With the New Year coming, it is a great time to review our current plans for chess improvement and perhaps set new goals. In this article, I’d like to offer a few ideas you want to consider when planning for the New Year.
Before setting some goals for the New Year, it is important to figure out your strengths and weaknesses as well as what went well and what didn’t go so well last year. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What aspect of your game improved this year?
- What was your weakest area this year?
- What training or study method worked really well for you?
- What training or study method didn’t really help you?
- What chess books did you finish?
- What parts of your opening repertoire do you need to improve?
- What middlegame concepts did you have trouble with?
- What endgame positions or principles do you need to study more?
Write down your answers to these questions and any others you may have for yourself. The general objective here is to get a picture of what you should focus your time on in the coming year. For beginning and intermediate players, increasing your knowledge and generally learning more about chess will be the order of the day, but there may be a specific area that lags behind the others.
Focus on Process Goals
We may all have outcome goals such as improving our rating by 100 points or playing the endgame better. Nigel Davies discusses outcome and process goals in another article. These are not bad things to have, but to get there, we need to take action. It is important to develop a process or schedule to achieve these goals. By focusing on the process rather than the outcome, we focus on what we can control.
Using some of the answers from our previous step, we can come up with some process goals.
There are two parts of process goals. First, you have the action to be taken. Second, you have the frequency or schedule. This makes it very easy to know if you’re on the right track or not. I use an Excel Spreadsheet to track key process goals that I have. Here are some of them:
- 10 minutes of meditation and visualization daily.
- 7 hours of sleep daily.
- Tiger Chess courses Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week.
- Review missed Chessity and Chess Tempo problems on Friday of each week.
- 20 Chessity problems daily.
- Some form of exercise daily (including active or scheduled recovery days).
Track Your Progress
As I mentioned above, I track my completion of my daily and weekly process goals. I wrote a more detailed article about measuring and tracking your chess, but the general idea is that what you measure will improve. Part of it is psychological – e.g. you want to see “high scores” when you track things.
Here are a few examples of things tracked and my progress. These aren’t meant to impress you, but to illustrate the power of measurement and tracking.
- I have currently done my tactics training for 70 straight days.
- I have slept at least 7 hours for 3 straight days, but only about 50% of the days this month. I also average 6 hours of sleep on the days I don’t sleep at least 7 hours.
- When I started using Chessity in October, my tactics rating was 1774. It is currently 1957, and I’ve crossed over 2000 on three separate occasions, all this month.
- Since starting Tiger Chess, I have yet to miss my training during the week, but several times the training was completed a day after it was scheduled.
You don’t have to go into as much detail as I do, because I’m kind of a statistics nerd, but the idea is to get an idea of how your doing. It’s also very motivating. For example, I don’t want my tactics training streak to end, so I end up doing it almost first thing when I wake up each day.
Keep a Positive Attitude
After you have set your goals and have started working on your plan, make sure that you stay positive and confident in your progress. Sometimes, we have peaks and valleys when we try to improve at anything. The key is to stay positive during the valleys and remember that we will peak again soon enough.
There has been much research into the power of self-confidence and its effects on performance. With this in mind, here are just a few ideas for you to consider trying.
- Keep a database or notebook with good moves that you’ve made. Review it regularly or when you need your confidence boosted. Remember that YOU made those moves and you’ll make good moves again.
- Keep focusing on your process and schedule and remember that the consistency in your training now may not seem to be doing anything, but they will pay dividends. It’s like running a marathon: you may not be able to see the finish line but every step you take must bring you closer to it.
- Observe and be mindful of how you talk to yourself and what you think about yourself. Think about what you are saying to yourself and ask yourself if this is something you would say to a beloved friend or to your mother – unless you don’t get along with your mother, in which case choose someone else.
- Forgive yourself for any mistakes or failures you made in the past. Learn from any short-comings, but move on from them emotionally. Stop beating yourself up.
As you begin this new year, remember that now is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. In fact, whether you had a great year or one that you would like to forget, it is a new year whether you like it or not.
I hope you find the advice in this article useful. As you may have noticed, I’ve shared some of my own personal goals and process. If you have a different method or way of organizing yourself, go for it! My way works for me and I’m continually improving and changing parts of it. The key is to get started!
I wish you the best this year and beyond. Hopefully, some of the ideas here will help make this coming year your best yet!