Performance Journaling

by Brian Cain, MPM

Humans tend to overcomplicate things when it comes to behavior change, optimal performance, et cetera.

Performance can be boiled down to three simple steps called the Success Loop.

  1. Prepare
  2. Perform
  3. Reflection

Today’s lesson will focus on Reflection

Everyone knows they should do it, but the majority of coaches and athletes skip this crucial step in the Success Loop.

Whether you’re a coach, athlete, or parent of an athlete, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much time goes into preparing for competition?
  • How much time goes into actually competing?
  • How much time is invested in reflecting on that performance?

Most coaches and athletes will tell you—if they are being honest—the majority of their time is spent:

  • preparing
  • practicing
  • training
  • film
  • meetings

It’s safe to say that most skip the reflection component.

Why Does It Hurt You?

The problem is reflection is where most of the growth happens. Reflection is where most of the learning happens. Reflection is where you get to extract the DNA from that performance and improve your preparation moving forward.

Reflection will yield the most success. 

Successful performers reflect after every performance. 

Kobe Bryant did it after each game.  

In a podcast with Lewis Howes he shared his process:

Lewis Howes: “Kobe, what does losing feel like to you?”

Kobe Bryant: “Oh, it’s exciting.”

Lewis Howes: Why is it exciting?

Kobe Bryant: “Because it means you have different ways to get better. There’s certain things that you can figure out, that you can take advantage of. Certain weaknesses that were exposed that you need to shore up. It was exciting. I mean, it sucks to lose. But at the same time, there are answers there.”

Lewis Howes: “Well, you probably learn more from losing than from winning.” 

Kobe Bryant “Well, no, there’s answers there in both. You just have to go looking for them.” 

One of the best pitchers in baseball, Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers, keeps a performance journal. Here’s an excerpt from one of his interviews: 


Going down that road a little further, I know that you’ve employed the help of a sports psychologist as so many successful big leaguers have. And one of the things that person advocated for you was to keep a journal, and I guess that’s something that you’re still doing to this day.

Corbin Burnes:

Yep, I still got it. They had me bring it out to show you guys, but that’s my pitching secrets journal there. It’s just a log of daily routines, start days, just how I break down starts. It’s got some scattering report stuff in there, mechanical cues. For me, it’s like an all-in-one journal, but it’s mostly for the mental side of it. Just things I’m doing well, things I want to work on, breaking down starts, that kind of thing.


After your start in St. Louis tomorrow, how soon after you come out of the ballgame in the ninth, how soon will you make your entry into the journal? 

Corbin Burnes:

Usually when I’m done, there’s a few notes. But yeah, most of the notes happen the next day when I’m breaking down film and starting to plan the work week leading into the next start.

If Kobe Bryant kept a journal and Corbin Burnes keeps a journal, shouldn’t you? 

After each competition – no matter the outcome, I have my clients reflect on their performance in a journal.

If that’s not enough education to inspire you to keep a performance journal… you need to watch this video about Chicago Cubs pitcher Jameson Taillon and listen to the announcers take you on a deep dive into his journaling process.  His journaling process is EXACTLY what I would suggest you do to get started and it’s EXACLY what I outline below in this article and cover in a “Journaling Mini-Seminar”  I did on The Mental Performance Daily Podcast.

Journaling Helps:

Whether you win or lose, there’s much to learn from each performance. The process is always more important than the outcome. 

That process includes reflection which is extracting the learning in order to get better. 

You have to ask yourself what did I do well, what do I think I can do better and how am I going to do it? 

That is the first step that you’re going to take in your performance journaling. After a practice or a competition, sit with the journal and write down: what did I do well, what do I think I can do better? And how am I going to go about getting better? 

You don’t need anything fancy. A regular notebook will be just fine. 

Open up to the first page and write out well, better, how. 

Well, Better, How:

The thing I love about, well, better how after a practice or a competition is that you have to start with looking at what you did well. 

Most athletes when they reflect only think about what they have to do better – especially with their mechanics? They’ll ask – what didn’t go my way? 

This is good to look at because when a weakness is revealed, you want to improve upon it. 

But, it’s best to start with your wins. What did I do well? What can I do better? How am I going to do it?

If that’s literally all you did with your performance journal, then you’ve set yourself up for the next day where you’ll open up the journal and there it is – looking at you – well, better, how. 

That allows you to then take your mindset and connect it from what you did yesterday into today.

Why This Works:

For one, it takes the guesswork out of what to focus on at practice. But for a lot of the coaches and athletes I work with it helps them with one of their biggest challenges. 

