This has been a strange week, as you may have noticed from the lack of posting. Last week I was away, and this week I have been thinking about other things: my tax return, and ideas for university courses. I always thought that one way that this venture could end would be with me getting a Masters in something — it might be the logical time to do some more study. Anyway, I need to apply as I have already left it a little late.

I had been beating myself up for putting all this stuff off — surely I could have been making steady progress on it over the last few months. But this week has shown why that is not so, and why I have been right to keep my focus on trading. Thinking about possibilities for the future is distracting, and has upset my focus. I have never been good at seeing the trees for the forest, and this week the forest has really captured my attention.

There is a lot of talk among traders about the importance of “discipline”, but I think that that is the wrong word for what we have to do. Anybody who is reasonably tough can get up in the middle of a difficult situation, grit his teeth and push on. But that is not a sustainable way to keep something going every day for the rest of your life. A trader has to get up every day and set about the lonely, repetitive task of understanding the current reality. What is needed for that is routine, focus and balance. Thinking too much about other things disrupts all three of these, and that is why this week I feel out of touch with the markets and disengaged from my main task.

Problem… solution. What is the solution here? There are two elements:

1. Time. I have thought over what I need to do next. I am going to apply for some university courses, keep trading, and see what other opportunities arise. Now all I have to do is execute.

2. Lifestyle engineering. I often respond to a lack of focus by tweaking my routine.

  • One’s psychology shifts around; things that were not problems three months ago become problems today; and routines get stale and boring. So no routine is ever a finished work. It is better to change a routine than to “try harder” (i.e. waste mental energy) to follow an existing one.
  • Two extended colds in the past 6 weeks have disrupted my exercise routine. I need to get this back on track. Lack of exercise always leads to lack of focus (although in the short term it leads to an improvement in focus, because one is less tired; this is one reason why it is so easy for this routine to be disrupted).
  • My routine now has to include university applications. There is no time for things that are not scheduled, and if you want to do something, you have to decide what time you are going to give up in order to do it.
  • I am sick and tired of getting up in the morning. It takes too long. I wake up thinking about the markets, but by the time I have got up, there have already been too many distractions. So I am going to move part of my morning routine to the evening (ironing a shirt, making sandwiches, and so on) and some to lunch time (having a shower — after all, it is winter, and I don’t need a shower in the morning and at the gym).
  • I am going to spend less time reading news and more time looking at numbers. I have been putting together sets of internet bookmarks for a wide range of economic indicators. I find it ever more useful to build my own picture of what is going on rather than relying on other people’s, and this is another step in that process.