How To Become More Productive As A Trader
Do you ever feel like you’re not as productive as you could be? Maybe it’s because you can’t seem to get anything done. You have a million things on your plate, but all of them are low-value tasks that don’t matter and don’t seem to be moving the needle for you. You want to progress… but you feel you’re just not covering the ground that you want to be covering and things seem to be dragging on. If this sounds like something that might resonate with you, then read on. It’ll be worth your time.
It’s tempting to look at other highly productive / successful traders as machines (or market wizards). They’re in-human in ways, but by studying how they work efficiently and overcome the same challenges we all experience, it’s absolutely possible to boost your own productivity and thus your results to their level as well.
We’ve compiled a 12-point, step-by-step guide for you on how to build your productivity muscle and end procrastination as a forex trader… thus getting you to where you want to go faster and more efficiently – in the case of most traders, that goal being consistency, funded capital and the skill to scale it to 6 and 7 figures.
1. Doing High Leverage Work Day to Day and Scrapping the Rest
If you’re not focused on your top tasks in a day, stuff that truly moves the needle, then it doesn’t matter how many hours you work. It doesn’t matter if you do 100% of what’s expected of you or more – without real focus on high leverage actions that are aligned with your goals, you simply won’t get where you want to go in the timeframe you want to get there. Extraordinary results stem from an extraordinary ability to narrow your daily task list down and do ONLY what truly matters. At Phantom, we let our traders know that this is studying the course material, practicing the strategy… and getting support from the team and community as questions come up. Do this for long enough in a consistent way, and these simple yet high leverage action steps alone will transform your ability to generate consistent returns on the charts.
2. The 80/20 Rule
If you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, the idea is to spend 80% of your time on the most productive 20% of tasks. Even further than that, The One Thing by Gary Keller, a recommended read at Phantom Trading, suggests focusing on even just ONE THING per day rather than a set of items that you know you can tackle and that you can give your all to. Done consistently enough over time… you’ll see progress vs. running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to do all the “shoulds” in your list. Keep your focus sharp and tackle what’s in front of you. If you aren’t sure what the next most important thing you should be doing is, then ask! Get help when you feel stuck.
3. Deep Work Sessions
Schedule deep work sessions: We cover “time blocking” in another important article on focus where you’ll set in your schedule at a similar time every day, a period time where you’ll do what needs to get done, and you’ll block out any and all distractions for that set period of time. Having a regular, set time block each day to do this deep work helps you make it a habit.
Get bored: It sounds counterintuitive to call being bored a productive habit, but being comfortable with boredom is important. Deep work isn’t always enjoyable, and boredom or frustration are what cause us to seek out distractions. Avoid using social media for entertainment as much as possible, and get more comfortable getting things done uninterrupted without the constant stimulation of social platforms, shows, people.
Be harder to contact: Distractions can be reduced by simply turning your phone over to focus mode or airplane mode. For some we even recommend putting it “on a leash” – leaving it plugged in, in another room somewhere out of reach with a closed door between you and IT.
It’s best for you to know and understand your own personal best work habits: Do you work best in isolation? With periodic breaks? You don’t need to overhaul your entire schedule—just set aside some time for deep work where you know you can focus on moving the needle in your trading.
4. Getting Out Of Your Own Way
One thing to note is that if you think things are too hard and can’t be done (or will take way too long), then you’ll procrastinate instead of doing them. In instances like this, we recommend zooming out and seeing a task for what it is. What we’ve found is that in instances of overwhelm or uncertainty, all that’s really needed is a reframe. Chances are you’re exaggerating the difficulty of a task and simply need to chunk it down into bite size pieces. In the case you’re feeling stuck / uncertain regarding your trading strategy or process, the best thing you can do is to get help! Circling back to support, there really is no reason you should be stuck. Identify where you’re feeling held back and get an answer to your question. Being resourceful is the key to getting your momentum back when you’ve felt stagnant in your growth.
5. Why Breaks Are Required
Nobody, not even the most productive of people, can focus for eight or more hours straight. It simply isn’t possible. No matter how many efficient habits you build, you can’t maintain distraction-free focus for that long.
We aren’t machines. We aren’t designed to stare at screens and crank out full day work blocks without rest. We REQUIRE rest to be at our best. Breaks from the screen allow our eyes to relax and our body to recover. It also allows for a shift in state / mindset which is so important when we are pushing through work blocks and feel ourselves beginning to drift and lose focus. This is especially important as a trader. You need to be sharp if you’re to make quality decisions with the capital available to you. What this means: taking breaks is not just something you should do when you’re bored, it’s something that should be done regularly (every hour or so) to help your mind stay fresh and ready to take on energy consuming tasks throughout your trading sessions / study sessions.