Refocusing back on the other aspects of their life. 

It’s separating the student from the athlete.  The coach from the parent. The well, better, how journal allows you to keep the game on the field and to always be where your feet are outside of your sport.

Writing down your well, better, how notes post-training helps you to let the game go.  You can move onto other areas of your life knowing there’s something to come back to when you need to get your head back in the game.  

And then pre-training or pre-game, you can look at what you wrote down and then maybe jot down what your most important thing is for that day’s training. What am I going to lock in on that day? What’s my number one thing for that day’s training? And then evaluate that as well at the end of the day.

Additional Benefits:

Journaling is great for so many areas of sport and life. Let’s say for example, you’re a baseball pitcher, you’re going to want to evaluate your execution. Execution is where you throw the baseball. It’s the only thing you can control. Let’s say you are a golfer. You might look at your stats and put your stats after a round in your journal so you can see it there. If you’re a football player, you might do some reflecting on how you did at separating play to play in series to series.

We want to have some form of evaluation that is other than just the outcome of win, lose because we don’t always control the outcome of win, lose. Some of the bowlers that I work with with Team USA, they’ll come back and they’ll reflect on what the oil patterns of the lane were, what their ball was doing. There’s a very specific process that you can create based off of your sport that becomes part of that post-game, post-practice reflection with your well, better, how. And then they use that as information moving forward for the next day.

Deeper Dive:

Now, if you want to keep a performance journal on a daily basis and you want to add some mindset work to it, let me share with you some of my favorite and most used strategies that can help you develop an elite mindset. 

✅ write down three wins in the last 24 hours. What were three victories that you had in the last 24 hours?

✅ write down three gratitudes that you’re taking with you from the last 24 hours? Things that you’re grateful for. 

Both of those suggestions are backed up by research. The three wins, BJ Fogg and his book, Tiny Habits, a professor at Stanford. And then the three gratitudes, Robert Emmons and his book Gratitude Works. They talk about all the research behind why celebration, your three wins, and gratitude are so important for you as a competitor.

✅ additionally, you would write down your MIT, what’s my most important task for today’s training? What’s the number one thing I got to lock in on today? 

Applications Outside of Sport:

I also encourage you to journal outside of your sport. Let’s call it more of a life framework. Start, stop, continue. 

Based on your behavior in your life in the last 24 hours, what is it you need to start? What is it that you must stop and what is it you’re going to continue? Start, stop, continue from the last 24 hours.

✅ your journal can also include things you’ve learned.  Here’s a story about that:

Let’s say you have team meetings. Let’s say there’s a speaker that comes in. It’s amazing. I was working with a player in the San Francisco Giants organization. I’d had him in college and he’s out here in Arizona for spring training. And we were talking and he was like, “Hey, I’m just feeling like I’m underperforming in spring training.” I said, “Well, are you

journaling every day?” He said, “No.” I said, “Okay, let’s start there.”

You Never Know Who’s Watching:

And I said, “When you go into a team meeting, do you bring a notebook?” He goes, “No. Most of the time it’s just stuff we have to hear. I don’t necessarily need to write it down.” I said, “You mean to tell me that you think your organization is organized enough that if one of the best players ever, let’s say Barry Bonds or somebody were to come rolling through. And they were at spring training and that they’re going to have all that organized and prepared ahead of time? He might just show up for a day with his family and they might say, ‘Hey, would you come speak to our minor leaguers?'”

I go, “Bring a notebook to every meeting you go to.” 

Three days later, this player called me and said … “guess who came walking into spring training? And I was the only guy of all the minor leaguers in the room with a notebook.” Now, is that going to put him into the major leagues? No. But is that going to allow him to get the most out of every day, which is the ticket to get into the major leagues? Yes.

That is standard. Professional athlete, college athlete, high school athlete, notebook in every single meeting because you never know the one day that your life can be changed from content of stuff that gets shared with you.

Key Takeaways:

The biggest gap in the world lies between what we know and what we are doing with that knowledge.

Knowledge is powerless unless we apply, use it.

Most people know they should reflect. They just don’t do it.

Most people know they should keep a journal as a part of routine. They just don’t do it.

Make today count by applying just one strategy you learned from the video.

Pause for a moment to decide—then take action by applying that one thing today (not tomorrow).

Want to learn more strategies around confidence, overcoming obstacles, how to conquer fear of failure, and learn how to consistently perform your best?

Then fill out the form below to enroll in my FREE 3-Day mini course—one specific for athletes and the other for coaches.