Track and analyse your trades like a professional
The most essential yet overlooked aspect of trading is maintaining a trading journal. Most new traders think of it as an unnecessary chore when they are making money, and as a guilt avoidance measure when they are immersed in losses.
It’s the last thing on the priority list for most unsuccessful traders but the first thing for the most successful, consistent, and disciplined traders.
A trading journal is a detailed account of a trader’s trade. A trader puts in all the information of the trades taken, which could include the emotional state, the chart set-up, fundamental factors, entry points, position size, stop loss, expected reward, the day and time of the trade, and the end result of the trade. It has to be analysed regularly, highlighting the strength, weaknesses and viability of a trading system.
I provide a weekly report in our forum of all the trade details, rationale, performance history, market summary, and every trade is recorded going back 7 years. It is this kind of detail you need.
Such detail helps hugely with psychology, discipline and expectation, and all three are deeply entwined.
Although I'm an excel geek and all of my analysis/records are born through it, I recommend Edgewonk and their software which will chart and breakdown all you need to know from your own trades.
Be sure to use the code FWISDOM for a discount
I also offer a number of free trading spreadsheets and tools HERE
Let's discuss the points underscoring the importance of a trading journal.
A discipline instillation tool
Discipline is the most important aspect of successful trading as it is for any other business.
The best and most successful businesses have some parameters to track the success of a project they undertake. Those trackers are reviewed regularly to assess the progress of the projects, the good projects often continue while the poor ones are dropped.
Imagine the fate of a business that does not have this appraisal mechanism. There are many examples when big businesses went into oblivion because they did not take this process seriously. Kodak, Nokia, and Blackberry are a few examples.
Apple could also have been on the list had Steve Jobs not returned in his second innings and launched a strict appraisal mechanism for all the ongoing projects. That process itself not only saved Apple but also made it the one of the most valued companies in the world.
You must treat your trading as a business if it is to be your chosen career path.
Due to low entry barriers in trading, people think of it as an easy way to make money, and the rules of other businesses don’t apply here. It’s one of the deadliest myths in trading. A simple habit of putting your trades in the journal will not only enhance your trading discipline but also change your trading for good.
When you make it a point to always journal your trades, you will see a marked difference in your trading in a short period of time. It eliminates complacency, reduces overconfidence, curbs overtrading, and makes you a more serious trader, significantly improving your odds of success in trading.
A mistake minimization tool
The idea behind the journal is simple. When you look at your journal regularly and see the same set of mistakes you have made on a regular basis, the journal will stare you in the face the next time you are about to make the mistake. The journal highlights the mistakes that would otherwise go unnoticed and will be repeated again and again.
For example, if you have been entering trades too late in the breakout and getting stopped out on the next pullback several times, the journal will highlight it to you. You can simply put how far your entry point was from the breakout and go back to check if you would have still been stopped out had you entered at the right point. Once this error is observed a few times, you can simply not take the trades that become too extended or set up a mechanism to enter on time.
Once you have a documented account of your mistakes and you have to update it every trade, you will become accountable to yourself and minimize the mistakes, eliminating them one-by-one.
A strength identification tool
While keeping a tap on your mistakes is important, it’s also important to identify your strengths to keep on doing what’s working for you. For example, if you trade breakouts very well and reversals not so well, your trading journal will highlight that. Simply shunning the reversal trades can sharply improve your trading performance.
Traders have varied strengths ranging from being able to trade well at a specific time of the day, or on specific days of the week or month, to trading one kind of stock like cyclicals or industrials. Try to figure out your strengths by analysing your successful trades and prioritizing them.
Trading success is all about doing more of what’s working for you and eliminating your mistakes as much as possible. A journal is the best way to clearly see both of these aspects.
Keeps you focused and on track
It happens to every trader. A series of good trades or when too much gets made in a too short time, traders become complacent and get off track. They enter at sloppy entry points or overstay trades or goof up with the position size.
When you go back to your journal after every trading period, you become aware of your off-track behaviour as it rears its head. That helps minimize the damage and keep you focused on trading the right way all the time.
The final word
A trading journal gives an unbiased view of your trading performance and if you are willing to listen to it, it will keep you ahead of millions of hobby traders. It’s a powerful tool that doesn’t let you deviate and puts you back in form the moment you get off track.
If you are thinking of trading as a long-term career, it is essential that you unfailingly journal your trades. It will help you become a pro trader. Without it, your learning curve will be too flat and painful.
So, journal your trades often, especially when you don’t feel like it. It’s the bad days that keep us away from the journal, but, if we won’t do it, we will be missing the feedback loop, leading to worse trading days and an eventual end of the trading career.
If you can give just a few minutes to the journal every trade, it will change your trading for life. That's a trade-off everyone should make to be successful in trading.
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