Keeping a practice journal can create more clarity on how to get better

In his March 15 blog post titled Mikhail Botvinnik and the Invention of Modern Chess Training, author/blogger/professor Cal Newport highlighted Washington Post reporter Harry Stevens' tweet:

Former world chess champ Mikhail Botvinnik's approach to the game seems like a generally smart way to get good at just about anything

Stevens then included this excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on Botvinnik:

Botvinnik’s example and teaching established the modern approach to preparing for competitive chess: regular but moderate physical exercise; analysing very thoroughly a relatively narrow repertoire of openings; annotating one’s own games, those of past great players and those of competitors; publishing one’s annotations so that others can point out any errors; studying strong opponents to discover their strengths and weaknesses; ruthless objectivity about one’s own strengths and weaknesses.

Newport wrote:

“... this got me wondering how many modern endeavors, especially within the rapidly developing knowledge sector, are still waiting for their own Botvinnik to help figure out how to get serious about getting better.”

I'd add "...and also the sports sector."

What stood out for me first was the phrase “annotating one’s own games.”  It brought to mind Tip #4 in The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills by Daniel Coyle: 

Buy a Notebook

A high percentage of top performers keeps some form of daily performance journal...What matters is not the precise form. What matters is that you write stuff down and reflect on it. Results from today. Ideas for tomorrow. Goals for next week. A notebook works like a map: It creates clarity.

I’ve been keeping a wheelie practice journal since I started working on learning to wheelie on Dec 29, 2019. I’ve totaled 16 handwritten pages since then. Here are a couple of photos from recent journal pages:

A pattern seems to have emerged in which I generally make some quick notes about my plan for a session and then a more detailed reflection afterward.  

Clarity doesn't always come immediately. But the wondering seems to work wonders, in part because I get curious and energized which creates more focus during my practice sessions.  

No, I’m not going to publish my “annotations so that others can point out any errors” like Botvinnik’s training plan as I want to be free to blather on in private without having to consider what others might think. 

But I’ve sometimes gotten to the point where I’ve wondered about something and asked a couple of knowledgeable fellow riders for their opinion. That's another step towards clarity, whether or not I agree with them.