Habit XII

by zenquaker

This evening will be one month working on the habit of studying Chess every night after dinner, using the Simple Method from the Habit Course. I’m glad I took the course, even though I don’t think it was really worth the money I spent on it. Thankfully, the money issue is not really bothering me much. So much for that concern.

The habit is going really well. Illustrative of this are two times this week I had conflicts between the habit and other things I wanted to do. In one case, I just plowed right through and did the habit. I didn’t even have to expend much willpower in order to do that. In the other case, I delayed for ten minutes so that I could finish something else. The key is that right after finishing the something else (an episode of NCIS I was in the middle of watching), I went straight to doing my Chess study. The urge was still there.

The habit is going well and it’s been four weeks, and under the Simple Method that means I can start a new habit. Under the current plan, that means working on the habit of grabbing an apple every day after coming out of the bathroom in the morning. The idea is that on the weekdays I will put it in my pocket to eat walking from the Metro to my cubicle, and on the weekends I will just eat it straight up. Normally with the Simple Method you up the time spent on your habit by five minutes every week. That doesn’t make a lot of sense for eating an apple. So the extra effort for this habit will be to drink a glass of water right after eating the apple. I don’t drink a lot of plain water, and it would probably be good to drink some consistently. It won’t really be a glass, though. I’ve got an old Gatorade bottle I can fill up from the water fountain (the second of the three R’s).

There’s also the question of what to do with my current habit of working on my Chess game. The plan had been to ramp it up to 30 minutes a day, 15 minutes of tactics study and 15 minutes of other study. The current “other” was to write up flash cards for the two books I’ve read recently (My System and The Amatuer’s Mind). However, the plan was to expand that into a rotating study of different aspects of the game. Today I started planning how that rotation was going to work. In doing so, I came across a article stating that you should spend 30 to 60 minutes a day on tactics study alone. I have a feeling the author of that article is right. Doing just the minimum recommended would mean ramping the Chess habit up to 60 minutes a day, 30 minutes each for tactics and other study. Based on that, I worked up the following rotation schedule:

  • Monday: Study openings, both the main lines of the popular openings, and deep study of my opening repertoire. I don’t want to limit this to the straight moves of the openings, but I also want to study strategically important points for each of the openings.
  • Tuesday: Study visualization (seeing the board in your mind without looking at it). I’ve come across several visualization problems to work on, and I think I could write a Python program to create situations for the different problems and check my answers. Eventually this may expand into attempts to play blindfold chess.
  • Wednesday: Book study. Read a chess book, articles online, or watch chess videos. I’m also going to want to make flash cards for these to study.
  • Thursday: Endgame study. Both memorizing the basic endgames (many of which I know, but I doubt I could do a two bishop mate to save my life) and doing endgame puzzles on Chess Tempo.
  • Friday: Game study. Play through an annotated master level game.
  • Saturday: Actual play. Play an actual game (against Shredder, live online, or at the Lakeforest mall).
  • Sunday: Analyze the game I played on Saturday with the aid of one or more engines.

If I extend my study time by 10 minutes every week, I will be up to an hour of study every day by the end of the month. This will coincide perfectly with two other events. One, I should be very close to finishing the flash cards for the two Chess books mentioned above. Two, I should be in good shape on the apple/water habit, and ready to move on to a third habit. The third habit in the current plan is to start working on flashcards during the commute. So I will have all the flash cards ready right when I’m ready to start studying them seriously.

Now, adding ten minutes a week is faster than the Simple Method recommends. There are other ways I want to push the method as well. So the plan is to push with the ten minutes a week, but not push on anything else, and to keep an eye on things in case I need to tone back.