As a professional day trader since 2005, I spend 2 hours per day taking day trades. My trades last several minutes each, and I take on average 3 to 4 trades per day in that 2 hour period. Assume an extra 3 to 4 hours per week of review, prep, and improvement exercises.
I currently day trade the EURUSD (forex or futures) on a 1-minute chart.
I also day traded stocks for many years, and still do on occasion.
In this article, I break down various scenarios of how many hours day traders work. I have lived several different lives as a day trader, working both longer and shorter hours.
Fewer hours tend to work best for me since the biggest and quickest moves in a trading day are typically isolated to within a period of a couple hours.
The 2-Hour Day Trading Work Day
1.5 to 2 hours is my typical day trading workday. I’m in Mountain Time (MST), and I day trade the EURUSD from 6 am to 8 am MST (8 to 10 am Eastern Time (EST)).
Here’s my typical day:
- I get up a little after 5am, go to the washroom, get a glass of water, feed the fish, and then sit down at my computer. I make breakfast/eat after I finish trading.
- I spend about 5 to 10 minutes doing a morning day trading routine to get my mind into a calm neutral state. Some days my mind is clearer and ready to go in 5 minutes. Other days the routine may take 10 or 15 minutes if something is nagging at me or distracting me.
- I open my trading platform, I open my charts (I prefer looking at TradingView charts and making my trades in my brokerage account), and I input my current account balance into my position sizing tool so I can calculate my position size while trading.
- My only goal while day trading is to follow the trading plan, so my focus is on finding patterns that meet my plan, and avoiding everything else. I talk through each price bar that occurs to help with this.
- I call it quits after approximately 2 hours, or whenever there is a natural break. For example, if I have traded for 1 hour and 45 minutes and it doesn’t look like a trade will set up soon, then I stop. If I’m in a trade at the 2 hour mark, I let it play out.
- After my trading session finishes, I look over my chart and add any additional notes for myself. I review my trades and verify if they were valid or not. Or look to see if I missed anything. I sum up my stats for the day and put them on the chart. This usually only takes a few minutes.
- I then typically publish my chart on my Twitter profile and on the TradeThatSwing Facebook page.
Here’s an example:
Interesting #daytrading in the $EURUSD today. Flip flopped back and forth as bigger patterns played out. I don’t trade big patterns (bolded) but I do use them for context in trading smaller patterns. Decent day.https://t.co/pNXyXOly9t pic.twitter.com/6tRlwIdh9Z— Cory Mitchell, CMT (@corymitc) July 12, 2021
- That is it. After I finish trading I make breakfast and go golfing or to my trainer. That is my day. Being that I am in mountain time, my workday starts at 6 am and finishes around 8 am. I’m at my trainer by 9 am, and usually on the golf course between 11 am and noon.
Here are some additional notes on day trading, and how to make that trading time the most and efficient and productive it can be…
I try to start trading at the same time each day. It doesn’t always happen, but for consistency, I like to trade the same period each day. If I start at 6 am every day and I missed at trade at 5:58 I don’t care, but if I miss a trade at 6:02 because I wasn’t logged in, that is a mistake on my part.
I only day trade for 2 hours, so I am focused for that 2 hours. I try not to get distracted, and unless absolutely necessary I don’t get up from my desk. 2 hours goes by pretty quickly.
My office door is closed so I’m not bothered. It takes time and practice to maintain focus and discipline for 2 hours (or longer).
I work for 2 hours per day trading because in my market (the EURUSD) those two hours have the most action of the entire day.
For day trading stocks, I like trading 9 am to 11 am EST (a bit of the pre-market and then the first hour to 1.5 hours of the day).
I only day trade one market at a time.
In addition to trading, I also do some review work to help improve my trading.
- During the weekend, I will go through my charts for the week and add up all the profit and losses, win rate, how many trades, missed opportunities, mistakes, etc. I then publish a weekly review. The most important section of this review is the bottom section where I talk about what I need to focus on for the upcoming week. This is basically my homework for improvement. The review and “homework” may take another couple of hours during the week.
- At the end of the month, I do the same thing again. I add up everything for the month, and again come up with things I need to work on (and what I did well) based on reviewing my entire month. This again takes another hour or so, plus the homework which could be a few minutes each day or a couple of hours each week.
As a day trader, I work about 12 hours in a typical week, including trading, review, and some trading improvement exercises. If I’m struggling with something, I will put more hours into improvement exercises.
