read whatever the heck you want. The dumber the better. The brainier the better. The normaler the better. The only limits on reading should be time and interest. Not common sense, and definitely not respectability.

On that note, I am continuing to read 毎朝1分で人生は変わる: One Minute, One Action in the Morning Will Change Your Life.  It is pure self-help crack.   The vocabulary is not too hard, the advice is not revolutionary, but at one or two pages at a reading, “One Minute” is fun.

Morning arrival at Miyajima Island. Every morning is an opportunity to step through a gate.

Each chapter offers a quick daily change that has the power to change your life.  One quick little move that can move a whole body or life.  Think Aikido.

Here are the steps I have encountered so far.   (Please take my translations with a dash of soy sauce.):

  1. Ask yourself the morning questions to rev up your motivation.  『モーニングクゥエスチョンで やる気の1日を作り出す」 These questions come from Anthony Robbins CD  Personal Power 2 and are designed to jump start your day and revolve around your brain:  What am I happy about?  (Feel it!)  What am I excited about in my life now?  (Feel it!)  What am I proud in my life now?  (Feel it!)  What am I grateful about in my life now?  (Feel it!)  What am I enjoying most in my life now?  (Feel it!)  What am I committed to in my life now?  (Feel it!)  Who do I love?  Who loves me?  (Feel it!)  To whom and how can I contribute today?  (Enjoy it!)  ….I think I just used up my yearly exclamation point quota! 🙂
  2. If you read your goals out loud each morning and evening, you will be one step closer to your ideal life.  朝晩の「音読」で毎日一歩ずつ理想の自分に近づく。Miyake explains that the power of suggestion is especially powerful in the mornings and evenings. 
  3. One small adventure every day will translate into a bigger life experience. 「毎日の小さなの初体験」が「人生の大きな経験」になる。 Just one little change every day will teach your mind to take in new experiences and open your life.  Miyake suggests that even just taking a new street on your way to work can be a small adventure.  This reminds me of Julia Cameron, author and creativity guru, who suggests having one small “artist date” on a regular basis for bigger creative breakthroughs.

I can’t really say if these suggestions work or not.  I’ve started to take different routes to work, but I haven’t consistently tried the other steps.   But my life is already changing on one level.  I’m a little closer to Japanese because I’ve found a book that is fun.   Yes, the book seems like self help dross, but it’s fun.   But even if I read about alchemy in Japanese, the alchemy of fun would translate into more learning.  It’s a non-vicious cycle.  Take one minute, one action.  Have fun and change your life.

The Power of Morning and Evening: Samurai Slumbering–Samurai Rising

A passageway from a temple to garden in Nagasaki. Morning and evening are key transition times.

A Japanese self-help book, a samurai self-help blogger , and a Japanese immersion website meet at a bar and talk about the best time to “do it.”  Morning and night.

Morning and night might be one of the best times to set your intentions, embedded knew knowledge, and change your life.

Anchors Away!

Khatz talks about the importance of morning and evening as anchors:

I’ll just say that in terms of just outward behavior patterns, those two “anchor points” do tend to set pattern for the rest of the day. Broadly speaking, the rest of one’s day often seems to run off of the inertia from these two times of day.

Focus your energy on managing your immediate environment, the 3-foot wide country that is you — especially at these two critical times – and you may well find that other things just naturally fall into place.  —All Japanese All the Time

Khatz has been lightly hammering the idea of anchors in my daily “sprints” or suggestions for immersion.  Basically, I take this to mean that the morning and the minutes right before sleep are the most key moments of the day.   The morning sets the tone for the day and the minutes before sleep set the tone for the dream scape.

I’ve been experiment with this in many ways.   When I walk out in the mornings I often listen to japanesepod101.com podcast lessons.  Yesterday, however, I felt the pull to listen to Japanese music.  I follow whatever method or activity seems to be the most fun at the time.  In the middle of a work day, I usually work through at emergency room like atmosphere at a school.   As I get ready to sleep, I may read the supporting materials to the jpod lesson (if I’m interested) or listen to an non-jarring podcast.  These days I “listen”  to Tokyo FM’s Tokyo Midtown Presents, a pleasant and interesting program about different design concepts.   The voices are so pleasant that I never consciously listen to the content before sleep.  Does it work?  Who knows?  But I am enjoying Japanese, so why stop?

Power Your Morning (and Night), Furuichi Style

Yukio Furuichi, author of 1日30分を続けなさい!人生勝利の勉強法55 Learn to Win  My (My take with a dash of soy translation:   Keep going 30 minutes a day!  55 Study Steps to Winning in Life) also writes about the power of morning and the evenings.

Furuichi’s Reasons Why Studying in the Morning Pays Off:

  • There are fewer interesting television shows in the morning.
  • There a less distractions such as phone calls, social outings, etc
  • From his experience, the rate of learning seems to be higher in the morning than in the evenings
  • If you “git ir done” in the morning, you’ve got a huge part of your studying done for the day

Furuichi’s Hints for the Evenings:

Buddha at rest. You have to sleep in order to wake up.

  • Get at least six to seven and a half hours of sleep
  • If you don’t get enough sleep you become less effective when you study
  • While you are sleeping, memories get arranged and fixed
  • If you can’t sleep, have something by your bed you can study.  After you are tired (usually around 30 minutes) you should be able to sleep.
  • Napping helps but don’t go for long naps because they throw off your biorhythms.

