Through your chess journey, chances are you will have highs and lows, especially if you work hard to improve your skills. Studying hours and hours and not seeing clear results over the board can be really frustrating.
To avoid these variations of feelings and stay on course, one excellent approach is journaling.
It will not only help you clear your mind of stuff that is cluttering it, but more important prevent you from deviating from your priorities.
Historically, people have always seen diaries as phrase books destined at putting words on your emotions. If this is still true today, journaling has also taken a lot of different forms this last decade, notably for business and self-help purposes. I will recap here the ones which can be tremendously advantageous for you as a chess player:
- Clear your head: for some of you who remember my article on decision fatigue, you know that your brain can be overwhelmed by bouncing thoughts and thus unable to process optimally. Journaling is an effective tool to help your thoughts sort themselves out. Simply take the habit to note everything you have in mind to help you keep your mental credit for important decisions, like the ones during your chess game.
- Overview of your chess plan: by crunching your ideas onto paper, you engage in a creative process which will allow you to brainstorm for effective solutions to plan your chess improvement. Are you using the right method? Do you need a coach? What about your repertoire? Once you will get a clearer picture of the kind of work you need to do, you will additionally explore new lines of thinking more easily.
- Reflection: writing down your chess ambitions and its results make it easier to reflect on your chess progression. What didn’t go as planned and why during the tournament? What did you miss that you can do to get better next time you train or play?
These 3 uses are already great. But guess what? The impact of journaling goes far beyond that.
Unexpected effects of writing
Ranging from Mark Twain to Georges Lucas, some of the most successful people in history kept a daily journal and I would not be surprised if top GMs do it too.
I have already mentioned the fact that you can gain clarity by having a written overview and here are other aspects which will also benefit from it:
- Express gratitude: I recently wrote about the benefits of gratitude for your chess needs. If you’re not doing it orally, writing the 3 reasons a day you are grateful for will reinforce your belief.
- Fight your fears: when you write down what you are afraid of, you begin to think rationally about it and see that a lot of your fears and worries are either unjustified, or something you can overcome with preparation.
- 3 tasks a day: By defining and writing the most important 3 tasks you want to accomplish today, you condition your brain to not forget them during the entire course of the day. Start with 3 and only 3 accountabilities and you will see how powerful this rule can be for boosting your productivity.
Take a pen and start journaling
Recording your experiences and reflections on a regular basis is a really good way to stay focused and aligned to your chess plan, while reviewing all your progression in order to stay motivated. And all that even without taking into account the hidden benefits of writing. Talking about benefits, did I mention that journaling can put you in a meditative state and thus help rewire your brain?
5 minutes a day, a pen and a sheet of paper is all you need to start journaling.
Personally, as I’m not currently in chess training mode because of my experiment, I use my journal to express gratitude, write 3 things I’m grateful for each morning and finally plan my day.
But I do encourage you to journal your chess activities if improving your level is a target to you.