"Clear Intention" - Antonio Esfandiari¹
Your targets, goals and objectives should be clearly defined each day and the necessary steps to take action to reach those targets. Have them written down and easily accessible. Update them periodically.
Your time is very important. Be very selective how you choose to use your 'working' hours.
Remember that each hour you spent studying could of been an hour playing. There is an inherent opportunity cost of choosing to study over playing poker and applying what you have learnt. An often quoted playing/study ratio is 80/20 but I like to play more when I'm reaching my A-Game consistently and reduce to my playing time when I'm running bad or struggling overall.
“Good poker thinking cares about what you should spend your time on.” - Maxwell "Mersenneary" Fritz²
Focus on key areas that come up regularly
After a certain period of time spent learning about poker, you should be able to state what you learned on that day and identify specific instances of what you’ll do differently in the future in common situations. Plenty of time is spent on rare situations that will add very little to improving your winrate.
"More meaningful errors often come from less interesting situations.” -Maxwell "Mersenneary" Fritz²
Embrace the tough spots and challenging periods in your poker career.
This is by no means an easy feat. Dealing with downswings, playing in tournaments where the deck seems stacked against you from the first hand, being 'coolered' all day, facing yet another flop raise holding an overpair, all this can really break down a player. Tough situations should be welcomed by experienced, professional players since these are the areas where the real edge lies. Furthermore, once you take the time and effort to analyze these tough spots, you can handle them better in the future, thus building more confidence and improving your play. Anything worth something often means working hard and getting through difficult times.
"I enjoy the pain just as much as the pleasure" - Sorel Mizzi³
Rest and recovery is an integral part of the learning process.
When studying any material, a certain amount of time must be allowed for your brain to digest and assimilate what you had just learnt. You can think of your brain as a sponge that must be allowed to soak in the new information. There will be times when new habits need to replace old habits and sometimes this takes much longer to apply when playing - you might find yourself conflicted when facing a decision with many options available to you. Burnout and information overload are common issues when tackling vast new topics and content, make sure you give yourself a break every hour.
"Start Thinking (..stop learning)" (Barnett, J. 2012). Maintain your own creative, unique perspective.
I was blown away by a talk delivered by Jacob Barnett Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett at TEDxTeen, his energy and passion is very inspiring and at times overwhelming, but the importance of his talk cannot be underestimated. As the poker market becomes saturated with ways to play the game and many players simply want to know the 'standard' way to play their hand in that particularly situation, the importance of remaining true to your own strengths and maintain your own creative, unique perspective. (Barnett, J. 2102)
Besides the fact we only have one life and we can choose how to spend each day, our brain works very effectively when we having fun, are passionate about our work and enjoying ourselves. There is a balancing act to optimize our performance and reaching 'the zone' regarding arousal, emotion and pressure but working each day while being miserable and hating your job is simply not a great place to be in. If you are in a downswing and dreading each day you wake up to grind, take a break and re-evaluate. Give yourself an opportunity to explore other interests, exercise and relax.
1. Interview Antonio Esfandiari after winning WSOP One Drop
2. Fritz, Maxell (2011). The Mersenneary ebook. husng.com
3. Comment by Sorel Mizzi during Party Poker Premiere League Season 7
4. Barnett, Jacob (2012). Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett at TEDxTeen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uq-FOOQ1TpE&feature=kp