Many stock traders are workaholics. Up early, in bed late and always working, generally planted in front of the computer. It’s not the healthiest lifestyle. When I was tied to my monitors day and night, I packed on a whopping 50 pounds. But then, through nothing more than living the same experiences over and over again, I discovered something:
You don’t have to work 24/7 because if you miss something, it’s going to happen again.
If not the exact same thing, some variation of everything I have seen has happened again. And, in most cases, more than once. This isn’t because I’m old. I’m really not. It’s because I have experienced enough life to not fall into the millennial-invented trench of FOMO, the fear of missing out. I’m not going to miss out on anything, and even if I do, who cares
There’s no good reason to not take care of yourself, no matter your line of work. And, if you’re a stock trader, particularly one who works for her or himself, there’s zero excuse. You have the freedom to come and go as you please with respect to your workday. But, all of that aside, doing things — basic things — that are not related to stock trading will help make you a better stock trader. They’ll help make you better at just about anything you do. They’ll help you relax, work less and work smarter without the anxiety (or at least less of it) of grinding 24/7.
It’s the little things that go a long way to getting the job done.
Shower at night
I recently debated with my daughter about whether you should shower at night before you go to bed or in the morning after waking up. She showers at night and swears by it. In her words, it’s disgusting to go through the day getting dirty and then sleep in that very dirt all night. Makes sense.
And a quick Google search reveals she’s right: Health and sleep experts consider a shower before bed essential to wipe away the day’s grime.
The research even takes it a step further. A nighttime shower can also help you fall asleep faster. A shower about 90 minutes before bedtime regulates your body temperature so it’s in its sweet spot when it’s time to knock out.
If you can combine this with other activities that cool you down and make you calm, it’s logical to think you’ll get a better night’s sleep. The benefits of this are self-explanatory.
Shower in the morning
While experts consider showering at night essential, they leave open the option of taking one when you wake up. Traders should probably answer the call on this option.
If we’re being honest, many traders have personalities not necessarily designed to meditate. I laugh when people suggest meditation to overachievers, type A personalities and those of us with loads of anxiety. I’m not one to hold myself up to impossible standards and unachievable goals. While straight meditation for an hour each day might make you a better stock trader, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to do it. But you probably can take a shower.
A morning shower can put you into a meditative state. According to research, it can give you time to regroup and prepare for the day. One study even found that people have “insights” in the shower (in the morning) as a result of — wait for it — not thinking.
Read purposefully, that is. Find something or someone you’re interested in, then read about it or him or her. This is about as basic as it gets.
But, in this age of skimmable, scrolling articles, many of us have trouble reading. I go through fits and starts with this. For many of us, it’s difficult to read ‚— to actually read, word for word, a book — consistently. However, when I have been successful at building it into my day, it pays dividends.
I try to read stuff unrelated to what I’m doing personally or professionally at the moment. Then I look for similarities between that content and what I’m doing. Or I find things that make what I’m reading about tick and look for ways to incorporate them, or something similar, into what I’m doing.
Along those lines, rather than reading out-and-out self-help books (the business ones are the worst!), I read about people I admire and see if I can apply what I’m reading about them to my life and work.
Talk to regulars at a dive bar
This seems like odd advice: Go to a dive bar and drink.
But, as someone who has bartended in a quintessential dive bar, I can tell you, without waver, that you’ll walk away from the experience refreshed and ready to do better. Here’s why:
When you talk to friends and family, they’re often not being 100 percent, flat-out honest with you. Even if they’re trying to be, they’re filtering — at least a little. In a dive bar, particularly one full of regulars, you have a gaggle of people who are experts in everything. Many of these regulars seek status by showing off, by telling everybody else what they know. They don’t care if they hurt your feelings or act in ways that might be socially inappropriate or even inept.
When he or she hears you’re a stock trader, there will be that dive bar regular — never fails — who tells tall tales of that winning trade. Of making thousands — or even millions (!) — after watching a chart or acting on this or that tip. You’re going to hear the most inane stuff about trading. And, during times of doubt, this will help reinforce something you should always keep sight of: you’re the expert. Or at least you’re striving to be.
It sounds weird. But try it. There’s tons of wisdom thrown down in America’s neighborhood bars. And equal amounts of B.S. It can be invigorating to participate in this discourse as a means of reminding yourself of just how serious (and knowledgeable) you are about what you do.
Raise your heartrate
Like meditation, many people aren’t necessarily the type who love the gym or a morning run. So be realistic. Don’t do what everyone else does. You’ll get that gym membership and never go. You’ll run at 5 a.m. for a week, then quit. I’ve been there dozens of times.
However, there’s no excuse for inactivity. Every single stock trader can get up from his or her desk and walk briskly around the block several times a day. Every single stock trader can drop and give her or himself 10 or 20 pushups multiple times a day. Every single stock trader can jump rope or do jumping jacks or something else to get the blood pumping more than a few times a day. These bursts of exercise add up and will probably benefit your work and overall well-being more than a regimented workout schedule.
Your work is your life.
That’s a great, old adage when properly applied. Work shouldn’t take over your life and make you an unhealthy ball of stress. But it’s truly a great thing when you find other things — even seemingly small things — you can do and use them to inform and/or improve your work.
Rocco Pendola is a freelance writer and editor in Los Angeles. Pendola contributed and worked full-time at TheStreet and Seeking Alpha, prior to taking a break from financial media to follow his passion as a craft cocktail bartender.