In this article we’re going to cover one of the most important aspects of trading outside of trading itself. Having a proper trading routine and process in place can be the difference between coming into your trading session in the optimal mental state to trade well, or completely unprepared and out of it.
If you don’t have a consistent morning routine, don’t worry. We’ll be covering the why, what, and how to develop your own process, and get this: It’s a lot easier than you think. The hard part of course is initially building the habit and sticking to the routine, but building a string of good habits and executing them consistently every morning (or before your trading session) is well worth the effort.
Why A Morning Trading Routine Is Key To Your Success As A Trader
The reason having a trading routine is key to your success in trading is because it gives you a clear and concise set of processes that will both mentally and physically prepare you to trade. The point is to give yourself a chance to reset your state, your charts, and approach the market from a fresh perspective rather than bringing a bias or even built-up emotions from the previous day.
Aside from that, I personally find that having a good set of processes to prime myself to trade helps put me in a good mood to trade. We are all human after all. You don’t want to bring stress from external things like work, relationships, and life in general into your trading because for most people it will affect their ability to clearly analyze the charts and can even affect their ability to execute, either by causing them to be too trigger happy, or conversely trigger shy.
What Happens If You Don’t Have Good Trading Processes In Place
In our experience at Phantom, most of us on the team have very clear and concise processes that we follow before officially starting our trading session because we realized it’s just not worth diving into and forcing trades if you’re unprepared. That means if you’re late to your trading session, you may miss moves in the market and you just have to accept that. Without a trading process it’s easy to hop onto the charts with markups you left on from the previous day, a flawed or outdated analysis because you haven’t updated it, which can lead to making really poor trading decisions.
The worst case scenario, you dive into your trading session late, you’re unprepared so you start chasing moves and forcing trades while also violating your trading plan. Believe it or not, having that routine in place, as simple as it is, can make or break you as a trader in the long run.
How Utilizing A Trading Process Checklist Will Improve Your Trading Psychology
How often do you find yourself in session and you’re either feeling anxiety, stress, or you’re fearful of entering a trade? If this sounds like you, there is obviously a deeper issue you need to address. It’s easy not to adopt a good set of habits, and the truth is it comes naturally to some people and isn’t all that difficult for them to put together good processes that help them purge and process these emotions so they’re not bringing them into the trading session with them.
With that being said, there are some rare cases where there are some traders that don’t need to follow a process and will still be able to dive into trading without preparing, but we highly suggest you don’t try doing this. The worst case is you build up some good habits by doing your daily routine!
My Daily Trading Routine / Checklist and Why It Works So Well
My trading routine really starts the day before, by getting to bed early enough to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep. In my experience, trying to trade right away after waking up or when sleep deprived just isn’t ideal. Remember, getting a good night’s rest means you improve the chance of coming into the trading session with a good mental state. Aside from that, I have a very simple checklist which I call my PCL (Process Checklist), and I use it to prepare myself before I ever even think of placing a trade in the live market on my MT4 terminal. Let’s dive in.
Pre-Session Trading Routine
Let’s start by breaking down my pre-session trading routine, and why I do each task on this list so you can start getting some ideas for your routine. Remember, all of this really starts the night before. You can’t expect to follow a routine on 4 hours of sleep because you stayed up to watch a movie or play a video game. Managing your time and being disciplined is a core component of being a good trader.
✅ Wake Up @ 6:00 AM Consistently
Number one is waking up on time. For me it’s a matter of keeping good sleep hygiene so I opt to use a simple alarm with no snooze function, so I’m not lying in bed hitting snooze 10 times before getting up. The night before, if for whatever reason I can’t make it to bed on time, I’m adjusting my alarm so I can get at least 7 hours of sleep. If that means waking up late and missing the prime hours of my session, so be it. There is always tomorrow.
✅ Take A Cold Shower
Next I’ll take a cold shower and brush my teeth to wake me up (I tend to wake up and carry brain fog with me for a good 30 minutes so this is a good way to get the blood in my brain flowing).
✅ Green Smoothie + Coffee
Then I’ll make myself a green smoothie and a coffee as a pick me up, just to get my brain going a bit. I don’t tend to eat a huge breakfast, but I do want to get hydrated since humans tend to get mildly dehydrated from simply breathing in their sleep.