6. Less Decisions = Less Energy Spent
You may have heard of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ONLY wearing the same type of shirt, day in day out, for years at a time. It may sound silly if it’s the first time you’ve heard this or just assume that he has no style (maybe he doesn’t – who knows), but what he’s come forth with and said as to the reason WHY he does this… it has everything to do with decision fatigue… and reducing it! The fewer decisions we have to make, ie. the more automated we make our lives in certain facets, the more energy we have to give to other areas of focus. Simple things such as what to wear, what to eat, where to eat, when to eat, when to workout, what workout to do, who to train with, etc. Every single one of these decisions that has to be made day to day drains your vital source of willpower. With each decision made, you’ve less energy to now sit down and backtest or consume course content with high levels of focus. It may sound drastic, but it’s true and the data backs it. Eliminate, automate or delegate lower value tasks / decisions to be made so that you have more energy each day to focus on what’s most important to you and that requires the most OF you.
7. Reflect On Your Days – Wins / Losses / What To Do About It
A game changing practice that we can recommend you start doing is ending your days or beginning your days with a reflection. WHEN you do it is up to you, but the idea is to look back over the most recent day and audit where your time went! What did you set out to do, and what got done? Were you able to accomplish the tasks you set out or did you procrastinate and hesitate? Did you get caught up in activity that kept you busy but left you feeling incomplete and no closer to your goals? It’s these types of questions you want to sit down with and ask yourself. The idea? To correct where you perceive mistakes are being made and to improve so that into the future, you continue to course correct and engage in higher value activity so as to move you in the direction of your goals FASTER.
Our quick how-to on doing this? Set yourself even just 10 minutes in the morning each day to go over yesterday. What did you do well? What did you not do well? What could be improved on? Start with those 3 questions and work them into a regular journaling practice. We guarantee you, when done consistently over time, you’ll find yourself being much more self aware throughout the day and no longer allowing yourself to get caught up in non important busy work… and you’ll stop much more regularly and shift back to doing what’s required for the day.
Also, if you haven’t already checked it out, read our full article on how to journal trades properly.
8. Just Start, Motivation FOLLOWS Action
Famously said, “an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays at rest.” This is absolutely true when it comes to motivation. Motivation FOLLOWS action. It follows momentum; forward movement in the direction of your goals. As a trader, it’s studying course content, it’s applying what you learn through backtesting, live trading, passing free prop firm challenges and moving onto paid ones, it’s actively getting support from your community as questions and concerns come up for you! Putting one foot in front of the other day in day out… progress quickly becomes addictive. What is a common trait of the most successful in any space? They show up every day and do what’s required of them to move the needle in their work/business. You don’t always see the work being done on social media, you see the result that comes from all that hard work done consistently over time. KNOW however, that for you to hit your goals as a trader, falling in love with the process of consistent, day to day progression in your skills is the key to realizing funding and the scaling of funded capital of your own.
Some days you won’t feel like putting in the work. It’s the same as jumping into a cold shower or heading off to the gym. At first, there will be hesitancy. Your mind and body prefer ease and comfort… but as you know, you rarely grow inside your comfort zone. Motivation and inspiration FOLLOWS action. Just start. Force yourself into the day’s tasks if need be… lose yourself in the work. You’ll find that through DOING, you’ll wonder why you ever used to procrastinate to the degree you once did.
9. Remove Multitasking From Your Vocabulary
You may have been sold the lie that to do two things at once is a skill. I know I once believed this too. Having looked into this further however, it becomes apparent that multitasking is not actually a thing. What your mind IS doing when you perceive to be doing two things at once, is rapidly switching between two tasks at once… rather than actually splitting attention equally between two things. The problem? It goes back to your total energy bank. Everytime your focus switches from a task to another task, it takes on average 20-30 minutes for your mind to FULLY switch over to that new object of focus. You’ve likely noticed this before. Say you’re reading a book or consuming course content. It takes some time before you truly lose yourself (flow state) in what you’re doing. At the start your mind is “busy”. You feel easily distracted as you settle into what you’re doing at that moment. BUT as time goes on, you actually lose track of time as you sink deeper into the task at hand. This is the optimal state for learning + improving at whatever it is you’re doing. The problem with multitasking and not entering this state of deep work, is that you never truly dive into what it is you’re doing. You can think of this like sleeping. To achieve a deep, restful sleep and to recover from the day, you need to enter those deeper states of rest… known as “deep sleep.” Your body simply won’t get the rest it needs from the more shallow forms of sleep that you’d get from a nap or a night’s sleep with the lights left on or the tv playing loud in the room. In a similar way, for you to truly get the most out of a work session, you need to commit to working with zero distractions and to focus solely on one thing at a time and seeing it through to completion OR setting yourself an allotted time where you’ll focus on one thing only.
10. Fill The Tank – Time To Recharge
Speaking of rest, this part can’t be ignored. You can start implementing all of these strategies for focus and productivity, yes, but you’re going to struggle to stick with it if your body is tired and you’re not taking time to rest and recover as you DO progress in your journey as a trader. Make sure to get quality rest each night for 8+ hours and to take regular breaks throughout the day. Make sure you’re eating quality foods (non processed) that fuel your mind and body so that you CAN focus and so that you have energy to show up and do what needs to be done.
