13 Japanese study habits you can use to be more productive and successful

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Are you feeling unmotivated? Or are you looking for ways to manage your time better?

These are common problems that professionals and students from around the world have faced.

It would be wise, then, to learn how other people from other countries have solved such problems.

What better place to learn how to be efficient than from one of the top 10 economic powerhouses of the world, Japan?

Japan has set global standards for quality, precision, and work ethic. They are known to have a culture of strict dedication to one’s work, whether it be in a corporate or academic setting.

If there’s any country that knows a thing or two about how to be more productive, it’s from the land of the rising sun.

Boost your efficiency with these 13 tips from how the Japanese are so productive.

1. Use A Kanban Board

Kanban is a Japanese term meaning “visual signal.” It was invented as a way to visualize the status of a certain product as it moves along the production pipeline.

Think of it like a car moving through the different stations in a factory: the body of the car goes on a conveyor belt, at each stop receiving an engine, tires, a windshield, doors, and paint.

Instead of a car, it can be the paper that you’re working on. First, write the name of the assignment on an index card.

Then, on a wall or on a table, layout different columns, each representing a specific status — researching, writing the outline, writing the first draft, revising, writing the second draft — leading up to finally finishing the paper.

Then you simply move the index card along the columns, as if it were on a conveyor belt.

2. Have A Morning Routine

The time before you get to your work can be transformed into a sacred ritual to set your mind up for the day that lays ahead.

It’s common for people to wake up feeling stressed about the day before breakfast. This sets a bleak and frustrating tone for the day.

Although we can’t control our feelings, it’s possible to control our actions that could potentially bring about positive feelings.

Having a morning routine is something that Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo advocates for.

It could include writing in a journal, going for a walk or a jog, reading, even maybe tidying up your room.

Doing these activities will help you feel better and give you a boost of energy to tackle your day.

3. Have A Nighttime Routine

After a long day of class, reviewing, and finishing piles of assignments, it’s natural to feel exhausted — both mentally and physically.

Instead of going through the motions and having a bland sleep, you can try making an evening routine to your nights.

Much like how computers slowly close applications while shutting down, you can do the same to prepare your body for the sleep ahead.

A study found that taking a warm bath before going to bed increases the quality of your sleep. This helps you replenish your energy and wake up feeling better.

4. Tidy Up Your Space

Your current state of mind is going to affect your environment and vice versa. When you have a desk with papers, pens, notebooks, paperclips, highlighters lying around, it’s a representation of your cluttered mind.

When you take a moment to put materials in their proper areas, it will not only make working more efficient but it will also help clear your mind, even slightly.

Try to clean your desk at least once a week as a way to reset and clear your mind.

5. Review Your Notes

Taking notes can feel productive — but it isn’t always the case. We shouldn’t take notes to remember something in the moment — we should take notes to remember it in the future.

What good are notes if you can’t return to them?

After meeting with your instructor, take a few minutes to review your notes before leaving the room, or even at the end of the whole day.

While it’s still fresh in your mind, it will allow you to remember and understand the topic even more, helping memorization.

6. Always Strive For Quality

Having high standards is a staple of Japanese work ethic. When you aren’t giving your best effort, you’re selling yourself short of your own abilities.

It’s understandable, however, that some students may not feel as passionate about a certain subject than others.

If you’re more inclined to literature, then spending time on mathematical concepts might feel like a waste of time. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t still give your best effort.

Even if you fail, as long as you know you did your best, it will help you feel fulfilled — in school and in life.

7. Try Time Blocking

Time blocking is the practice of, as the name suggests, blocking out time in your day to focus on a single task, whether that be finishing a reading, continuing writing a paper, or having a group meeting for a project.

At the start of your day, try looking at your free time to find places you can allocate for doing your work.

Doing this at the start of the day gives you direction and lessens the number of decisions you have to make, making you more efficient with your time.

8. Value Your Breaks

Pulling an all-nighter is common among students. While it could certainly get more work done faster, there’s a reason why the body needs sleep.

Studying takes up mental energy.

The only way to recover that energy is through doing restful activities, like sleeping or taking naps.

There’s nothing wrong with taking time to rest — in fact, it helps avoid potential health issues such as burnout. An engine running all the time will eventually overheat; it needs time to cool down too.

9. Teach What You’re Learning

When you have to explain a topic to someone, you’re forced to break the topic down into its simplest form.

That can only be done if you’ve fully understood the topic.

Developers around the world use the “Rubber Duck Debugging” method which is essentially the same process, except they explain their code to an innocent rubber duck.

10. Test Yourself

A straightforward and simple method of testing yourself is through the use of classic flashcards.

Write questions for yourself, or better yet ask a friend to make questions for you to help you simulate a test before the test.

This is going to allow you to understand which parts of the lesson you still need time to review.

Remember: it’s better to fail a test you made yourself than the test your instructor is going to give.

11. Make A Study Plan

In a survey of Japanese students, 91% of them agreed that making a study plan is definitely necessary to achieve your academic goals.

Without knowing what to study for a test, you risk wasting time on the things that won’t even appear.

A good study plan would have easy-to-follow steps for you to study — first lesson 1 then 2 then so on.

As you grow older, you’re going to realize that no one gives you any instructions about how to go about your own life.

That’s why cultivating this habit early on will prove not only useful for your tests but in your adult life too.

12. Break Down Lessons

There are going to be lessons that are more difficult to grasp than others.

It would only frustrate you if you try to tackle an entire concept in one go, like reading the entire calculus textbook in a single night; it’s separated into different chapters for a reason.

When you break down a difficult lesson into smaller pieces, it will not only make it easier for you to digest it, but it makes learning more effective too, since you’re able to understand every detail of it.

This process is notably called “Chunking”, where the mini-lessons are the chunks.

13. Keep Making Improvements

The Japanese concept of Kaizen means “continuous improvement”.

Improvement can come in different ways.

Maybe it’s the way that you take your notes, realizing that you don’t have to take notes on everything that the instructor says.

Or it’s understanding a passage before highlighting, that way you will have at least achieved the goal of highlighting: to remember information.

Kaizen has no minimum speed, so you can go at your own pace. The most important thing to remember is to focus on progress, not perfection.

The Japanese have learned that productivity isn’t only contained to the things that you do while you’re doing the work.

What you do leading up to and after your work time greatly affects the quality of your understanding and energy.

It also isn’t simply about the actions that you do but also the mindset that you have going into it.

These are all simple tips, however. They may not all work for you, which is fine. Find what works best for you through trial and error and modify it to make it your own.

There aren’t any rules, just as long as you’re able to see an improvement in your understanding, output, and grade, you’re doing it well.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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