If you are a new day trader, expect the number of hours to be higher, since you will need to spend more time on improvement exercises and learning the ropes. If you don’t spend much time trying to improve, then the path to consistent profits will take longer.
My method for day trading the EURUSD is covered in the EURUSD Day Trading Course and includes more than 11 hours of content covering all aspects of successful day trading.
How Many Hours I Worked as a Day Trader When at a Propriety Day Trading Firm
My day trading career started at a proprietary day trading firm. A “prop firm” hires traders and provides them with capital. In exchange, the firm takes a cut of the profits. If you don’t make good profits, you are cut loose. I traded on a prop firm floor for about 6 years, and continually got more and more capital to day trade with (into seven figures).
At the firm, we had a lot of leeway, but they preferred if we were at our desks most of the day. Trading at the firm was a very different life from my 2-hours days now.
The stock market opens at 730 am MST (930 EST) but I would often be in the office by 630 am preparing for the day. I would be there till 2 pm MST, but would often leave/eat during the New York lunch hour because of lack of opportunities.
I would sometimes stay after the market close to talk about strategies with other traders or work on ways to improve my trading mistakes.
So in this case, I worked about 7 hours per day as a day trader. This included my prep, review, and actual trading time. As a side note: it took 6 months, trading every day, before I was profitable. For that 6 months, I was working nights (7 pm – 2 am) and weekends as a blackjack dealer, and then getting up to trade at 5:30 or 6 am. It was tough, but it was what I had to do to pay rent (right out of university) while I focused on becoming a day trader.
The firm kept stats on our hourly profits. The interesting thing is that while I traded nearly all day with the firm, about 85% of my profits came in the first 2 hours of the day.
Since leaving the firm in 2010, I focus on day trading the first two hours of day when trading stocks (mainly the first hour). When I trade forex, any hour or two within the New York and London overlap period is ideal for me. I have found little advantage in trading all day.
I have a suspicion that the day trading success rate is low partially because people spend way more time trading than they need to, and bleed all their profit away. Or because people think they can jump on their mobile trading app while taking a dump at work and make a few bucks. Either of these approaches isn’t likely to lead to long-term consistent success.
How Many Hours Day Traders Work
Day traders can work all sorts of hours. Some love working all day. Others squeeze it into an hour or two, or maybe even less. I know traders who only trade the open or close of the stock market. Although taking or disposing of the positions may take 15 minutes or so. But still, pretty brief day trading hours! Some traders pop in for only a few minutes around a news event.
Ultimately, how many hours you day trade is up to you. For me, 1.5 to 2 hours works well. It means I can get up early and be done “work” when most people are just starting their commute. When I’m done day trading, I go golfing or head to my trainer. Or I may choose to write an article for this site, or I can spend some time looking for stock swing trades (I contain my swing trading to a small amount of time as well). But the option is MINE! And that is a good feeling.
My priority as a trader, and a person, is to have time. My goals are focused on being comfortable, and having lots of time for the things I love. That is what I care about. Many people focus on money, but end up sacrificing a lot of time to get it. And that is fine, if that is your goal. I prefer a more balanced approach…good money and LOTS of time.
Design day trading strategies around taking what you need to create your ideal life, in the least amount of hours possible, and then enjoy the rest of the time doing what you enjoy.
I love day trading. I could do it all day. But for me, there is no point in that. The longer I trade the more my performance drops. I prefer to be efficient.
So the real question isn’t “How many hours do day traders work?”, it is “How many hours do I want to day trade for, and what strategy allows me to do that?”
Additional Resources on Day Trading Efficiently
If you are into day trading stocks, check out the Best Stocks For Day Trading page. It is updated weekly with stocks that consistently move a lot (percentage and dollar terms) each day.
This article describes how to find stocks making big moves right now.
And if you’re looking for a method, the Day Trading Trending Strategy is a good starting point.
How many hours you spend you day trading, and how many trades you get to take in a day, is heavily affected by the chart timeframe you use. Understand the pros and cons of different chart time frames.
If you are more into forex, watch my recorded day trading sessions to get a feel for what it is like to make a few percent on your account in a couple of hours.
By Cory Mitchell, CMT
The EURUSD Day Trading Course teaches you how to day trade the EURUSD in 2 hours or less a day. This course is specifically designed to give you all the tools and strategies you need to day trade the EURUSD. No BS, just solid methods, strategies, and information