“It is better to have a bad plan than no plan.” This quote from Garry Kasparov emphasizes the importance of strategic planning while playing, which is also true for your time. Time is precious and has to be managed adequately to get the most of it. And by planning it well, you will finally have some space to improve your chess.
I propose to you a quick 5-step guide to help you split and organize your free time optimally, while including your chess training schedule.
1) Calculate your free time
Depending on your situation and the number of responsibilities you have in life, you have more or less time to dedicate to chess. So the first thing to do is to get an overview of what your typical week is made up of. Let’s do the math.
There are 168 hours in a week.
Considering a demanding job (10h a day rides included) and sleeping (8h a day) are obligatory,
62 hours are left. (168h- 50 hours of work – 56 hours of sleep)
Out of the 62 hours, most of us will have necessary tasks like household chores or administrative tasks.
Ideally think of batching a maximum of them together in one or two days in order to execute these duties as efficiently as possible. I suggest you think about it during the course of next week and make a list. Try the batching system the following week and compare how much time you gained. I’ll let your discover how interesting it can be.
So let’s get back to calculating and let’s give these tasks an estimate of 6 hours a week.
Let’s finally count another 6 hours of unforeseen obligations to finally get to 50 hours.
What to do with the remaining free time now?
2) Find the balance between your priorities and plan them
At this stage, except if you live alone, the best thing to do is to discuss with your family members how to optimize this remaining time. The objective will be to find the right balance between the “alone” time and that spent together.
There is only one rule to respect here, take an hour or two to plan these 50 hours. Some of you could say there is a lack of spontaneity in doing this and I won’t contradict you. I will however mention the benefits that could certainly surpass this feeling:
- You look forward to good events and feel excited as they gets closer
- You waste less time procrastinating
- You finally do entertaining activities you never did before just because of a lack of planning
What’s next? Repeat the process every week of course!
3) Decide when you will do your chess training
Congratulations! You have just decided what would be your own dedicated time. Now, you just have to decide how many hours you will invest in your chess training.
If possible, try having blocks of 2 hours minimum at the same moment every week (same day, same hour) as it will ease the habit creation and allow you sufficient time to make your training session efficient.
You should also note that from one week to another, chances are the amount of time you devote to chess could change. So be sure to maintain at least 2 blocs (you’ll manage to free up these 4 hours, won’t you?) every week to keep the rhythm, except if you voluntary decide to take a break of course, which is a different story.
Just in case, you can still use the techniques I presented to you here to free up more time.
4) Define how to improve your game
Here we are, you now have the magic number of hours for your weekly chess training. You are ready for a thinking session.
Rather than diving directly into business, use your entire first week to ponder carefully about how you will improve. Carry out some research and define these 3 elements:
- What will your material support be? Internet, books, DVDs…? Or maybe you can afford a coach?
- On which aspect will you focus? Endings? Middle game strategies? What about your opening repertoire? And game analysis?
- How much time will you play? By the way, consider rapid instead of blitz as it will force you to think more and not only rely on your intuitions.
You probably noticed I didn’t talk about tactics. It is because I suggest doing them during your downtime along the day. These moments where you have 5 or 10 minutes with nothing to do (commutes for instance?), take the reflex to use your smartphone. With modern technology, it has never been easier to practice tactics everywhere and at any time!
5) Focus on the process and make it a habit
I have already mentioned this essential step in a previous article but it is definitely worth repeating.
The idea of the whole method is to build your own routine of improvement and keep it up. Forget about any goals you want to achieve for now, and put your efforts towards trying to respect your programmed sessions.
By avoiding putting too much pressure on yourself about getting results, improvements will come more naturally.
It is up to you now
Following this guide requires a lot of organization and being a really fuzzy person myself, I know the idea of planning can be challenging.
Even if you don’t think it will work for you, forget your preconceptions momentarily and give it a try for a month.
As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. So, are you sure you don’t want to give yourself a chance and raise your Elo?