Trading Journal Tips

The following is an unfolding series of tweets and posts from the AlphaMind Twitter Feed which will build up into a series of tips about 'Keeping a Trading Journal'.

This series is based on Steven Goldstein's experiences as a trader in a career which lasted from 1987 to 2010. It also draws on his experience since then as a Behavioural Performance Coach working with Traders and Investment professionals from across the Financial and Commodity Markets. 

As we publish each new Tweet this will be added to this list. 

Please feel free to share with colleagues and friends, or to keep as part of your own library of Trading resources. If you have any comments or useful insights to add, please feel free to put these in the comments sessions at the bottom of this post.

The photo above shows a series of Steven's Trading Journals, which he kept by hand from 2005 to 2010 and which were coincidental to his best period of trading performance.

Trading Journal Tip #1

A trading journal is of little value if you don’t look back and review past journals and behaviours. 

There is huge value in reviewing what you did in the past, evaluating those behaviours and identifying both good & bad patterns of personal behaviour.

Trading Journal Tip #2
Do a behaviour review at every month end. Use it to identify productive behaviours, future areas of growth, progress. 

Ask 3 questions:
  • What 3 things did I do well?
  • What 3 things could I have done better?
  • What 1 thing must I work on going forward?

Trading Journal Tip #3

When you look back over past journals, try & identify patterns of behaviours that may be hidden to you in your every day work.

These hidden behaviours can reveal aspects of yourself which ‘knowledge of’ can be transformational to your performance. 

I found repeated behaviours I was blind to that I had to address. Chief amongst these was a tendency to pull bids & offers as price came close to them in order to gain a few extra ticks, or due to self-doubt. 

Often the levels I had originally placed held. Thus as a consequence I would not get the trade on, or chased it to inferior levels with inferior risk-reward. 

I was blind to how often I was doing this until one of my periodic look-backs over several old journals highlighted how I had missed out on vast amounts of p&l. 

This was part of a huge ‘output gap’

Output Gap = Potential - Performance.

The irony was my colleagues were well aware of these behaviours in me. You rarely see yourself objectively, but the clues are there if you know where to look. 

Trading Journal Tip #4
A journal is the trading equivalent of practice & training for athletes. 

It’s boring, time-consuming, hard-work. But like runners pounding the streets it builds strength & character.Its the ‘Hard Yards of Trading’

Trading Journal Tip #5
One of the most powerful aspects of journaling is reviewing past trades you didn't do but did plan for, and seeing how they performed. 

This showed me how good my set-ups were, but also how much I left on the tables.

Trading Journal Tip #6
Don't confuse journaling with trade recording or a blotter. They are not the same. 

Journaling should be an active process that includes a record of plans, memos, feelings, thoughts, actions, that you return to for assessment and review. 

Trading Journal Tip #7
There are some excellent electronic journals now available, however I always prefered handwritten. Writing engaged my mind in a different way and could capture my emotions better. Holding a pen between your second finger and thumb has more impact on our thoughts and feelings subconsciously. See article here.

I know some people who combine, electronic journals and written journals. Which ever you dom it is vital to remain active in your journaling. 

Trading Journal Tip #8 
Use your journal to plan trades and build a record of your trade plans. Include personal memos too. 

It can be hugely valuable to see what you did in the the past. My journal highlighted how distorted my memories of past events was. 

Trading Journal Tip #9
Create your own list of Trading Principles and Guidelines. These can be invaluable in helping you navigate your continuing and on-going journey through the markets, ensuring your remain on the right path, and guiding you back to it when you stray too far. 

I have attached my own list of Guidelines and Principles which I kept in my trading years, and which were pasted to the inside cover of every trading journal I ever kept. These can be seen at the link below: 

Trading Journal Tip #10
I have repeated this, as I wish rto emphasis the improtance of this to your growth. 

Write month end reviews (I have deliberately repeated this point, because it is so valuable, but so easily forgotton). 

At each month end ask 3 Questions: 1) What did I do well this month? (3 answers) 2) What could I have some better? (3 answers) 3) What do I need to improve upon next month. (1 theme) 

Over the months & years this will help you identify stubborn patterns and work on developing new habits or breaking bad ones In time the themes you work on to improve should become one of the things you did well. 

The picture below shows an example from my journal.

Trading Journal Tip #11
Daniel Kahneman said ‘We are Blind to our Blindness’. A great benefits of a journal is helping you identify ‘Patterns of Behaviour’ you were blind to. 

A single bad outcome may not reveal much, but patterns do. Spotting habitual patterns of behaviour that have a negative effect, gives you the chance to work on these. Use the journal to raise & elevate them, then use it to start helping you eliminate the negative pattern - See Tip#10 on the list.

Trading Journal Tip #12
Keep track of your ideas and hold yourself to account on them.

Below is a snapshot of a spreadsheet that was part of the journaling process of a HF client. 

This client developed this process to ensure he remembered the ideas he had, why, and what his original commitment was to the trade. 

Trading Journal Tip #13
A Trader’s ‘Output Gap’ is the difference between their potential and their performance. 

The Performance equation : Performance = Potential less Interference. 

Interference = The Output Gap. 

Keeping a trader journal is an excellent tool to identify the interference and then to try to remedy it. It can also be used as a ‘stretch tool’ to try and raise potential.

Trading Journal Tip #14

Being over-negative on oneself is never healthy, it fules, self-doubt, damages self-beleif and impacts confidence. Good honest critique however is highly beneficial, when allied to objective self-reflection. Trading journals can aid that process.

Trading Journal Tip #15
The purpose of your journal is to help you grow and improve as a trader. You need to be proactive in how you use. It can be invaluable contributor to your success as a trader, but you need to use it wisely and proactively.
Trading Journal Tip #16
A huge part of your trading performance is non-conscious. Insight, intuition, perception, unconscious biases, impulse, fear. desire, instinct, regret. Bringing them as much into consciousness is one of the aims of a trading journal. Journaling helps you shed light on these aspects of yourself. If you cannot see them, you cannot improve them. Use the journal to allow them to surface as often as possible.

More Trading Journal Tips will be added as they are published. 

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Article by Steven Goldstein 

Steven Goldstein is a Performance, Team and Executive Coach who focuses on Risk and Financial Markets people and businesses.

Core to Steven's work is the belief that everyone has the potential, often latent or hidden within them, to surpass where they are now and to grow into what they want to be. His work as a coach helps people to rediscover that potential, to recognise it, to value it, and to leverage it to be better, happier, and more productive.

Prior to becoming a coach Steven worked for more than 20 years as a Rates and FX trader at some of the world’s leading investment banks. See Steven's Full Profile.

If you are curious about how Steven could help you or your business, please email him at or call +44 (0)7753 446097. To know more about the work of AlphaRCubed and their broader performance and growth development services, please view their brochure at this link

Click here to follow Steven goldstein on Twitter, here to follow Steven on Instagram, or here to join his open Linkedin Group.

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