How to use Free Software to learn Japanese, and more.


July 13, 2023 — Tatsumoto Ren

Managing time effectively is crucial to accomplish tasks and maintain productivity. Timeboxing is a popular technique that helps people organize their time. In this article, we will explore the concept of timeboxing, how timeboxing can help with language learning, and discuss timeboxing software that AJATTers use.

Understanding Timeboxing

Timeboxing is a pretty basic but powerful time management technique to improve your productivity. It involves allocating specific time blocks, or "boxes," to tasks or activities, where instead of saying how much you're going to get done, you decide how long you're going to work on something. Each "box" is assigned a fixed duration, allowing to focus solely on the assigned task without distractions or interruptions. You choose a task, set a timer and commit to working without distractions on the task until the time is up. When the time is up, you must take a break, usually a few minutes. Then either choose a different task or continue working on the same task. Set a timer again and repeat.

We can't know for sure in advance how much time is required to complete a certain task, but we can control how much time we allocate to it. So instead of working on a task until it's completed, you choose a predetermined amount of time to work on it. The basic idea is that it helps you overcome procrastination because it divides big intimidating tasks into little manageable chunks. Timeboxing is especially effective at helping you to deal with activities that you're not that excited about doing.

In language learning

In language learning, timeboxing basically boils down to two things.

  1. Immersing in chunks.
  2. Doing SRS reviews in chunks.

A good example of immersing in chunks is when we read books. Most books are long enough to make finishing them in one sitting practically impossible. But if you decide to read a book for half an hour and pause, then it becomes manageable. Many language learners struggle to read books in the beginning. Often people aren't used to reading at all, they have to learn a new skill while learning a foreign language, which places the hurdle higher. Timeboxing makes approaching reading easier.

Doing SRS reviews in chunks is another common way to use timeboxing. The thought of doing SRS reviews rarely excites people, but it's a part of the learning process. If you partition you SRS reps into smaller chunks, finishing them should become painless. And if you have a backlog of due cards, timeboxing is most likely the only remaining tactic.

Pomodoro technique

Pomodoro is a type of timeboxing that involves breaking down work into focused intervals of 25 minutes, known as "pomodoros," followed by short breaks of 5 minutes. After 4 pomodoros, a longer break of 10 or more minutes is taken. The idea behind the technique is to maximize focus and concentration during the 25-minute sessions while allowing for regular breaks to rest.

The Pomodoro Technique is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer, because pomodoro means tomato in Italian.

Pomodoro software

AUR contains many Pomodoro timers. I use Tatsumato. Tatsumato lets you customize the intervals and breaks to suit your individual needs, as well as set up notifications to help keep you on track. Additionally, Tatsumato controls:

  • mpv player: it can unpause a video when a break starts.
  • Screen: it can lock your screen when a break starts to help you spend the break away from your computer.
  • Anki: it can close the review window when a breaks starts.

The program is very simple, but if you don't understand something, you can always read the help page by executing tatsumato -h.

Other popular Pomodoro programs are linked in Resources.


Timeboxing and the Pomodoro Technique are valuable tools for enhancing productivity and managing time effectively. By allocating set time blocks to tasks and taking regular breaks, you can maintain concentration, fight procrastination, prevent burnout, and achieve more in less time. GNU/Linux users can choose from various Pomodoro software options to integrate this technique seamlessly into their computing.

Timeboxing is more about improving productivity in general rather than something you apply to language learning or Japanese study specifically, so it's not a mandatory part of the AJATT curriculum, but it's useful enough to mention it in the guide. If it sounds like it might be useful to you then I recommend experimenting with it.

Tags: guide