You Say to Keep a Journal … But How?

QandA logoI got a letter from a new friend in Canada who had this question:

Hey Coach,
I was wondering if there is a good set of templates for keeping that archery journal you suggested I use? I saw the “Mental Management Performance Analysis Journal” by Lanny Bassham on the web, and I liked it but I wanted to create my own.


That is indeed an excellent journaling system. It is also a tad expensive.

To lay out your own journal (I use spiral bound notebooks—they lay flat and are cheap. Plus if you get the tabbed ones, they have some structure to them.) make a list of all of the things you want to keep records of. When making lists, don’t give up when you first stall out. Wait a bit and a number of additional things will come to mind. Then when you stall out again, again try waiting to see if additional items come up. None of us think in continuous streams, instead we think in short bursts, so make sure you allow for a minimum of three such periods to make sure your list is as complete as you can make it.Notebook with Tabs

The largest section in your “journal” will probably be for practice plans and records. Each practice session should have a plan, even if it is just a list of things you want to do or accomplish. On any day on which you shoot a practice round, you need to allow for a number of notes (distance, face used, weather, temperature, wind, lighting, distractions, your own mental state, the type of round, the equipment used to shoot the round (yes, all of that, in three years will you remember what arrows you were shooting that day or how hard the wind was blowing?). You will also need a record of your scoring. (Some people take a photo of their target post round and store it for future analysis—of course for this to be valuable you need to use a fresh target face, otherwise the holes will represent … what?) You need to keep both Practice Round scores and Competitive Round scores. Entering these and their dates into a spreadsheet allows you to plot both against a time axis to see whether you are making progress. Also, you can tell a lot from the two trends. If your practice round scores are going up, but not your competitive round scores, then you probably have a mental problem, etc.

You will also need a section for mechanical data regarding your bow and arrows: tuning information, arrow lengths, masses, spines, fletching, point weights, draw weight in hand, draw length, etc. You will be amazed at how easy it is to forget such data. Every change you make in your physical setup needs to be logged here, e.g. Put a half turn on the top limb <date><time>

You will need a section for goals (outcome and process). I strongly recommend that you read all of your process goals (basically the things you are working on) before you shoot a single arrow … always. If you think “I’ll just warm up and then review my goals….” you will be making a mistake because as you warm up you will find yourself reinforcing your old shot, not the new, improved one, simply because the old shot has been practiced more than your new one.

You might want to have a planning section, where you can list the shoots you want to attend and the milestones you want to achieve.

How well/carefully you do this is up to you. After doing this whole process for a year or so, sit down with your journal and evaluate what works for you and what does not. If something doesn’t seem to have a positive effect, but you still think you need to keep a record of what that thing was supposed to describe, you need to come up with a new way of doing just that. Don’t just stop doing anything without a careful evaluation.

And <shameless plug> more detail on much of this is available in my book Winning Archery.

Let me know how this works!


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