Take A Break From Your Trading Screen

We’ve all been there where trading consumes us to the point that we are living in front of the computer.  “Take a break from trading” is probably something you’ve heard at least once during your trading career.

It may not be time spent actually placing trades but learning and back testing a new trading strategy can have you sitting at your desk for hours.  It could even be learning Excel to design your own spreadsheet to log all your trades.  Anything remotely connected to trading is what I am referring to.

We’ve all been there from time to time and it’s especially easy for time to fly by when we become engrossed in something like placing trades according to our trading plans. And the truth is that showing this kind of dedication is a great indicator of future success in many cases.


More Is Not Always Better

The trouble is though that spending so much time working on trading can lead to multiple problems (including a decrease in trading profits) and it’s important to realize that life isn’t all about trading and if you make it that way, your trading will likely suffer as a consequence.

Let’s look at screen time. Now I know some say that screen time is important  but there’s a very good reason why there are health warnings about spending more than a short period at a time in front of a screen without a break.

take a break

“Eye problems caused by computer use fall under the heading computer vision syndrome (CVS). It isn’t one specific problem. Instead, it includes a whole range of eye strain and pain. Research shows that between 50% and 90% of people who work at a computer screen have at least some symptoms.”

As we get older, spending too much time in front of the computer gets much harder as the constant focus/refocus is not as flexible.  Taking a break from the computer can only be a good thing to do for the health of your eyes.


Don’t Get Lazy

Lack of movement and sedentary lifestyle is a health risk that anybody who lives at their desk can suffer from.  “A sedentary lifestyle is defined as a type of lifestyle where an individual does not receive regular amounts of physical activity.”

As time flies by while sitting at your computer and you decide to take a break, how many of you have noticed how stiff your body has gotten?  If you are living your life 12-14 hours a day while you are involved in trading related activities, there is no way you are getting a good amount of exercise in.

Health risks aside, there’s research to suggest that exercise is extremely beneficial to your mental capabilities.

Exercise controls the emotional and physical feelings of stress, and it also works at the cellular level to rebuild neurons.  Exercise sparks the recovery process and leaves our bodies and minds stronger and more resilient to future stressful situations”

We all know that trading can be stressful at times so by exercising, you could actually improve your chances of success in trading as your body not only stays healthy, but is able to cope with the stress that comes from trading.

You can still exercise even if you spend a long time in front of your screens  but consciously making an effort to avoid spending too much time at your desk is a better solution.


Shut Off Your Focus For A While

There’s also a whole heap of research about the various brainwave states and how it’s important to go into the lower states in order to not only recharge, but also to process information from the prior day.

When the brain is aroused and actively engaged in mental activities, it generates beta waves. These beta waves are of relatively low amplitude, and are the fastest of the four different brainwaves. The frequency of beta waves ranges from 15 to 40 cycles a second. Beta waves are characteristics of a strongly engaged mind.”

A hugely important thing for traders who are trying to learn and traders who are trying to figure out the constantly unfolding story of how a market is trading from one day to the next. If you’re constantly in a state of mental focus, you never really get into these lower states such as Alpha/Theta and your natural process for processing/recharging, sleep, is far less effective.

You can of course augment your sleep’s restorative powers through the practice of meditation and it’s no coincidence that you hear this frequently talked about in the sometimes fast paced, high pressure world of trading.


If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response” after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

The fact that you’re much more susceptible to stress and psychological execution issues when you’re not giving yourself enough time to recharge is another strong argument for incorporating meditation into your daily routine.


Give Yourself A Bigger Circle Of Influence

Then there’s the fact that if you’re working 24-7, your horizons are pretty limited. What you think about, what you work on, who you talk to and so on are all trading-centric. All of this leads to a pretty narrow frame of mind and creativity can be stifled as a result.

Talking to different people, experiencing a variety of things and finding new activities to stimulate you can help you to get that creative spark when you are focused on your work – and innovation can be a highly profitable exercise.

It’s pretty obvious that we’re likely to suffer in terms of productivity over the long run as the length of time spent working increases. If you are able to work at 90% capacity on average, it’d take you just 8 hours to complete the same amount as you would get done working for 12 hours a day at 60% capacity.

And that’s assuming the quality of the end product is the same.

By taking the time away from your work, it’ll actually see a positive benefit. So this weekend unplug from trading completely, recharge and come back rejuvenated for the constantly morphing challenge that trading is.


When To Take A Break From Trading

There is no right answer to this however frequent breaks may be a little easier for traders to digest.  One method you may want to consider is the Pomodoro Technique:

“The process is simple. For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically. You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.”

This may be an extreme method for some, having a ticking clock on your desk, build on it and listen to your body.  When it’s time to take a break from the market, you will know.

You may even work breaks into your trading plan which can actually help you keep your trading profits.  We call it the Power Of Quitting and it may be something you should consider if screen time is taking over your life.


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Coach James

James began his trading career nearly a decade ago, learning his craft in fixed income derivatives. These days, he predominantly day trades index futures using auction context as the vital ingredient to his approach. James is a firm believer in the importance of trader psychology and how it can make such a monumental difference to how well a trader performs.

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