A Trade Log is Not the Same as a Mindset Journal – Numbers Aren’t Enough:
When it comes to tracking trade data, most people only think about the figures and statistics – things like entry prices, exit prices, stop losses, profit targets, risk-reward ratios, percentage of winning/losing trades, gains, losses, etc. It’s all about the numbers.
And while these numbers/analytics can be extremely helpful, they’re missing a core piece to the puzzle – what’s going on inside their own mind and body (personal thoughts, feelings, and sensations). These are the insights that a mindset journal can help capture.
In my opinion, it’s not a one or the other decision between having a trade log and trade journal – you absolutely need both if you’re committed to becoming the best trader you can be. Your growth, development, and overall success relies on this data/feedback.
What can be a bit confusing is the terminology that’s often used. Most services that I would categorize as “trade logs” call themselves “trade journals”. But they’re usually 95-100% focused on sorting and crunching numbers – not meaningful mindset components.
I’m not knocking these services at all because I understand that there’s only so much they can do. Some offer a “dropdown” of emotions to choose from for each trade or “notes” sections to share a sentence or so of thoughts. But that’s about as far as it goes.
Top 2 Trading Mindset Journals:
The fact is: no electronic platform can replicate the power of a handwritten journal. This is an area that requires manual work.
Get the Most Out of Your Trading Mindset Journal With Structure and Consistency:
It’s up to you to decide on the exact structure of your trading mindset journal. But I personally find it beneficial to break down my own into 3 main sections representing the 3 critical phases of the trading day: Preparation, Trading, and Review.
This is the routine you go through before actually sitting down to trade. This includes everything from eating breakfast, meditating, exercising, scanning charts, etc. There are specific questions you might want to ask yourself after completing this routine:
- What’s on My Mind/How am I Feeling Today?
- Am I Prepared For the Upcoming Session/Did I Go Through My Routine?
- Is Anything Bothering Me From My Personal Life That Might Impact My Trading?
Your answers to these questions are really important to document in order to understand what state of mind you’re going into the trading session with. Are you feeling tired, stressed, or distracted? Any lingering emotional impact from the previous day’s session?
By documenting and reviewing this information, you’ll be able to recognize the impact that your state of mind (even before trading) can have on your decision-making process and results. If things are off, you might want to consider not even trading that day.
This is the actual trading session when you’re waiting for specific setups and then implementing your strategy, system, or methodology. You’re placing, managing, and executing live orders within a dynamic market. Here are some prompts for your journal:
- What Are My Real-Time Thoughts, Feelings, and Sensations During This Specific Trade?
- Do I Have Any Ideas/Observations About the Market That Can Help Improve My System?
- Am I Feeling Doubt, Worry, Anxiety, and Other Negative Thoughts or Am I Trusting My Process?
This is your opportunity to write down and release any worries, mistakes, and problems that you might be facing instead of impulsively acting out your frustrations in the marketplace. Developing self-awareness can make you a lot less reactive to stress.
There’s a direct correlation between self-awareness and self-control. Those with higher levels of self-awareness tend to be better at managing emotions and behaviors. Without self-awareness, how do you know what’s controlling your decision-making process?
Don’t forget to reflect at the end of each day. This is a vital task in order to make connections and find areas for improvement. You should also consider review periods at the end of each week and month for even deeper, cumulative insights.
- How Did I Trade Today (Judge Based on Process, Not Results)?
- What Exactly Did I Do Well/Not So Well? What Could I Have Done Better?
- What Have I Learned About Myself/the Market and What Actions Can I Take to Improve Performance?
This is your opportunity to investigate your positive patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior – and make them stronger, as well as your negative patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior – and work on adjusting them to better serve you.
The documentation of your inner landscape during the first 2 phases all comes together in the review phase so that you can create a useful plan of action for the future. This is where you extract every nugget of opportunity for growth/improvement.
Mindset Journaling Can Make You More Self-Aware, Balanced, and Process-Focused:
When you commit to writing relevant and meaningful entries in your trading journal every single day, along with reviewing those entries every single day/week/month – it demonstrates your commitment to becoming a consistently profitable trader.
This tedious work of tracking trades and journaling is the road to market-mastery and self-mastery – neither of which, in my opinion, can ever truly be reached. There is no end/final destination. There’s always room for some type of improvement.
If you want to become an elite performer (which becoming a consistently profitable trader essentially requires you to be), then you have to relentlessly focus on what you can do better every single day. The cumulative effect over time is what produces superstar traders.
You’ll probably never see an advertisement from a trading guru that talks about faithfully writing in a mindset journal every single day because people don’t generally find the actual process/work involved with being a trader all that exciting.
But I don’t want to understate how crucial this exercise is to your success. It doesn’t get talked about anywhere near enough because trade alerts, hot picks, and so-called “foolproof” strategies are more enticing to the general populace of market participants.
But consistent journaling is how real traders continue to widen the gap between themselves and the masses day-after-day.
Learn More in the Trading Success Framework Course
Written by Matt Thomas (@MattThomasTP)
- What is the “Fantasy Gap” in Trading – A Major Disconnect
- Failure is Only Feedback – Use Losses and Mistakes to Grow
- Transform Yourself Into the Trader You Want to Be in 3 Steps
- The Market is a Mirror – Your Experience is a Reflection of You
- How to Properly Track Your Trades to Figure Out What Works