✅ Meditate Before Turning Computer On (Full Mental Rehearsal)
Once I’ve completed that part of my routine, I’ll head to my workstation with the computer off and meditate for 10-20 minutes, at which point I’ll also mentally rehearse my analysis and my processes as well as actually putting on a trade or two, and managing them well. For me, I have reference experiences of trading well for a day, so if you don’t you can just imagine yourself doing it. It sounds silly but it works well!
✅ Review Previous Day EOD Analysis + Paper Journal Report Input
Then what I’ll do is hop onto the computer and review my previous days markups that I did (I don’t delete them until after this). This gives me an idea of what the market was doing so I keep a pulse on it, and I’ll take my paper trading journal where I write about my emotions experienced in and after my trading session and type it directly into my notion journal so I can review how I felt the previous day.
✅ Fight or Flight Check (Am I Mentally Fit To Trade Today?)
Last but not least, I ask myself honestly if I feel mentally fit to trade for the day. Did I sleep well enough? Trading while sleep deprived leads to inconsistent results for me, so this one is important. Is there something bothering me with my trading from the previous day, or some external factor from my personal life that has my head spinning? If so, let’s address that instead of forcing myself to trade. This is why I call it the “fight or flight” check. Because if I feel a build up of emotions that I know will make it challenging to follow my rules while trading, I just won’t trade. Doesn’t mean I won’t observe and analyze the market, but I may opt to just forward test for the day to keep myself sharp. Or I’m sick for example with a cold, in which case I’ll take the day to rest and relax so I can recuperate and come back to the market when I’m feeling better.
In-Session Trading Routine
Next we have the In-Session trading routine. Assuming we hit all the marks on the first set of processes, this is where we really hunker down and get focused so we can trade effectively and approach it from a consistent manner.
✅ High Impact News Check
First on my list is checking high impact news. I generally don’t like trading high impact news and definitely not restricted news events (check your prop firm for rules respective to them). If there is news, I’ll be aware of it and trade around it, plus I use an MT4 indicator to remind me of high impact events by drawing a line at the exact time it releases.
✅ Eliminate & Minimize Distractions
Next I’ll go ahead and eliminate as many distractions as possible. If you have a TV on in the room, turn it off. If you’re in a noisy area, go to a quiet space. Put your phone on silent. Whatever you need to do.
✅ Fresh Chart Markups Every Morning
Then, one of my most important steps: delete all of my markups from the previous day and do your analysis from scratch for every instrument you’re actively trading or planning to trade for the day. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT recycle chart markups from the previous day. Not only does it reinforce a bad habit, but sometimes you’ll gloss over important details because your old markups are making it difficult for you to see small nuances in price action you’d otherwise markup and consider.
✅ Set Alerts + Trade Session With Minimal Distractions
Once I’ve completed my markups and I’m happy with them, I’ll set alerts and focus on trading with minimal distractions. Now, I’m not perfect and sometimes distractions happen, but this is why it’s imperative you try your best not to get distracted in session… because you will miss trades as a result of it. Trading can be a very mentally demanding profession, and if your attention is divided, don’t expect your best trading performance.
That being said, if you’re like me and you are relatively conservative in your approach to trading, I see no problems with doing productive things in between your alerts getting hit, like say reading a book on trading psychology or even studying by watching some Phantom Trading course content or recaps while you wait, so long as when your alerts do hit, or if price is in an area you’d like to trade, you drop what you’re doing and give trading your full attention!
✅ Journal Trades in Notion (Pros/Cons) + In-Session Paper Journal
Last but not least, I follow a very strict process for entering trades and journaling them. Before I enter any trade, I ensure that I make a list of pros and cons and weigh whether or not I should get into the trade or not, so I can confidently say it’s worth taking the risk, or if it isn’t I’ll stay out of it. This way I’ll never feel like I entered a trade that I can’t justify getting into.