Feeling groggy and full from fast food and poor quality intake in general will only make getting into productive work harder. You want to stack the deck in your odds in every way that you can. One way to think about this is to ask yourself questions like “how would a top 1% trader operate?” You’d be surprised what sorts of answers you get. The thing is, you likely know what needs to be done to get to where you’re trying to go, you just need to remind yourself of it day to day and to actually DO what you know needs to be done. Staying healthy and energized is core and essential to you becoming the best trader you can be and to live the best life that you can live.
11. Learn To Say No More
You’d be surprised how empty your calendar could be if you said no more. An empty calendar in this case meaning MORE time opened up to you to study, practice, get the help you need so that you can progress at a faster rate than most traders do. A VERY common question we get is “how long will it take me to become a consistently profitable trader?” to which our only answer is “how long do you WANT it to take?” We ask this because it really does come down to you and how bad you want it. Someone who wants it and who is willing to do whatever it takes to get it is someone willing to clear their schedule to allot more time for again… study, practice, support. The more time you dedicate to something, the better you’ll get and the faster you’ll accomplish your goal. Whether or not something is possible, the only question that you need to ask yourself is “has someone else done it?” and if so, you can too. If it’s been done before by another human being, you too can accomplish the same feat. It all comes down to doing the work.
Take a close look at your schedule for the weeks and months ahead. If you’ve booked yourself solid, it’s time to be more mindful of your calendar. Learn to say no more. IF becoming a proficient and consistently profitable trader is truly your #1 goal at the moment, then it should be prioritized as such no? In that case, start giving yourself more time to grow. Block out more work sessions and let people know that this isn’t a forever thing, it’s just something you need to do for YOU right now. You filling up your own cup first will allow you to better serve others and be there for others later.
12. Sharpen The Axe
The effort flywheel – the more you do, the better you get, the better you get, the more you do, the longer you do it, the better you get, the better you get, the longer you do it, the longer you DO, the more what you do compounds on itself. In short, ACTION feeds growth. It all starts with DOING.
As you improve as a trader, you’ll enjoy the process even more. The reason behind this? We fall in love with what we invest time into and what we become proficient at. No one likes sucking at something. Oftentimes we give up on things before we get good simply because it’s less fun feeling like we suck. We’d rather do things we know we’re good at and enjoy! It’s human. And so with trading, the goal is for you to get wins under your belt as fast as possible. To get good as quickly as you can so you can shortcut that learning phase and break through to the wins and the fun!
We say this to inspire you to put in the time now. Don’t make the learning curve last longer than it has to. Shortcut it. You’d be surprised how much you could accomplish in 6-12 months if you implemented all of what we’ve talked about above. Laser focused action, productive habits, done consistently over time compound FAST. But you have to witness it for yourself to believe it. Guaranteed you’ve likely learned how to do something in life that surprised you just how quickly you picked it up when you look back. You likely got lost in the learning process (in a good way) and came out the other side with a new skill / achievement under your belt. We want you to view trading the same way. Find a way to fall in love with the process. Lose yourself in it. Understand that it’s not easy and it’s not supposed to be easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t have the luster that it does to be a top 1% trader. Remind yourself of this fact, because it’s a fact, “if others have done it, I can too.”
Conclusion: How To Be More Productive
Highly productive people can seem inhuman to those who’ve yet to master themselves and their schedule. Most of the time, the most efficient people you meet have simply managed to find ways to overcome procrastination and other challenges. Our key? Ask for help whenever you feel stuck, overwhelmed, uncertain of something. You’re surrounded by others who have been where you are and ARE where you want to be. Ask them for guidance when you feel lost along the way… because you will at times! It’s 100% normal. Learn to lean on others. Trading can be a lonely journey when done solo. Embrace the community around you and USE it. It’s there for a purpose. And for those who aren’t yet a part of a community of like minded traders, consider reaching out to us at @phantomtradingfx, we’d be happy to hear about where you’re at and whether or not you’d be a good fit here with us.
To recap, here are our 12 tips on how to become productive like the top 1% of traders:
- Do High Leverage Work Only And Scrap The Rest
- Apply The 80/20 Rule
- Get Into Deep Work Sessions
- Get Out Of Your Own Way
- Take More Breaks
- Less Decision Making = More Energy
- Reflect On Your Days – Wins / Losses / What To Do About It
- Just Start, Motivation FOLLOWS Action
- Remove Multitasking From Your Vocabulary
- Fill Your Tank – Take Time To Recharge
- Learn To Say No, More
- Sharpen The Axe (Skills)
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FX Trader & Analyst
Writer & Editor
Rob is a funded trader from Toronto, Canada, and has been trading currencies, commodities, stocks, and cryptocurrencies for over 7 years. Outside of trading, he enjoys making music, boxing, and riding motorcycles.