The recent post outlined three trading journal formats that can be useful for traders. Regardless of the type of journal that you undertake, however, several overriding principles should prove to be helpful:
1) Make Your Journal Entries Goal-Oriented - Nothing supercharges a journal more than turning simple observations into concrete goals. When you observe something that you did wrong, the next step is to figure out what you could do differently in the same situation, and then make that a goal for the next day. That places you in an active frame of mind where you are actually looking for situations that could trigger your problem pattern, so that you can proactively handle those situations in a constructive way. For instance, if you notice that you tend to get bogged down in negative thinking after taking a loss, you can set a goal of approaching the next loss constructively, using it to better understand the market (or your trading).
2) Make Your Journal Entries Solution-Focused - Too many journal entries focus on what traders do wrong. Unwittingly, this keeps traders mired in negative thinking and discouragement. By giving equal voice to strengths--what you're doing right, what's working for you--you can use the journal as a tool for cultivating your best performance.
3) Make Your Journal Learning Focused - Every set of journal entries should identify lessons learned. If you're journaling about markets, the entries should crystallize what you're learning about market patterns. If you are writing about yourself, your journal should focus on what you've learned about your patterns and which ones work for and against you. As I've noted in a different context, you cannot guarantee that every trading day will be profitable, but you can make sure that each day provides growth, learning, and development.