5 Ideas for Better Trading in 2012

01/09/2012 12:15 pm EST

Focus: TRADING

Price Headley

Founder and Chief Analyst, BigTrends.com

These ideas may be simple, but making them a top priority can help traders get the most out of their skills, as well as continue to develop and improve, making the year ahead a prosperous one.

One of the easiest mistakes any trader can make is not a “trading” mistake at all. Rather, the mistake is complacency with his or her trading skills and knowledge.

Unfortunately, trading is not like riding a bike: you can (and will) forget how. Obviously, you’ll always know how to enter orders, but the efficiency and accuracy of your trading will diminish without constant renewal of your trading mindset.

The reason that most traders don’t undergo psychological self-development is a lack of time, and that’s understandable. However, a good book or educational course is actually an investment in yourself, and ultimately an investment in your bottom line.

Today, as a primer, and a challenge, I’d like to review some self-development concepts that Ari Kiev explores in his book, Trading to Win. This is in no way a substitute for his excellent book, but they are still useful ideas, even in this abbreviated form. None of them are going to be new to you, but all of them will be valuable to you.

Plan the Entire Trade Before You Enter

Have an entry strategy and an exit point (both a winning exit point and a non-winning exit point). This will inherently force you to look at your risk/reward ratio. Write these entries and exits down in a journal.

See related: The #1 Priority Before Any Trade

Eliminate Distractions

It’s difficult enough to find trading time at all if it’s not your regular job. If you’re a part-time trader who trades at work between meetings and phone calls, think about this: there are full-time professional traders who are concentrating on nothing other than taking your money. It’s not that they’re better or smarter than you; they just have the time to focus.

If you must trade, set aside blocks of time to study or trade (or to develop systems and indicators) without distraction. Or it may be more feasible to do your trading on an end-of-day basis, meaning you place your orders and do your homework the night before when you can focus on it.

NEXT: Choose One or a Small Group of Methods and Stick to Them

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Choose One or a Small Group of Methods and Stick to Them

Far too often, we see traders adopt a new indicator or signal only to see it backfire. Become a master of your favorite signals, rather than a slave to any and every signal. Understand that an indicator will fail sometimes, and that’s OK.

The sizable winning trades should more than offset the small losing trades initiated by an errant signal. This trading method is designed to eliminate the emotional bias of trading.

Choosing Not to Trade Can Also Be a Prudent Choice

You’ll frequently hear “Don’t fight the tape.” The same idea also applies to a flat market. You can’t make stocks do something they’re just not going to do. Wait for good entries into a developing trend rather than forcing a bad entry into an unclear trend.

Take Responsibility for Your Trades (All of Them)

Examine why the losing trades failed and why the winners were successful. The reality is that you chose to enter each and every trade. This can be painful, at least initially, since the ego is built to deflect blame and accept praise. That’s a trap.

If you find yourself saying "That was a good trade entry, but…," stop yourself immediately. Either everything before or after “but” is inaccurate. If you rationalize or justify poor trades, then you’ll never learn from them.

This may be the most important idea of the five: the ego can prevent real learning. If you can learn to accept some failure without being emotionally devastated, then you’ll be a good trader.

The only advice I would add to this list is simply to keep a daily trading journal. This can be a journal of trades, signals, ideas, and emotions about your trading. The more you put in the journal, the more you’ll get out of it. It will also help you in applying and tracking these five concepts above.

See related: The Right Way to Journal Your Trades

By Price Headley of BigTrends.com

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