I have been training hard for 3 years for powerlifting, before that, I was a gym rat looking in the mirror and grunting for no reason but only to have the girls look. lol
I write down everything, I have logs from 7 years ago, when i am done with a program, dont laugh, but I grade them like a school assignment. If it didnt work, a F, maintianed, a C, little gain B, and wow, that wa fricken "A"wsome, a A.....lol. They all are diffent timelines, Prep work, 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, ect. That way, if I have a meet in 9 weeks, and my bench is platued, or my back hurts from deadlifting and want time off, I have programs that have worked, so I pull one out, adjust it to todays numbers, adjust a couple moves to something that has proven better since the last time i did this workout, then I am ready, CONFIDENT and mentally prepared. This comes from trial and error, asking questions, getting frusterated as heck and having a buddy say, what the F are you doing, go back to doing this you moron. If you dont try something new, how you know it works.
Only problem, when we try something, it takes weeks and months to see progress, that is whats so frusterating. Good luck, hope I awnsered your questions.