During my time studying Japanese I’ve met many different types of students. The most interesting observation I’ve made is that the most successful ones apply the same mentality – they are “lazy” and act “dumb”.

I’m a software developer by trade. Most people in my industry are aware of the “lazy” and “dumb” mentality of a productive programmer.

We are “Lazy” because we go out of our way to automate as much boring work as possible.

We also act “Dumb” because otherwise we stop learning and stop being critical towards our own work. Also, no one likes an arrogant “know-it-all” 🙂

The most successful students study smarter not harder, and to do this they are “lazy” and act “dumb”.


This is Madness! That defies all logic!” I hear you say.

Let me explain and hopefully it will make more sense.

This topic will be split into two parts. In this post I’m going to talk about why the best students are lazy, and in the next I will talk about why they act dumb.

Definition of Laziness

Laziness is a very broad term mostly associated with putting off work to a later date or not doing it at all. This is procrastination, or just simply being a bad student.

Despite common belief, it’s possible to be lazy and a good student at the same time.

I think of laziness in the following way:

The quality that drives a person to spend more time and energy in the short term so you can spend less overall in the long term.

The Lazy Student

lazy student

Lazy students” are good at finding time and/or energy saving techniques or tools so they can study smarter not harder. In fact, they go out of their way to do this!

Normal students are usually good at following instructions to the letter. Whether it be from their teacher or a textbook, it’s always “learn it this way” or “practice it that way”.

Obviously, these instructions don’t work for everyone. These are usually repetitive, monotonous activities that actually add less value the more you do them.

The lazy student values their time and will look for ways to automate (at least partially) these boring activities to save them time or energy.

Study Smarter Not Harder

study smarter not harder

I’ll illustrate this with an example. Let’s say your Japanese teacher gives you 7 days to learn 70 new words and they tell you to do this by handwriting each one 20 times.

A normal student might spend an hour every day doing this to reach this goal for a total of 7 hours (i.e. 10 new words per day). This isn’t a fundamentally bad way to learn since they’ve reached their goal within the timeframe.

On the other hand, a lazy student would groan at the thought of having to write the same words over and over. They still want to learn those 70 new words, but want to do it on their terms.

The lazy student would probably spend 1 hour adding the words to an Anki deck, and spend 20-30 minutes every day learning and reviewing the cards for a total of 4 hours.

Interesting, right? The lazy student spent less time studying, but achieved the same end goal set by the teacher.

What would you do with the extra 3 hours? It’s completely up to you – maybe learn an extra 20 words? Spend it watching more Netflix (probably what I’d do)?

This is a simple example, but the idea can be widely applied by asking the following critical questions:

  1. What is the ultimate goal?
  2. What is the fastest way to reach that goal?

The ultimate goal here is to learn 70 new words in 7 days. The lazy student identified this and decided the fastest way to get there would be to use Anki.

Of course, if the teacher’s goal was to grade you on the neatness of your handwriting or whether you can remember the stroke order of a difficult kanji, the normal student might win. But for all intents and purposes, the lazy student was able to study smarter not harder.


You can really start to see the power of laziness when your workload increases. For example, during examination periods or when you have lots of assignments.

In the previous example, the technique used by the normal student could work for 10 words per day, but scales linearly as you add more words. i.e. if 10 words took 1 hour, 30 words would take around 3 hours.

Furthermore, this is just time spent learning words – not taking into account revising the words you learnt in previous days.

As the workload increases, the lazy student using Anki is a clear winner. After creating the cards, Anki’s Spaced Repetition algorithm takes over and it helps you learn new words and revise words from previous days.

Based on personal experience, you can learn 30 new words and review 60 past words in a 1 hour Anki session. Keep in mind I’m no smarter than the average student, and probably have a less than average memory.


Being a lazy student doesn’t necessarily make you a bad student.

Good students that are lazy still want to learn, but want to spend less time and energy doing boring things. They take charge of their own education and find tools and techniques that work for them instead of doing what they are told.

Embrace the lazy mentality and study smarter not harder.

Are you a lazy student? What tools or tricks do you use to make your study more efficient? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!