Samurai at Rest/Samurai Rising

If morning and evening are such powerful anchors, why limit using them to whatever you are studying?   (Keep in mind that by studying I mean that you take on what you want to move forward in your life.)  What are the thoughts and intentions that you go to bed with at night?   I’ll be the first one to admit, that I often wake up with internal grumbling?  But why not wake up thinking about what you want in your life?  What you want for the world?   Why not rise up singing?

It’s the same with the evening.   Instead of taking your worries to bed with you, what about going to bed with appreciations and your dreams for the yourself and the world?

Sun up.  Sun down.  Samurai at rest.  Samurai rising.

The Power of Five Minutes: The Condensed Version

The Benefits of Taking Five Minutes Each Day To Do Part of Your Dreams:

  • Starting is better than thinking about starting
  • Five minutes each day keeps your brain “myelienated”.  You keep the thread of practice or the thought of your novel, composition, graffiti bomb masterpiece in your mind instead of losing it.
  • Five minutes sometimes turns into half an hour, though it doesn’t have to.
  • Try it, Mikey, you just might like it.
  • You might start a fire that burns all day.
  • Hey, it’s just five minutes.
  • The universe likes it when you get to be you.

    I can see for miles and miles. View from Miyajima Island near Hiroshima. A mere five minutes a day can help you see and move farther.

  • Doing something for yourself helps you have better relations with others.
  • Five minutes helps keep your “tools” handy.   The guitar is tuned.  Laptop is close by.  Brushes are washed and arranged.  The running shoes are by the door.  Reference books are bookmarked to the next section.
  • Five minutes today makes it easier to continue tomorrow.
  • The burn files, redux.  Five minutes allows you to experience the power of the “burn”, whether it’s mental or physical.  Haven’t done push ups in a while?   Set a timer and do the “easy” push ups for five minutes.  You’ll feel the burn at some point.  What if you did this for a month.  Try it.  It’s just five minutes.
  • Five minutes let you know that maybe that task is not so scary.  Maybe you can put in another five minutes at some point during the day.  Why not now?
  • If you can spend five minutes on Facebook, you’ve got five minutes to look at your budget, play your guitar, write to someone you love, __________________________.
  • Five minutes keeps you in the present, the only place where things can happen.

Related link:  ” The strategic behavior: The power of five minutes “ from SmartBusiness


The Power of Five Minutes: Mutant Samurai Turtles, Activate!

The Power of Five Minutes–Let Your Power Flower

I did it!  I headed to the post office, got the right postage and sent my book proposal to an agent I worked with years before.   (I will tell you later what it was my book proposal was about.  I like to let creative projects incubate until they are ready.)   What’s amazing that even though I’ve been working on this project for seven years, I hadn’t done anything to move it forward.  I’ve done more to move this project in the last six months than I have in six years combined.
The secret?  The power of five minutes.  Turtle power.

I’ve had almost everything you might need to work on my writing.  I have a computer at home.  I also have a laptop and I am even member of a quiet space to work called the Writers Room.

However, I would get to the Writers Room after a long day at school and be overwhelmed by the day that I just had and the enormity of “WRITING.”  Then I would proceed to read the New York Times, take naps, grade homework, study Japanese, and then later on check my Facebook page.

I Khatzumoto put it best how often what we really need to do is just start:

I’m with HONDA Naoyuki on this one — most of us don’t need to prioritize our work, we just need to get started on it. Many times. That’s what’s killing us…paucity of starts. And all the tidying and soda breaks and relaxation exercises in the world cannot will not ever change this. Let’s be brutally honest: your life simply is not that complicated — most of the time, you already know what your top priority direction is. The only question is: are you headed in it?

As I’ve discussed ad nauseum on this blog, I started to do All Japanese All the Time and later the paid Japanese immersion coaching service called Silverspoon.  Part of what I learned to do with AJATT is to use my vibrating watch to take little bites of everything I want to accomplish and move forward, whether it’s learning Japanese, writing, or doing more mundane things like cleaning up my classroom.

Having time limits can turn everything into a game.  How many words and ideas can I fit into five minutes before the time runs out?   What’s next?   It turns big tasks into digestible bite sized git ‘er done bits.

I also changed my routine.   One of the things Japanese writers on learning discuss is finding your “golden time.”   What is the time of day when you can move your mind, tune into creativity, and let things flow?  For me, I realized it was in the morning.  I had to break my routine of going to my favorite coffee shop, which opens at 7 a.m.   Instead, I made sure that I was at carrel at the Writer’s Room.  (With a cheaper and less tasty cup of coffee at hand.)

A lot happens in the hour before I have to go to work now.  I do my Japanese “sprints”  (little Japanese “study” suggestions from Silverspoon).  I work on my traditional writing.  I work on the blog.  But I work at a turtle’s pace, going slow and a little bit at a time.   But it turns out that maybe that is the best way for me to work.  It means that I always have my tools out (laptop, notebooks, reference books, headphones, etc) and move a little bit on them everyday, not thinking about rushing to the end.

So I continued to work on a book proposal for a project that I started seven years ago.  (Seven years!)  It felt like a big mess, but I took daily stabs at it—organizing ideas on paper, looking at a proposal writing reference guide.   I would set the timer for five minutes and take one little piece.   Sometimes, I “cheated” and worked a little bit more.  One day, I looked at my book proposal and realized that I had come to the end.   I realized it needed a lot of proofreading and took the turtle approach.   Again, I was surprised that I had come to the end.

The book proposal may not lead to a contract, but I feel like I have moved a mountain.   I’m ready to write again, five minutes at a time.  What’s your dream?  What are you willing to give five minutes a day?  Mutant Samurai Turtles activate!