Be honest. Does this sound like you?
You buy a chess book and start to read it. Then, when you’re halfway through it, you spot another interesting-looking book.
Naturally, you decide to buy it too! Then, later that evening, before you’ve even finished the first book, you start reading the new one.
Before you know it, the other book on your bedroom floor starts gathering dust. It cries itself to sleep, hoping you’ll pick it back up. Until eventually, one day, you place it back onto your bookshelf, half-read and destined to remain unfinished.
No? Then, how about this…
You scroll through Facebook and see an ad for an exciting new chess course. You buy it! And then, after watching only the first few sections, your friend recommends another course. You decide to get it, and of course, you don’t finish watching either of them!
If so, you’re not alone
Not only do most chess lovers face this problem, but most professionals do too.
Myself, I had this problem in the past.
Soon, I’ll share my thoughts on how to avoid this trap, but first I have one more question for you.
Have you ever decided that you’ll finally read that book, or watch that video course, or switch from 1.d4 to 1.e4, but the task seemed so big, that you kept procrastinating and never even got started?
If so, you’re still not alone
My hope is that after reading this article you’ll see how to become a chess player that can complete book by book, course by course, task by task, and continuously grow.
Planning is everything
The main reasons why people don’t achieve what they set out to is because of poor planning, or no planning at all.
Sometimes, they take random actions, or their ‘plan’ is very weak.
Do you know the six P’s rule?
And sometimes people have big plans, but they don’t break them down into smaller steps...
Why only in life, why not in chess?
Most of us have to-do lists to help us organize our day-to-day lives.
We write down what we need to do this year, this month, this week, today, what we need to buy from the store, etc…
We prioritize what’s urgent and what’s not.
Then, we organize it. Some people keep it all in their heads, some write it down on paper, or some use software like “Microsoft To Do”.
We do this with our lives, so why not do the same when it comes to chess?
Interestingly, I found that very few people are doing it, but the ones who do are the ones that increase their rating the fastest.
So let’s do it! Let’s create your lists, organize your chess journey, and speed it up.
You’ll be amazed by how much you’ll increase your productivity.
If you’ve figured out the goal of your chess journey, your WHY, and you’ve created a plan of how you’ll achieve it, that’s great!
Now, let’s turn it into an action plan which you can use to track your progress and hold yourself accountable.
To start off, it’s a good idea to write down all the things you’re looking to study or achieve.
For example, you might be aiming to complete specific books, watch certain courses, or analyze particular openings.
Whatever it is, write everything down.
And, hopefully, you’ll create something similar to this:
Don’t worry if your own list is 10 times bigger or smaller than this – just write down anything that comes to your mind.
Next, using the list that you just created, you need to create a new list that only contains the tasks you want to achieve this year.
Then once you have a task list for ‘this year’, you should do the same for ‘this month’, ‘this week’, and ‘today’.
In total, you’ll have the following 5 lists:
1. All your to-dos
2. This Year
3. This Month
4. This Week
NOTE: Depending on how much time you can invest in your chess study, you can decide to have just 3 lists or 5 lists, or go further and have 10 – it’s all up to you.
Every day, before you start to work on your chess, you should create your ‘today’ to-do list, using your ‘this week’ list to help you.
At the start of each week, you should create your ‘this week’ list using your ‘this month’ list to help you.
And every 1st of the month you should make your ‘this month’ list... and I’m sure you’ve already guessed which list will help you do this
NOTE: When creating your main to-do list, it’s very smart to get advice* from someone who has already achieved what you want to achieve in your chess journey.
* If you’re a PRO Member and haven’t reserved your free welcome 1-1 call with a Grandmaster, you should!
What if you made your plan for ‘today’ and your IM friend, who’s 400 points higher rated than you, offers you to play a friendly mini-match?
I hope you don’t say “No, I need to finish the Benko course.”
In the same way, you might change, edit, or replace some of the tasks you have put on your list.
Be flexible, and if something comes up which may accelerate your growth faster than what you already had on your list, do it.
Just be careful not to deviate too far from your main goal.
When I started to use to-do lists, I had a challenge.
Often, I was working 15 hours per day, just doing task by task, fully focused, starting from early in the morning until late at night.
But at the end of the day, when I was tired and couldn’t even get out of my chair, I could see uncompleted tasks on my ‘today’ list.
It was really frustrating to work all day and then instead of feeling that I had ‘won the day’ to feel that I had lost because I hadn’t completed all the tasks.
I asked my brain coach what I was doing wrong and after checking my to-do lists, along with a few other things, he said:
“Avetik, you’re putting too much pressure on yourself and you’re unrealistic about the number of tasks you can complete in a certain time.”
He was right… I made the required changes and everything fell back into place.
So, dear chess lovers, don’t repeat my mistake.
Don’t add too many tasks in your to-do lists.
If you constantly fail to complete the tasks by the deadline, then you have ‘Avetik syndrome’
But at the same time, don’t add so few tasks that you finish much earlier. In time, you’ll find a happy medium.
The big tasks
What if you have a big task? Like, finally switching from your old London system to 1.e4?
A major reason for procrastinating on big tasks is that they appear so large and formidable when you first approach them…
The good news is that there’s an easy solution.
Have you heard the old question, “How do you eat an elephant?”
Well, the answer is...
In other words, you break it down into smaller, specific step-by-step activities, and then you start on the first one.
For example “To learn 1.e4” can be added to your ‘this year’ list.
The ‘Anti-Sicilian with 2.Nc3 course’ can be added to your ‘this month’ list.
The first two parts of the courses can be added to your ‘this week’ list.
And learning the Grand Prix attack against 2...d6 to your ‘today’ list.
That’s it. Just resolve to complete each task you add to your ‘today’ list.
If somehow you fail at the start, make a decision to develop the habit of completing your daily tasks.
If you need accountability, and you already found a training partner show them your list and make a promise to them that you’ll complete your tasks by the deadline you’ve set.
If your partner also has such a list, it’s even better.
You can agree that whoever doesn’t meet their deadline has to buy a big box of chocolates or a bottle of wine for the other person
This one might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it’s just as important to know what not to do.
Creating a not-to-do list is great for directing your attention toward your most important and essential tasks, and actively avoiding what doesn’t matter at the moment or what may slow your progress down.
With regards to chess, It may look something like this:
Again, it can be much bigger or smaller than this. It depends on how many bad habits you have and how many of them you want to get rid of.
What software should you use?
Writing everything down on your computer is much easier and more effective than storing your to-do list in your head.
With software, you can easily delete, replace, or edit your tasks.
You can make sub-tasks, assign a value to them, and much more.
There are a lot of different programs you can choose from.
The one I use is Microsoft To Do.
You can do your own research by googling ‘To-do list’ or ‘Task Management software.’
Let’s do it!
The #1 reason why some people get their work done faster than others is that they are absolutely clear about their goals and objectives, and they don’t deviate from them.
Creating a plan and sub-plans will take time, but it’s worth it, as it will save you a lot of wasted time.
Often I’m asked, how do I manage to run everything?
To run ChessMood, write articles, launch new courses, organize streams and webinars, answer in the forum, work with the ChessMood team, and all the rest...
Well, I have my own secrets.
And one of them I just openly revealed. I organize everything.
Hopefully, you’ll add this to your arsenal.
Set out your goals, make your to-do lists, be open-minded, and be ready to edit your list.
Just don’t deviate from your dreams, goals, and your journey.
P.S. In our forum, you can share your thoughts and the to-do lists that you’ll create. Our community is very supportive. You might get good advice from many more experienced people. I’ll also try to offer you advice and feedback on your lists.