dividing by zero

Yesterday I learned eight new kanji.

Now you’re thinking, that’s not terribly remarkable; in fact, not even really worth talking about, surely?

Perhaps so.  The thing is, though, I got home pretty late and didn’t really want to add any new cards at all.  But then I thought; okay, half a dozen at least, only takes ten minutes.  There was a bit of a divide in the current chapter after the first eight so I did those.

My optimum number of new cards seems to hover around the mid-twenties, depending on how many new primitives I have to deal with.  So eight is only 1/3 as good as twenty-four.  However: it’s twice as good as four, four times as good as two, and eight times as good as one; and most importantly, infinite number of times better than none.

The point is, even if you learn one kanji (or vocabulary word, or grammar point, or whatever it is you’re focusing on) a day, eventually you will finish*.  If you learn none, the project will die on the vine and all the time you’ve spent on it will be utterly wasted.  Do something, anything, even if it seems insignificant, because any progress is infinitely better than no progress.

*insofar as anything like this is ever “finished”

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2 responses to “dividing by zero

  1. Well said!

    Personally, I’ve been locked in mortal combat with my kanji deck for quite some time, after an extended (two week or so) break period. It became very difficult to find the motivation to sit down and chip away at the hundreds of expired cards waiting for me. This is a trap I (and many others) have fallen into many times over with my SRS use.

    However, when I DID get around to reviewing, I’d always plow through 20 to 25 cards before feeling the need to stop. The only difficult part was getting my(lazy)self to start. Simply doing a small, minimal amount of reviews daily has gotten me nearly caught up (provided I don’t laze out today, I could be reviewing new cards for the first time in ages). On my less motivated days, it’s difficult to drill for an hour, but 10-15 minutes is hardly anything.

    Describing the situation in mathematical terms really helps to put things into perspective. Anything greater than zero equals progress.

    • Hi burrito-san! Yeah, that accumulation after a break isn’t something I’ve had to deal with yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Not sure I’ll have time to do reviews on the road during my vacation this summer, although I’ll certainly try 🙂 As you say though, the important thing is to start – don’t think about the whole task, just do a bit of it, which is that bit more than if you hadn’t started!