My trading journal setup.

Whenever you’re learning a new skill or improving an existing one, it’s important to track your progress. Since trading is one of the more difficult things you can choose to learn, this especially applies here. I’ve put together a framework using only free software that’ll allow you to get started quickly:

What you’ll need…

Getting started…

Every day it’s important to spend some time thinking about what might happen over the rest of the day. For that reason, I create a hypothesis document in Evernote. I’ve created a regular format for my hypotheses which starts with a daily checklist that asks a number of questions. Remember that trading is a game of discipline: if I don’t meet the criteria, I don’t place trades. The ability to create a list using checkboxes is perfect for this as you can see.

Tracking scheduled events…

Another important section of my journal is the calendar. I’ve set up notifications to my devices to remind me of scheduled events, but I also like to keep a record of every day’s events in my journal. Lightshot allows me to quickly take a screenshot of the appropriate section of the page (as illustrated) which can be copy/pasted into your note on Evernote or saved by pressing Ctrl + S.

Diving into the markets…

At this point in my hypothesis, I can begin to dive into the markets. I open up my trading software (in this case, MT4) and take screenshots of the markets across multiple time horizons as well as of the TPO profile, such as these:

One of the advantages of Lightshot is that it allows me to quickly annotate screenshots once I’ve pressed Print Screen and selected the appropriate section. Here’s one I made earlier:

As you can see, I’ve taken advantage of Lightshot’s features to help me keep a permanent record of my thoughts (good or otherwise!) about the trading day/week. When the annotated screenshot is ready, I can simply paste it into Evernote and it will be saved.

Video recordings…

Lastly I want to mention video recordings. If there is an event-driven element to your trading, this is definitely for you. Take, for instance, a significant but regular event such as the Non-Farm Payrolls. There’s no better way to keep a record of how events like this pan out than video. Flashback Express allows me to record a portion of the screen and add audio commentary if I want to. Also, you could use this method to record entire trading sessions if you like – there’s no better way to gauge your performance and emotions during the day than this. You can even look back and consider things that went well or went wrong; there’s no better learning experience than that.

In conclusion…

I hope I’ve been able to give you an insight into the process of journaling. As I’ve mentioned, it’s vital to track your progress, but it’s also nice to look back through your records and consider how much you’ve developed from time to time. In a forthcoming article, I’ll explain how you can automate elements of this process. This is very useful if, like me, most of your trading is automated. Good luck.

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