On Journals: Tracking Your Progress

“What gets measured, gets managed”
– Peter Drucker

If you are trying to change something about your life in the new year, my biggest advice is to start keeping a journal or logbook. I have been keeping some sort of journal, either in print or in electronic format, since 2003.  Over time as my interests expanded into martial arts, diet, and self defense, the metrics I track have evolved. As my focus has shifted around, so too has my method of notekeeping. But it’s always there in some form.

Click the photo to be forwarded to Amazon for this Diary. $17.50 at time of writing.
There are two kinds of people that keep a notebook… total amateurs and advanced practitioners. The amateurs need reminding of what they’re supposed to do that day, and the advanced practitioner knows that logging progress is the key to long term success. If you start your record keeping now, I believe it will accelerate your path to mastery.

I am a huge believer in keeping a logbook/journal of my daily practices.

Why Is It Worth Doing?

  • Holds me accountable to complete a task I’ve laid out for myself
  • Filling notebooks lets me know that I’m doing something with my time on the Earth.
  • Helps me organize my thoughts and remember what I did that day. This is especially helpful for martial arts. Here’s one of my posts from 2012 for example.
  • Putting pen to paper seems to reinforce my retention of new material.
  • Describing a physical action in my own words allows for me to have a better understanding for what has to happen to complete an action, which allows me to retain, teach, and coach that movement better.
  • Recording Sets, Reps, Weight, Rest Times allow you to ‘beat the notebook’ and grind out improvement.
  • Recording my mental and emotional state has multiple benefits, including figuring out what triggers negative emotional states and causes emotional ups and downs and self-defeating thought patterns.
  • Forces me to be mindful of what I’m eating. There have been studies that show people who log their food lose 3x more fat than those that don’t. When I write it down, or use an app, I am owning the fact that, “Yes, I just ate 20 wings and smashed 4 beers, and the caloric numbers don’t lie”
  • I’m more likely to complete a workout, if for no other reason than I feel ashamed for leaving a day blank.
  • Checking the box and recording my progress gives me a sense of accomplishment
  • Completing the logbook and watching improvement over time becomes a game you play with yourself

Things Worth Remembering

If you’re just starting, pick a single area you’re trying to improve and journal that. Once completing your journal becomes a daily habit you can add other topics and more detail. If you realize what you’re recording isn’t useful, you can stop tracking that metric. It’s an ongoing process. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Diet: Calories, Macro Nutrients, Water consumed
  • Dry-Fire practice: Routines, Courses of fire,  Par times, Skills Practiced
  • Live-Fire Sessions: Drills, Round Count, Weapon/Ammo Reliability, Scores/Times/Distances
  • Competition: shooting, martial arts competitions, etc. Note scores, placement, mental aspects
  • Cardio Sessions: Type, Distance, Duration, Heart Rate information
  • Seminar and Training class notes
  • Martial Arts: Movement details, sparring notes, striking combinations, frustrations and victories
  • Strength Training: Programming, Reps/Sets/Weights/Rest Times.
  • Day to Day life: What’s bringing you joy, grief, fear, anxiety

When there are so many topics to track in our multidisciplinary lifestyle, it becomes necessary to log the daily work in order to see meaningful improvement over time. Start now, you’ll thank me.

Do The Work.

Write It Down.


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3 thoughts on “On Journals: Tracking Your Progress”

  1. Any suggestions for a journaling app that would be conducive to tracking these kinds of goals? I like this very much, but I’d like to have something I can use on the everpresent glowbox.

    1. I honestly haven’t researched apps for journaling. I have no recommendations. However, you could start a wordpress blog, and start posting it public ally (or privately) with the app. The public accountability aspect is a powerful motivator. (My original blog was just that)

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