If you’re a trader like me, you know that trading, more than almost any other career, demands complete focus for many hours a day. And to really be successful, you need a system that helps you make decisions in a consistent, logical manner.
But having a system of rules for when to buy and when to sell is not enough. It’s not enough because it doesn’t take into account the physical ability of your body and your brain to carry out the rules.
If your brain isn’t sharp and alert because, for example, you didn’t sleep well last night, then you’re likely to miss an opportunity to buy. As soon as you realize you missed an opportunity, your emotions and adrenaline kick in. Blood runs from your brain into your muscles (because of the fight-or-flight response) and suddenly your decisions aren’t so logical anymore.
And that’s the exact recipe for trading failure. Emotional decisions are the #1 enemy of professional traders.
Take 5 Minutes to Refocus
If you’re drowsy right this minute, here are 9 things you can try to get your focus back.
- Walk outside for five minutes to get fresh oxygen into your body.
- Walk up and down a couple flights of stairs.
- Meditate for 5 minutes.
- Do some stretches and/or squats.
- Lift small weights or filled water bottles.
- Eat a small healthy snack, such as unsalted nuts, raw fruit, or raw veggies
- Drink a glass of water. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime for flavor and vitamin C.
- Drink peppermint tea (preferably without sugar) to both hydrate and reduce stress. Plus, the smell is invigorating.
- Put on some upbeat music.
Plan to Avoid Drowsiness
The best plan for avoiding drowsiness is to prevent it in the first place.
1. Get enough sleep.
Sleep experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for adults between 18 and 64. Go to bed early enough so that your body will wake up naturally before your alarm goes off.
If you are having problems getting a good night’s sleep, check MayoClinic.org, WebMD, and other websites for tips on easy things you can do to sleep better, such as not looking at screens (TV, computer, smart phone) for an hour before bed.
Don’t be afraid to take a power nap at lunchtime. Experts say 20 minutes is the optimal time for getting in just enough sleep to reinvigorate yourself. Use a sleep mask if you can’t find a dark-enough spot.
Limit coffee and caffeinated beverages to the morning and early afternoon hours. The general recommendation is to avoid coffee for 6 hours before your bedtime.
Caffeine consumed in the late afternoon or evening can either keep you from going to sleep, or wake you up in the middle of the night. You need a full-length, undisturbed night of sleep in order to wake up ready for a full-length, fully alert trading day.
2. Develop an invigorating morning routine.
Here’s what I do. I get up a little early and go cycling to raise the oxygen levels in my brain and get the endorphins flowing. While I’m riding, I listen to a motivational audiobook to get my thoughts creatively engaged and my mood elevated. When I hit the desk, I’m pumped and ready for action.
3. Build breaks into your workday routine.
If you’re working alone at home, as many traders do, your day isn’t broken up as much by things like staff meetings. But experts tell us we work better if we take regular breaks to rest our eyes and our brains for a just a few minutes.
If nothing is forcing you to take a break (like a meeting or other interruption), a good strategy is to plan your day in chunks of 60 to 90 minutes. Set an alarm or timer on your cell phone to remind you.
Get your body used to set times for beverage/snack breaks, lunch break, and work starting/ending times.
In between the significant food breaks, plan quick breaks during which you stand up, stretch for a minute, look away from the screen, and get a drink of water.
4. Stay hydrated.
Did you know dehydration causes drowsiness?
Instead of stocking up on Red Bull, do your body a favor and stock up on water. If you just aren’t a fan of plain water, try something that will feel a little more like a treat. For example, LaCroix canned water is carbonated and has just a little bit of flavor.
Find ways to build hydration into your schedule so it becomes a habit. For example, have a big glass of cold water while your coffee is brewing, or drink a full glass of water when you brush your teeth.
5. Manage your blood sugar levels.
Sugar and refined starches are perennial favorites for boosting energy. However, for many people, that short boost of energy is followed by a crash in blood sugar levels that will make you nod off.
To avoid a sugar crash, avoid refined starches throughout your day. Focus your workday eating on protein, whole grains, veggies, and fruit.
Some of us run better with 6 small meals a day. If this describes you, prepare your small healthy snack meals ahead of time so they are quick to grab, and so you won’t be tempted to grab for the cookie jar.
6. Manage your work environment.
Find ways to incorporate changes in position into your workday. For example, get in the habit of standing up while you’re on the phone or whenever someone comes into your office.
Watch the temperature and lighting in your office. An environment that is too hot, too cold, or too dark can all cause drowsiness. This comes down to knowing your body’s optimal operating parameters.
If you continually struggle to stay alert while trading, take some of these ideas and map out a plan to be proactive about staying focused. Your trading success depends on it.
We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250