This famous quote from Bobby Fisher inspired me to stop playing blitz and bullet online in the course of this project. The reason? I finally accepted that a real addiction had been created over time, which consumed my time and created more frustration than pleasure.
As I realized quickly after a week or two, breaking a bad habit requires not only an iron will, but above all a solid plan.
So if you too think it’s time to limit your blitz dependence or if you want to put aside any other bad routine, here are the actionable steps you can take to reach your goal.
Understand the cause of your bad habit
Let’s refer back to the habit loop I presented you with in a previous article and start decomposing the practice of playing online into the three parts: cue, routine and reward.
Be sure to write down specifically the answers from all the questions below.
First, you need to start asking yourself what exactly triggers your desire to play. As a reminder, all habit cues fall into 5 categories. I transformed these categories into direct questions to help you during the process:
- Is there a specific time of day when the need of play urges?
- Where do you usually do it?
- Is there someone nearby when the need starts?
- Is it maybe an emotion such as the stress or boredom?
- Is it always the same preceding behavior?
Next, identify the routine. In this particular case, playing blitz online is the routine but it could be snacking, procrastinating on internet… Anything you consider bad for you in a way or another.
Finally, write down specific answers concerning the rewarding aspect of the activity.
- How do you feel after playing?
- Is it the competition that satisfies you? Or just relaxing? Maybe it’s friendship you enjoy?
- What do you do right after your game?
By completing this exercise, you will understand how bad habit has built up in your daily life.
Personally, I finally concluded that playing blitz was my favorite way of procrastination. As soon as I had something which I consider hard work, I used a quick game to help me reduce anxiety.
I wouldn’t say there was a problem with me playing one blitz from time to time, especially with the reward of entertainment after one or two games, but the truth was I couldn’t stop and felt the urge to play more and more once I had started.
Replace the bad routine with a good one…
Now that you have spent some time identifying all three elements that form the routine, you are ready to take action. It’s usually a great idea to replace your bad habit by a new and possibly useful one. You can click on my habit page to get some ideas if you don’t know where to start.
Rather than playing, I said to myself I would open my Feedly app and start reading some articles a few minutes for this project.
…And make sur to maintain the same reward
Choose to read instead of playing looked perfect at first sight. However, I didn’t think about the fact that my initial goal when starting a blitz was to have fun. So, to make sure I wouldn’t lose this part, I added chess and football articles to my newsfeed.
20 seconds trick
So, the good resolution is on its way. But how can you be sure not to fall back into your bad behavior after a few days? Shawn Achor discusses the key to success in his book[i]: the 20 second rule.
The principle is quite simple but extremely efficient: you must put barriers between yourself and your bad habit to make sure it will take more than 20 seconds to start doing it.
To test his idea the first time, he decided to remove and then hide the batteries of his TV in another room. Here were his findings:
“The next few nights when I got home from work, I plopped down on the couch and pressed the ‘on’ button on the remote – usually repeatedly – forgetting that I had moved the batteries. Then, frustrated, I thought to myself, ‘I hate that I do these experiments’. But sure enough, the energy and effort required to retrieve the batteries – or even to walk across the room and turn the TV on manually – was enough to do the trick.”
Therefore, I unsubscribed and I used a web application (leechblock if you’re interested) to block the website I used to play blitz on.
Blitz chess doesn’t necessarily kills your ideas
Blitz chess doesn’t necessarily kills your ideas
Since I started, I have honestly had some off days but I do feel better now when I read and learn new information for this project instead of getting frustrated after too many games.
I had to take action because it had almost reached the stage of addiction. Once the 6 first months of my experiment will be finished, I only play blitz online for the fun of it. I really do think blitz can be a great source of entertainment and at the same time great chess training.
[i] Achor, S. (2011) . The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work. New york, The United States of America. Random house.