Do you ever play endless games on showdown but you don’t feel like you’re improving? Are you playing hundreds of games with a team just to go 0-2 versus matchups that you thought you were favored against?
Through my years of competition, I have found that the biggest flaw that countless players make is spending time playing tons of mindless games or spamming matches on auto pilot. Today I’m going to help you prevent this with my first topic in the PokéPrep series: The Session Sheet.
First, let me explain why playing a lot of games on auto pilot can be bad for your gameplay. When you develop a certain flow chart versus a specific matchup and play that same flow chart repeatedly without ever questioning it, you are preventing yourself from seeing new angles in which you can view the game and improve your team. Playing on autopilot inevitably causes a lot of tilt, ignored predictions, and missed opportunities. This prevents you from gaining valuable team/matchup info from those games, resulting in -EV in your time playing.
Now, let me introduce to you the session sheet. The session sheet is a practice I adopted from poker players. It is basically a notebook you write in everyday that you plan to practice VGC or any other game you are trying to play competitively. What you write in there is what area you plan to improve upon that day as well as reflection upon your practice session.
The session sheet is simple. All you do is start by writing down today’s date to keep track of your progress, then write down 2-3 sentences defining what area you plan on strengthening that day and how you will do it. Next, begin your session and run some games. The final step, after you complete your session of playing for the day, write down another 2+ sentences reflecting on what you learned and what you can do better next session.
Here are a few examples of a Session Sheet:
- You are trying to improve a team for an upcoming tournament.
Example of what to write in your session sheet: Work on fixing holes in the team. During each game today write down your opponents 6 in a separate notebook as well as the 4 they brought and who they dynamax. After the match mark a W or L in the corner, and give a 1-2 sentence explanation of how the match played out and how you can improve in that matchup.
Example Reflection: After 15 games today I came out with a 10-5 record, I found my team to be very weak to Durant + Redirection which resulted in 3 of the losses. Tomorrow, I will be replacing Earth Power on my Hydreigon for Heat Wave so that I can pair it with Talonflame’s Tailwind to support these matchups.
Although this act takes place outside of the session sheet since it involves taking notes in a separate notebook, the act of writing down your intention in the session sheet and having it in a place you can easily go back to, allows you to spend less time doing mindless play and more time focusing on the main goal.
There are probably other ways to solve any problem you may come across, but in this example your main focus of the day is to figure out how your team performs versus other teams, and discovering what you need to do to be more prepared against them. Nowhere on here does it say focus on the win/loss ratio!
- Rushing, and not planning out your game plan during team preview.
Example of what to write in your session sheet: During team preview, spend all of the allotted time to look at opponents team and break down the core/synergies to help formulate your decision. This means: what their best lead versus you is, as well as your own lead/back choices should be. Write down whether your decisions were correct, or incorrect in a separate journal to be reviewed after.
Example Reflection: Although I was not able to properly analyze and predict 6/10 of my opponents teams, I was able to see the benefit of taking the extra 45 seconds during team preview to think. I will continue tomorrow with another 10 games of full team preview concentration.
Here, we are just trying to fix the problem of rushing during team preview, and encouraging you to take the full time. This will allow you to have more thoughts on the matchup. It’s also important to think about the opponents team and what decisions they may make so that you can formulate the best plan from those options. I usually put in at least one example a day where you were mostly unsuccessful in your daily goal because I want to show that it is okay to fail. Failing in this context is usually not a bad thing cause it will give you more perspective towards how and where you can improve.
- Playing without distractions.
Example of what to write in your session sheet: Today I will play 10 games on Battle Spot completely undistracted to begin building general concentration on my gameplay.
Example Reflection: I was fully undistracted the first 4 games, but in game 5 I got haxed out by a Gmax Pikachu’s parylizations which caused me to start checking my phone notifications and lost me my 6th game due to distraction. After I noticed this, I took a second to look at today’s goal and was able to focus for the remaining games of the day.
If you’re anything like me in past years, then you probably play with a lot of background distractions; other video games, YouTube videos, twitch streams, etc. Anything going on in the background or on a side monitor can be very damaging to your play for one simple reason: you will not have these distractions at a live event. If you aren’t going to have these distractions during a live event, why would you want them during your practice?
I’d like to add that the session sheet goals are not meant to be completed once and then on to the next with no intention of looking back. Multiple studies show habits can usually take 3-4 weeks of daily practice to start becoming automatic, so if you really want to improve in a specific area I recommend you spend at least a couple weeks working on that area before moving onto the next. Keep in mind just because you do something for a few weeks, doesn’t mean that you will have that habit forever so keep practicing these habits even after you move on to a new habit.
As I stated before, the session sheet can be highly effective for working on any goal because the act of writing down your intention and having it in a place you can easily go back to, allows you to spend less time doing activities mindlessly and more time focused on the main goal. Sometimes identifying what areas you need to improve on may be a harder task than improving. This may be a topic I cover in a future article so stay tuned!
Video version of this article: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etqDLeDG7q0&t
Thank you for reading today’s article! If you enjoyed please give this post a share, or consider checking out my social media for more VGC improvement content. You can find my Twitter here, YouTube here and my Twitch channel here. If you have any topic suggestions for future PokéPrep articles please feel free to DM on twitter! I hope you enjoyed and I wish you a fantastic day!
“Massive action without clearly defined objectives is a form of laziness” – Tim Ferris