As a new trader, when it’s time to trade you’re focused on executing your strategy for the day. The last thing on your mind is to stop and journal. That would be weird, right? But in the heat of it all, that’s precisely what we want you to do. According to trading experts, having a trading journal is key to becoming a successful trader.
For the novice trader, the experience is the one thing that you can’t buy or make up. With a trading journal, you speed up the process of learning your style, finding patterns that work or don’t work and understanding how outside factors can affect your wins and losses during a trading day.
If you’re an experienced trader that hasn’t had a journal, you may find that keeping one makes you feel more organised compared to trading without one. Due to your years of trading, you’ve already figured out your style, strategy and the things that can lead to a bad day. But with a journal, the power of writing it all down takes that burden from your mind. It also allows you to see what happened during a trade beyond the charts and reports from your platform.
No matter your trading experience, efficiently putting a trading journal to use requires COMMITMENT. Don’t waste your time if you’re going to randomly journal and lack consistency. It will be impossible to judge your trading performance accurately. So, once you’ve committed to doing this, let’s get into actually creating one.
The first thing you should do when starting your journal is write down your goals. We’re saps for self-empowerment and the holistic approach to everything. Every time you open your journal, you should see your goals and use them to motivate you. You can also create small, short-term goals you may want to achieve within the first three months or first year of journaling.
Choose your method
The technological world has blessed us with many tools that can help make journaling more convenient. Screen capturing software like Snagit can capture images and videos of charts and trades. It also allows you to edit the capture so that you can add notes for future reference. When it comes to inputting data, Excel has stood the test of time. Using Excel allows you to create your data entry template, but if you rather not, many sites offer trading journal spreadsheets. There are also online platforms that will enable you to directly input the information while they track the data for you.
For a lot of traders, though, the old-school pen-to-paper method works best. But, a little bit of old -school and technology sounds like a winning combination.
Trading journals should be customised to fit you. Not every trader will have the same content because not every trader’s needs or strengths and weaknesses are the same. Most traders include a trading log of all the trades executed that day. Another popular element of a trader’s journal is a profit and loss report. While your trading platform should generate this report for you, many traders find it useful to have a summary of the report in their records for when they review. The rest of your report should consist of daily notes.
Your notes should contain everything that transpired throughout your day: from if you ate breakfast and what you ate, to how you felt when you took a loss or made gains and everything in between. It may sound silly at first, but realise that as a trader the smallest of things can have an impact on your mindset as you trade. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the economic environment, noting essential factors in the news – were the pre-market reports positive or negative? Etc.
Some traders separate the psychological aspect of trading from the technical perspective in their journals. It’s all about what works best for you.
When to Journal
Do not wait until the end of your trading day to jot down what happened. You will not remember every detail. As you trade, you should write down what is happening. What kind of trade are you using today? Did you take the trade where you’d planned? If not, why not? Did you have an idea of the profit you wanted before the trade? What was the profit from the trade? What was the difference between the two, if any?
When to Review
The best practice when it comes to reviewing is to do it at the end of every day so you can prepare for the next day. The purpose of doing this is to find patterns that ultimately don’t work for your benefit so that you can trade better the next time. It’s almost like homework; we all hated it, but it was necessary. The more you do it, the quicker you spot your weaknesses to correct them. While reviewing, ask yourself – did I stick to my strategy? Did I hold my targets? What changed my mind?
Don’t Overthink It
Is this an easy task? No, it isn’t, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you think of journaling as a separate task from trading, it will sound like a lot. Instead, think of it as a part of the trading process and add it to your regular trading day routine. Soon, journaling will be second nature, and your gains will thank you for it!
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