8 actionable ideas to dramatically improve your trading

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This post explores 8 actionable ideas traders can implement to dramatically improve their stock trading performance.

As an intro to the article it must be said that I take a very holistic approach to trading. I believe that every trader brings everything they are to the trading chair each day.  The idea of leaving your “real life” behind when you walk into your trading room doesn’t pass muster. If we actively cultivate a rich life full of harmonious relationships and rewarding experiences, then we’ll carry those benefits to our trading life and the results will prove that out.  I believe that if you take these ideas and truly implement them, you’ll begin to see and feel positive results in a very short time.

1. Purge Financial Media from your Life

Financial media is a silent killer for many aspiring traders. Answer this question honestly.  When was the last time you got a bright idea from the financial media that made you a meaningful amount of money?  Very few right. For the most part, the good ideas are played out by the time they hit the TV.   Consuming the financial media holds you back in 2 ways. First off,  it plants a seed of doubt in your mind about your own original ideas.  If you are bullish XYZ and have a position, then you hear bearish comments on TV, the seed is planted. You’ll be thinking about those comments when you evaluate your position.  Second, it is an incredible waste of time. If you watch just 2 hour-long shows a day that’s 10 hours a week. For many of you, I suspect much more.  How much better would your trading be if you studied charts or reviewed your trades for an extra 10 hrs a week?  Too much?  Devote half the time to work and half the time doing something fun with the family. Once I eliminated most of the TV voices from my head, my trading took a turn for the better.  Still not 100% there, but working on it.

2. Create and follow a solid morning routine

Getting off to a productive start sets the table for a good day of trading.  I suggest choreographing nearly every activity from the time you wake up until the opening bell.  Start the coffee, eat breakfast, check futures, determine the key levels and trade plan for your go-to instruments, market moving news review, earnings gaps…..what ever it is. Allot a certain amount of time for each task and stick to it.  Keep doing the routine until its automatic; like brushing your teeth. When the bell rings you’ll feel empowered because you’ll be prepared.

3. Visualize the trader you want to be

I am a big fan of visualization. It’s helped me so much in my business life and now in my trading life.  Picture in your mind’s eye what your “professional trader” looks like.  What is he/she wearing, how is the trading desk organized, how does he manage risk, who is he accountable to, what do the trading plans and trade records look like?  Re-visit your “professional trader” visualization each morning before you start your trading day.   Emulate your professional trader daily. When you catch yourself doing something your high-performance trader would never do, don’t beat yourself up, just correct course and keep going.  After some time you’ll move closer to the professional trader you aspire to become.  As the months and years pass,  you’ll look back, but wont recognize the trader you once were.

4. Read for an hour a day

Reading turns you into a better thinker and unlocks your creative juices from within.  You will find yourself coming up with new and better trade ideas at unexpected times as your subconscious mind synthesizes information or ideas you’ve been thinking about.  If you simply can’t manage an hour, start with 30 minutes. Do it everyday.

5. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night

Being a consistently effective and profitable trader takes a great deal of focus and attention. If you’re operating on a lack of sleep, your body simply wont be able to operate at peak performance.  If you’ve been living on 5-6 hours of sleep or less, do yourself a favor and get a couple of extra hours of shut eye. You’ll feel the difference while you’re at the trade station.

6. Walk 30 minutes a day

During the noon hour, take a walk around the block to get some air and decompress from the morning session.  Don’t worry, you wont miss anything.  Set some stops or close out your position so you don’t have to worry about anything. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to tackle the afternoon session.

7. Keep Momma happy

As you know, active trading is often a stressful endeavor. Trading can take an emotional and psychological toll on both aspiring traders working toward profitability and seasoned traders going through a deep draw down.  If you bring those negative emotions to the dinner table each night and let it affect your life outside of trading, you and your family will be in for a rough time. One way to keep Momma happy is to include her as part of your team. Communication is the first step to understanding. If your significant other knows the challenges you’re facing and how hard you’re working to right the ship, your chances of getting support and maintaining harmony greatly increase.  The second thing you can do is work hard to contribute on the everyday things that lubricate a well-run household.  How hard would it be to do some laundry, pick up the house, or have dinner well on it’s way when the Boss comes home?  Your partner is making sacrifices for you to be able to trade. You need to make sacrifices too.  You’ll be amazed how well this works.

8. Cultivate Spirituality

I’m not talking about religiosity. I’m talking about spirituality. There is a difference.  At a fundamental level all the great religious traditions teach us to calm our egos and the animal spirits that rage within us all.  That harmonizes well with the traits all phenomenal traders possess.  That is, the ability to quickly recognize when they are wrong, accept that they’re  wrong, then doing something about it.  When traders ignore stops, its their egos that wont let them close out and take the loss. When you’re not attached to your ego and no longer have the urge to prove you’re right, hitting the button to close out a loser takes no effort at all.  It’s automatic.  When you cultivate your spirituality and integrate the universal virtues of humility, patience, and inner fortitude into your everyday life you’ll bring those virtues with you to the trading room, and that can only be a good thing.


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