I consider myself a MTT trainee (note: i'm only playing online) and as
@jim try to push my game. Here's what i do.
As with everything practice helps. But i'm always try to find a balance between buy-in vs quality of play to withstand lots of tourneys where i min-cashed or not at all. I don't really care about the results at this moment. I just use a fixed bankroll able to withstand lots of quality games. I get ITM% around 10+ and that's fine but i'm mostly interesting on problematically played hands after the tourney. As i always try to find reasons to fold, i always try to find reasons to evaluate problematic hands. I'm always trying to fix my worst plays and never really look at my wins or won hands. Not now.
In addition, i would have also a bigger sample of awkwardly played hands so i can evalute better after the tourneys. Also my plan balances between
playing + reading + evaluating. I never, for example, try to read 150 book pages because i want to carve book stuff into my head while playing this stuff. Also playing too much isn't good either. Quality play requires lots of energy and time.
I think sharing your day between playing, reading and evaluating in equal will improve one's arsenal overtime and that's logical. I like to think myself as a trainee which needs training and games rather results. That also solves the tilt issue, making you a more focusing player.
Also, when i read books i try to
focus or enter the pro's mind for playing a hand. I push myself hard to not fall into that tendency of snap-reading and say
ok, next. Trying to grasp the plays, especially from pros close to your own style, really helps your game overtime since the play gets sticked on brain. For example
Super System is a book not going to read, ever, regardless it's cult status. I consider myself more of a TAG rather a LAG to read that book so i'm more close to books like anything of Harrington, Winning tournaments one hand at a time and such. Kill Phil, no. In short, getting more selective of books and internet articles will make you better player as well. Also be very careful of advices given by players that play a different style from you. Internet's full of this.
Recently i started reading the
Mental game of poker (thanx @Brent Morrow). The book capitalizes on trying to fix your errors, both mentally and hand errors, in order to play better poker overtime, thus improving technically and mentally. Most people try to read technical books (me too!) but i found some errors of mine were due to my mental mindset being fishy. I called here and there several times, knowing that's wrong. I was a TAG on tables but a mental fish sometimes and sadly that costed me more. Re-evaluating that mental state again might save your $$ next time.
Finally, as said on my comment, play tons of games. Eliminate the brutal MTT variance. I got busted a number of times with
AJs vs loose
42/7 playerthat called me with
55 and hit a set on turn. I'm not panicking, i still made a good play against that player. I'm ok because my play was justified on flop and feel ok.
I hope i helped @jim , although i'm exclusively playing online.