What are some ways of improving focus during longer timer controls? I mostly play blitz (3+0) and I have been moving towards rapid. I find that I see tactics more easily in my blitz games than in my rapid games, which is counterintuitive. I tend to lose focus rather easily.
IMO, you're forgetting something.
In blitz (and partially in bullet games), you have fewer time, but your opponent as well. Depending on the level of your adversary (and your own level of course) it is harder to keep everything defendend as solid as you would do in a classic/rapid game.
And as we know:
"When loose pieces are on the board, tactics arrive."
But in rapid games both players have more time to think through and therefore the defenses are -normally- better organized. Loose pieces won't show up as easily, unless you force your opponent. You should therefore invest more in positional and long-term thinking (make up a plan!).
Blitz and bullet focus more on short-term 'quick wins'. Rapid leans more towards classical play. Therefore play it more like a classical game, but don't overthink all the moves since the time is limited. Invest in a good opening repertoire and train how you can win the typical end games that follow the openings you tend to play.
Also, a tip (I often see this with my chess students): don't confusing winning a rapid play in 5 minutes with a real rapid game on eg. 20 min. If you win the game in that timing, you just played a blitz game with rapid timings.
So in short: look for tactics, but if you can't find them: continue with your long-term plan.
PS: Don't forget that most regular/club level players play 90% of their games in the same tempo (ie. bullet, blitz, rapid, classic or correspondence). Every type has it's own dynamics and required playing style. So just play a lot of rapid games and you'll improve by yourself.
I can sooo relay to that - I tend to play Blitz too...even in a tournament game. (The upshot is that it acts as a bit of psycho terror on the opponent :-) Since it is a character trait, it is very hard to countervene that, and even worse, in 99% of all cases I'd play the same move anyway after pondering longer. It is the 1% where you overlooked a tactics of the opponent that cost you dearly, and my only advice might be that before you play the move, just for a second pretend to be your opponent...what would the other side play?
P.S. I don't think it is counterintuitive that you see tactics faster in a blitz game, since there you concentrate your brain power on tactics. You'd have to be very strong and/or very experienced to automatically play positionally good moves.
Heh, when I was young I was better at blitz than "normal" chess, as well. As I improved I started to realize that wasn't strictly true, I just degraded less than my opponents, so my results were better; it didn't mean my playing strength was higher.
There is certainly something about the pressure of having to come up with a move now that focuses the mind, though, that maybe you can harness. Next time you're in a longer game, pretend you're blitzing and look for the move. Don't act on it, just look for it. When your "Blitz Brain" comes up with its move, take a little more time to really analyze it. See if it's actually good. Does it stand up to a deeper scrutiny? If so, only then play it. IOW, treat your "Blitz Brain" as a candidate move generator.