Post-Session Trading Routine
Finally we have the post-session trading routine which consists of doing end of day markups, studying, exercising and reading. It may seem like a lot, and it is, but you eventually learn to enjoy the process of doing each of these tasks. There are of course some days where I don’t hit all of the marks, but I don’t ever beat myself up for it! Beating yourself up for forgetting to do one thing on your list is just counterproductive.
✅ Daily Report + Post-Session Paper Journal Entry
My daily report / end of day markups comprise of taking all of my markups from the session and updating them to understand what I may have missed (or sometimes taken) for the day, plus I’ll do another entry in my paper journal to just reflect on how I felt during the day post trading session. This is obviously a habit we preach heavily in Phantom because it’s a great tool for learning how the instruments you trade actually setup, so you can train your brain to recognize what’s happening and catch those moves.
✅ Study (Video Content / Case Studies / 156 tick Backtesting)
Next on this list is doing some backtesting and or case studies, or even catching up on things like market commentaries that other team members have put together. It’s important not to overdo this one. For me, I only pick one of the 3 each day and I’ll spend no more than 90 minutes on it. Ideally I spend about an hour backtesting slowly, or I’ll watch just 1 course content video and take notes!
✅ Gym / Boxing / Stretching + Protein Shake
Once I’ve completed all of my trading process for the day I’ll go exercise to blow off some steam and work on my physical health to keep fit. Obviously this spills over and positively affects our mental health as exercise and eating well contributes to a better sense of well being, plus can help relieve stress.
✅ Read For 30-60 Minutes
Last but not least I like to try to fit in some reading. In particular I try to read books on trading psychology and self development as it relates to trading, or even books on economics.
End of Day Checklist
✅ Allocate 1-2 Hours For Relaxing
Once everything else is completed for the day, if I have time I’ll spend an hour or two really unplugging and doing something fun like playing a game or watching a TV show to unwind.
✅ In Bed By 10:00 PM Sharp
Finally, and most importantly: I get to bed at 10:00 PM sharp, if possible. I don’t always get to bed on time if I’m working on something or I’m not home at 10:00, but I try to make a consistent effort to sleep early so I can get up early and not be exhausted and unfit to trade.
Get Coldwater’s Forex Morning Routine Checklist (Notion Template) For Free
If you need a notion template as a base to build your own morning trading routine, look no further! You can get my morning routine forex trading checklist for free as a notion template here!
How To Build Your Own Morning Trading Routine
Now let’s cover how you can build your very own trading routine! Obviously if you don’t trade in the morning, it’s not a morning routine, but you can still create one to set yourself up for success on a daily basis.
My first tip is to chunk your processes into a few different sections much like I have. Pre-Session, In-Session, Post-Session and End of Day if you want to. Secondly, I highly recommend starting small. If you’re going to dive into it and give yourself 100 tasks to complete every single day, it’s unlikely you’ll do it. A lot of these are habits I’ve built up, lost and picked up again over the years. Remember, it takes time to build good habits so take it easy and start with the highest leverage processes first.
In order of importance I’d ensure you have something sleep related if you don’t already sleep consistently, then some sort of morning meditation practice, a process for journaling your trades, and finally a process for doing your end of day markups and studying. These are the bare bones of any traders’ process list if you ask me, and in some cases may be sufficient for you. Anything else you tack on, just ensure you have enough time to complete it as you don’t want to spread yourself too thinly and feel guilty for not finishing your tasks.
Building A Trading Routine Around Your Full-Time Job
Finally, let’s talk about how to build a trading routine around your full-time job. Similar to what I mentioned above, it can help to keep your list short and concise and only focus on the things that really matter. Obviously, with a job your attention may be divided between trading and work, but this is why it’s super important to set aside some time (either before work – or if you can during work) to do your routine, markups, and to utilize alerts heavily. Besides that, figure out what you can fit into your work day or after your work day. Not all of it has to be done during work hours.
The point is to keep your processes simple and high leverage so you can get the most out of them without hindering your ability to do your job or hindering your ability to execute on trades.
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Robert is a funded trader based out of Toronto, Canada, and has been trading currencies, commodities, stocks, and cryptocurrencies for over 7 years. Outside of trading he enjoys producing music, mixed martial arts, and riding his motorcycle in the summer.