Dimming the din. Nixing the noise. Flipping off the fluff. There is no shortage of indicators to try, patterns to learn, data to track, but there is a capacity limit of our brain. Whether a side income, for long term investing, or trading as a business, in addition to making goals, we also need to make sure that our habits are supporting those goals in a healthy way. What instead happens, is we get derailed, sidetracked and lured into thinking we’re doing things, but instead we’re just engaging in “busy work”. Things that make us think we are progressing, but actually stand in our way. We’ve talked in the past about setting intentions for each thing we do, but now let’s take it one step further and prioritize our time and our tasks to make sure that the things we are doing actually help us, rather than make us think they’re helping.

One of the best ways to do this is to ask ourselves a series of questions which will sort through the fluff of everything we bombard ourselves with. Again, I’m going to ask you to be truly honest with yourself about what is working vs what is not.

The exercise goes like this. Spend a day in observation mode. When you come to each task, (you could do this outside the markets too, but let’s stick to trading) ask yourself “what purpose does this task serve”. Is it helping me to come closer to my goal (make sure you have one!) or is it realistically busy work. Twitter is a great example of this, many traders will scroll twitter for stocks, trade setup, news etc. But do you actually gain anything from it day to day? Is it helpful, could you spend less time? I actually found when my twitter settings got changed to “recommended” rather than “following” it made my trading worse. Why? I got recommended SO many traders’ ideas my brain was actually getting overwhelmed with the number of theories on the markets. When I choose to follow someone, I have a winnowing process, I must see a track record that makes sense, and I must get lost reading their page for 10 minutes. If I do that, it means I find them interesting, and useful enough to make it worth glancing. When I get recommended follows, there is no cut out the fluff process. It’s frankly too much.

Sometimes you will come to a task you really enjoy and discover it’s more useful as a hobby of information rather than useful to your trading. This is okay. The goal is not to take out joy, it’s simply to recognize what is helping us, and in what way, and what is hurting us. But the goal is also not to fool ourselves into thinking that the things we are doing, even if we love them, are also helping us reach our goals. Perhaps you love listening to the noon time show, but you have stopped trading by 11:30. In observation mode, you might realize that you can listen to the show while you take a walk, rather than sitting at the computer.

Sometimes you’ll come to tasks that you think you must do, don’t enjoy, but think they must be helping - only to find they are not. Data tracking is one of the trickiest ones for this. Data tracking is possibly the most double-edged sword out there. The reason is simple. Many times people track data, without knowing how to use it. If you are spending 2 hours reviewing your trades, don’t enjoy doing it, and don’t know how to compile the data to make sure you are making your trading better, it is busy work. Trade reviews are an excellent way to make yourself a better trader, but they must come with the same intention as everything else. If you are tracking your trades, and then never look at the data, never using the data to cut out trade setups that don’t work for you, never learning from the mistakes, or never learning to manage the emotions that come up - this is busy work.

After your day in observation mode, you can start to sort out the things you need to reach your goals, the things you love and make you happy, and the things that are just not serving you. Implement some of the changes, track them, and then rinse and repeat in a week, a month or three months’ time.