Trading……It’s just a job.

I think over the years one of the realizations that I had to come to was that trading is just a job. No matter how fun. No matter how profitable. No matter how cool looking at all those charts is, trading is still just a job. The point is that when we start to learn to trade we come with passion and enthusiasm. More often than not that leads to some losses, and then we start spending every waking hour pouring over charts. We get there before the open, we trade all day, then we stay well in to the evening looking at charts, doing research, you name it. Then the weekend comes and we spend all of that time once again focused on trading and the markets. It becomes an obsession. But with that obsession comes a life that is out of balance. We become so entrenched in trading we forget the whole idea was to learn to trade, make money, and spend the FREE time we were supposed to have with our family and friends, doing that things we love to do.

Before becoming a trader you had a job. It was clear when you were supposed to start, and when you were supposed to stop. When you were going to take a vacation. It was all laid out. But now you have no one there to structure your day or your time, you are all consumed with trading because you don’t approach it like a job or any other skill you want to learn.

I am a big fan of taking mini vacations from this job we call trading. It’s an intense career requiring focus and concentration for extended periods of time. So here are few tips to help you out and bring some balance back in to your life.

1) Set up a fixed schedule. When you will trade. When you will stop. When you will spend time doing research. And when you will take breaks throughout your trading day. Most traders can hit modest trading goals in the first 3 hours which leaves the other 5 hours of an 8 hour day to take care of other personal business, do some trading research, or take your spouse to lunch.

2) If you hit your goal early in the week, Thurs morning or afternoon, take Friday off. I know that’s a tough one. The logic says why not trade and make a little more right? But consider how many times you have had a good week going and then on Friday totally blew it. You wiped out all your weekly profits and then some. We have all done this. Remember, fatigue is cumulative and by Friday you are not the same trader you were on Monday. And this fatigue sneaks up on you. It’s not until you start making amateur mistakes that you realize you are really tired and should have taken a break. Be proactive and take the break. Take Friday off if you have hit your goal and reward yourself. Remember the reason you got in to trading.

3) Rate yourself in the morning before trading. Rate yourself physically on a scale of 1 to 10. How do you feel? Do you have the flu? That’s probably not a good day to trade. Were you up all night with a sick kid. Take the day off. Rate yourself emotionally on a scale of 1 to 10. Did you just receive some disturbing news? Did you get a phone call that a close friend of family member has been in an accident. Take the day off. Not all mini vacations are just for fun but it’s wise to know when you are on your game and when you are not.

4) Trading is a 100% visual event. We have information coming at us constantly from the moment the market opens till the moment it closes. It’s non stop visual stimulation. Take a few minutes a few times a day and just close your eyes. Quiet your mind. Stop all that information from coming at you and give your eyes and brain a rest. Get up, walk away from your desk after a trade. You won’t miss anything. There’s always another trade coming along. Be willing to miss a trade. Get away from your trading desk and stretch. Take a quick walk around the block. You will be surprised at how much of a difference this will make in your ability to see the charts in a clear and objective manner.

5) Know when to punch out. You should already have your day’s end in mind before you ever sit down to trade. Just like other jobs, you have to know when to punch out and go home, even if that is just in the next room or across the hall. Know when to say when and take time away and spend it with your family or friends. It will make you a better trader if you give yourself some time away. Information overload is a real threat to traders and we have to be able to get away just like any other job, you need time to just let yourself relax and when you come back, you will be recharged and ready to go.

I am sure there are many more you can add. Be sure to take some time away from trading spend the free time you so longed for when you first got in to trading doing things you love to do and not obsessing over charts.

Good Trading……JC!