Finding The Time To Study

One of the major issues for anyone wishing to improve their chess is how to find the time in which to do so. Even the most talented players can find this difficult, especially if they have commitments such as a job and family. In such circumstances a free hour per day would be quite a luxury, and if one goes by the oft quoted formula that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery of a particular subject that still means more than 27 years! And if one opts instead for the lower target of being a 3,000 hour strong amateur it would still mean more than 8 years. Isn’t there an easier way?

Well whilst the difficulties are self evident I’m rather sceptical about the usage of these numbers as it completely underplays the importance of ability. It also fails to take into account the quality of these hours, for example the deliberate practice cited by Anders Ericsson in his research is a far more effective way to learn than passive approaches.

There are also ways of creating more time, for example by using commuting time or that which is spent exercising. I’ve managed to read quite a few books on my exercise bike and if you have one at home you save the time spent commuting to the gym. An exercise bike at home also presents an opportunity to watch DVDs; if they’re for a PC then a remote mouse can be used to switch between different segments.

Another major source of extra time can be the daily commute, especially for those who currently go to work by car. Taking the train instead can free up several hours per day, and if you switch off your mobile phone you won’t be interrupted by phone calls.

Last but not least there are ways of learning to sleep for 6 hours or less which are detailed in Tim Ferriss’s book The 4 Hour Body. Ferriss recommend a system of polyphasic sleep whereby you break sleep up into multiple segments so as to catch more REM sleep. The most extreme version of this with six precisely timed 20 minute naps is  is probably beyond most peoples’ schedules, but 6 solid hours plus a single 20 minute afternoon nap is not so difficult. Compared to an 8 hour sleep schedule there’s an hour and 40 minute saving, and this could knock off those 10,000 hours in less than 17 years!

Of course most people would prefer not to do this kind of thing unless they are rather driven to succeed. But it just goes to show that many things are possible if someone really wants them enough.


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: