Deep chess training and how to track your training with Toggl

One problem I have come across in my own chess training, again and again, is distractions. From the noise, my phone, tv, social media, and my own ability to keep focused on one task. The connectedness of our world has the downside that we are connected almost all the time! That’s maybe why I miss over the board chess since I’m in a protected bubble for 3-5 hours.

Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work – Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, which I warmly can recommend, has four interesting ideas related to chess practice: work deeply, distance yourself from social media, embrace boredom, drain the shallows

Here are my takeaways from the book in relation to chess:

Work deeply
Do not allow distractions, and try not to set yourself up to fail by playing chess on a computer with 20 browser tabs open. If you can go offline if you are working on a PC or sit with a chess book. Try to work as long as possible on a task to train your brain to focus, before switching to a new task or finishing your session. 

Distance yourself from social media
Social Media is killing your focus, and should be kept on a long-distance when calculating difficult lines! I often end up checking Twitter getting distracted and losing my focus when I run into a hard problem, so I know this is a real area of improvement for me.

Embrace Boredom
Allow your mind to get bored sometimes instead of filling it up with apps, playing blitz, distractions, and small tasks. Cal Newport points out that recent research suggests that if your brain has time to rest it will be more creative afterward. The creativity will hopefully also benefit your chess. 

Drain the Shallows
In regards to chess, this rule can be interpreted as trying to cut unnecessary activities in order to focus on the important stuff. Eliminate all pointless distractions. Maybe you should clean up your phone for useless chess apps. Sort your chess courses on Chessable and select the few courses to focus on instead of switching between 10 courses. Quality over quantity. 

I have selected 3 courses to work on in 2021 and removed all the other courses on Chessable (soo many lines still to learn!)

In regards to phone use, Newport has coined the phrase ‘Digital Minimalism’ in his newest book, which is a way of carefully selecting a few digital tools, instead of having 40-50 apps sending you notifications all the time.

I focus on this because many chess training tools now are found as apps, chess books are now read on an app too, and you play chess on your phone as well. Another important point is that you can free a lot of time up if you cut down on your phone use. I can definitely find a lot more time by going on a digital diet!

How to use Toggl for tracking your chess training

In order to be more mindful about my own time and cut down on distractions, I have started to use Toggl to track my chess training time (it’s free to use as a single user). I have previously tried different ways to track my training, but never really discovered the right platform and way to do it. However, Toggl seems perfect. You can use it both in your browser or as an app on your phone. Here is a short video about Toggl.

Video made by Toggl to show how it works in 1 minute

At first sight, it might look like it is made for law firms, but with a little tweaking, it is perfect for tracking your chess. What in businesses are named projects I have used to make focus areas in my chess training, with projects called Calculation/Tactics, Chess playing, Endgames, Game analysis/Masters Games, Middlegame/Strategy, Openings.

Toggl dashboard

You can of course make your own names and projects eg. if you want to track how much time you waste on bullet, you can make a project called Bullet chess.

When you start tracking you can follow your weekly progress and see how you spend your time on chess.

My study and playing time last week using Toggl

Additionally, you also get mailed a weekly report with everything broken down. Under each project there are subsections with the specific tasks.

I think I had a good first week tracking with Toggl

What I did notice after the first week of tracking is that I’m getting less distracted since I don’t want to stop the time. It is also a bit more motivating to pick up a book like ‘1234 Endgame Studies’ from the bookshelf when I can see some kind of result from it. Even though I’m just tracking the training time it is making a difference…at least for me. It might be compared to tracking a long run on a running app.

Most runners choose to track data to keep an eye on progress and make sure they are staying accountable during training. Those reasons alone are enough of a benefit to the process; it is the basis for keeping a training log. However, as noted above, it is what you do with that data that is important.

6. okt. 2017 Why You Should Track Your Training | MapMyRun

Accountability towards chess training and putting in the time is definitely something I can use to reach my goal, and I think others can as well. Chess players mostly track their rating progress. Rating progress is basically the end result, and the result of the training you have done. It, therefore, makes more sense to track the training time instead of the rating progress.

I will from now on systematically start tracking my training time and explore if it makes a difference over the long run.

Write in the comments if you want to try this method together with me.


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