It has been a long time since I trained as efficiently as I did this morning. In barely 3 hours, I ticked various to-dos from my opening list. I not only completely updated one of my main openings with black, but also found various new ways to get my future opponents out of theory early on.
I also updated two other opening files and even left my office 5 minutes early! It feels to me that in these 3 hours, I improved my chess more than I did in the past week.
So what was the difference?
I started to work again based on a clear plan.
Why A Plan Helps
In order to be efficient it is very helpful to set boundaries. Having a clear plan of when and what to study gives you the needed structure to work efficiently on your chess. Last month, I had to cancel two tournaments on short notice because of travel restrictions. So for a moment, I did not really have anything to prepare for.
Feeling fed up with all that planning “for nothing” I decided I will just study whenever I feel like and what I feel like. Even though I knew that planning the training is super important, I could not bring myself to do it. There is no pressure for any immediate tournament, so let’s take it easy, I thought.
What followed were some weeks where I felt constantly busy, but did not really get any serious training done!
As I never really did any good quality training, I constantly felt bad about wasting my time. Whenever I sat down to study, I did not know what to do. Analyze some openings? Watch some group lessons? Solve some puzzles?
I did a mix of all the above but nothing was really right. In those days, I was also much more prone to play uncontrolled blitz online. Only by writing an article on not tilting, could I stop myself from constantly losing game after game.
So for this week, I told myself I will simply plan 3 hours of focused chess a day (which is very few for my standards). I set myself the goal to do all overdue analyses for my upcoming tournament (starting 19th of April) until Friday.
And it worked! The training was not only much more efficient, but I also had much more fun doing it. I ticked one opening after another off of my list and finished more than half of the goals for this week in one day!
How To Do Your Plan
Now it is time that you start profiting from the magic of a training plan. Just follow these 3 steps to set up your own plan. Take a piece of paper and a pen, or open a blank word file.
It is very crucial that you write the plan down. If it exists only in your head, it will not be clear enough!
1) Define The Amount Of Time
Think about how much time you want to invest in your chess improvement in the coming week. Define an amount of time that you are absolutely sure you will be able to invest. Do not jump from 15 minutes a day to 3 hours a day.
If you do so, most likely you won’t be able to do your planned training and will lose motivation soon after. I think between 30-60 Minutes daily is a good place to start. This would mean 3.5-7 hours weekly. If you do that training right, you can improve tremendously.
2) Reserve The Time Slots
Now let’s say you choose to study 3.5 hours a week. If you do not fix exact times you will always find something more urgent or fun to do. Sunday comes and you did not really do any concentrated training. That is why you should fix clear slots.
It does not matter greatly when you reserve this time, but there are some general rules to follow:
- One chess slot should be at least 30 Minutes
- No multitasking!
- Choose a time when you can still focus
Some people might prefer to do every day 30 Minutes from 5.30-6 PM, while others will do two big training on Saturday and Sunday. Some prefer to wake up earlier and do Chess before going to work, while others will do it in the evenings. You are free and you can also try out different things.
Just make sure to reserve the time in your Calendar!
3) What Are You Working On?
You have your time slots and now you only have to fill them with some constructive chess training. To avoid confusion it is important to define what you do exactly. Wide topics like “endgame” “middlegame or “openings” are NOT working. You can still do thousands of different things.
To make the point more clear, look at this daily plan I did about a year ago:
It is in German but I think it is rather clear. I specify what kind of opening work I do and which line I look at. For studying a book I would specify the book and Chapter. Same counts for Video Lessons or anything else basically.
What exactly you want to study during those hours is totally up to you. Try to really focus on this time and not mix it with free time activities. Checking out some chess tweets or watching twitch should not count as training! This is free time!
Control Yourself And Improve Upon Your Plan
I hope you have now a plan for the next week in front of you. If not, please go back to step one and do it! Whenever you complete your planned session take 5 Minutes to write down what you did exactly. It could look like this:
Plan: 5.30-6PM Chapter 1 Build Up Your Chess –> I was so into the flow that I studied from 5.30-6.15PM. Finished Chapter 1 including the puzzles at the end of the Chapter.
This will help you:
- Stay motivated, because you feel well to accomplish your Plan
- Know where you left off the last time and avoid confusion
- Improve your Plan for the coming week, as you see if you should rather do more/less etc.
And now you are ready to work consistently with the help of a plan for your chess improvement. Have fun!