A daily routine helps keep traders on task with the things they are supposed to be doing, instead of succumbing to distraction. A daily routine, along with a pre-trade checklist, aligns us with our trading plan—which is our written plan for entering, exiting, and managing trades.
A daily routine creates good habits. It tells us what to be working on throughout the day.
Whether day trading or swing trading, trading stocks or forex, the daily routine should be realistic, and work our trading plan into it. While a trading plan may tell us how to enter a trade, the daily routine details how we find and stalk that trade, from beginning to end, over and over. The daily routine is also used to help reduce trading mistakes and work on problem areas.
Here is the quick daily routine example/summary. More details are provided below in the article.
Daily Trading Routine Examples
Here are some examples of daily swing trading and day trading routines for stocks and forex. As mentioned, your daily routine should be realistic for your own time constraints and tailored to your strategies.
I have included times for demonstration purposes, but you would of course put in the times that work for you. Don’t leave more time than you need between tasks. Move from one activity to the next with fluidity. If your times are not accurate for the task, you will either not be able to finish everything you need to, or if you have too much time between tasks you may get distracted by other things. Keep busy with important tasks related to your trading, not frivolous ones that won’t improve your trading. During your trading time, focus on trading.
The routine is as much about what it includes as what it doesn’t include. At no point during the morning routine does it say “Check Facebook and Twitter” or “Check and respond to emails”. If you need to do those things, schedule a few minutes for them. If an activity isn’t built into the routine, then avoid it. Focus on what is in the routine, only at the time it is scheduled for.
Forex Swing Trader Daily Routine – Morning (adjust for afternoon or evening trading)
This daily routine is for when I’m beginning my morning by stalking forex swing trades. Depending on how busy my life is at given times, or my preference, I sometimes look for swing trades in the morning, and at other times I day trade forex in the morning.
5:25 Rise, bathroom, shower, water.
6:00 Deep breathing, clear mind. Reinforce that it is my trading time right now. Other tasks can wait until the designated times in the routine, or until free time. I like to do a small “parts negotiation” during this time to make sure I have no parts in conflict with my “Trader”. I also like to reinforce that I have no expectations for today, except to follow my plan and take what the market offers. This is a commonly skipped step, but is very important for developing consistency.
6:05 Review the summary points of your trading plan (have it typed out or cleanly written by your desk). Consciously note each specification for an entry, and how the patterns you trade (or criteria you trade) look. Review each strategy type you are looking for, and why you trade ONLY those patterns. Even though you know your trading plan, do this step every day. Visualize a trade for each strategy in your plan, seeing it through to completion (win and loss). Don’t just skim your trading plan. Read it with conviction and intention and awareness.
6:10 Review the daily trading routine (have it typed out or cleanly written by your desk). Consciously note each task. Say each one, and the process and time you will give it. Even though you know your routine, do this step every day. Don’t just skim your routine. Read it with conviction and intention and awareness.
6:15 Go through the charts of all the forex pairs you track on the largest time frame you monitor, noting trades near key levels/ possible trades areas.
Flag possible trades or write them down, then KEEP GOING through the entire list of forex pairs. This will make sure you get to see all the pairs, so you don’t get fixated on one and then miss a bunch of other opportunities.
6:35 Go through all flagged trades.
Check for trade setup on lower time frames. Go through ALL flagged trades before placing a trade. This assures you know all the pairs that will be on your radar today, and at what levels. You can also compare each trade to the other potential trades, finding the best ones (considering reward:risk, etc.)
Check if there is news coming out in pairs with possible trades.
Check correlation if considering more than one pair. Avoid multiple pairs that are highly correlated. Choose between them or split one position size between the highly correlated trades.
7:05: Place your forex orders. No need to think much here. The work and analysis should already be done.
7:15 If there are pairs that are close to an entry, but that haven’t “triggered” yet, open a charting platform where you can view all your “watchlist” trades with a glance. Place the pairs you need to watch on those charts. Draw in the area and direction you want to trade, so that at a glance you can see if the trade triggers…this probably means having the charts set to the timeframe where you receive your trading triggers from.
Work out how you will monitor these trades. You may want to set alerts on your charting platform to let you know when a trade is approaching a trade level (if possible). If you have other obligations, schedule a time to come back and check on these trades.
7:25 Mentally rehearse what you will do if the forex pair rises or falls after entering a trade; if it almost reaches your target and then turns the other way; if it gets close to your stop loss but doesn’t trigger it; if the price does nothing.
Don’t come up with answers on the spot. Your trading plan should already have all these answers in it! Your job is to just mentally rehearse what you are supposed to do in each scenario so that you are better prepared to follow the plan even if a scenario you don’t like arises.
7:30 Check email, grab a water or coffee, bathroom break, grab breakfast, move on with the day, etc.
TIME: A specified time of day to check on the trades that were close to setting up. Also, stipulate if you are NOT going to check trades after or before a certain time. For example: “4pm stop trading. Don’t check charts till the next morning. The evening is family/friend/relaxation time.”
14:00 Daily debrief.
Did the routine get followed? If yes, congratulate yourself! If not, write down why. Constant violations of the routine mean the routine doesn’t actually fit your life (adjust the routine to fit it), or discipline is lacking (work on focusing through each step…just try to get through one step without deviation. Then move on two, then three, then the whole routine, gradually).
Was the trading plan followed? What were the successes and failures? A failure or trading mistake is any time the trading plan wasn’t followed. Note how this could be improved.
22:00 to 22:10 Before bed, focus on a few statements which will help your trading. These positively reinforce change when it comes to common trading mistakes. Some examples are below, but any statements you meditate on should be based on your own trading.
“I trust my strategy, I trust my trades. I let them play out.”
“I am a disciplined person. I follow my trading plan, and my routine and checklist help me do it.”
“I trust in my ability to execute my plan because I have a well-thought-out process for doing it that works for me.”
“Cutting my losses and adhering to my stop losses means I’m positioned mentally and physically to take advantage of the better opportunities that arise from my trading plan strategies.”
For more ideas like this, see the “Peak Performance” article.
Sunday 3 PM: Review trades from prior week. Note mistakes and things done well. Make sure trade logs are up to date, and trades have been screenshotted and saved or printed. REAFFIRM THE EXIT STRATEGY IN EACH TRADE THAT IS OPEN. TELL YOURSELF “I’M STICKING TO THE PLAN I SET OUT FOR THE TRADE” AND SAY OUTLOUD WHAT THAT PLAN IS (stop loss, target, trailing stop loss, or whatever exit it is).
IF YOU ARE A DAY TRADER, CHECK OUT THE 5-minute pre-trade routine. It is a good start to a daily routine, then you just have to add in when you will do your reviews, and what you do before and after trading.
Stock Market Swing Trader -Evening (adjust as needed to fit your own life).
I also look for stock swing trades in the evening, so I have a routine for that.
My method for swing trading stocks is covered in the Complete Method Stock Swing Trading Course.
7:30 PM – Take 5 minutes to calm myself from the day. Remove excitement, doubt, anger, optimism, pessimism…I want to get to where I feel neutral. That way emotions are less likely to affect my judgment. (If I come in too excited to trade/scan, every stock looks like it could be the next home run. If angry, then everything is an opportunity for revenge. Depressed or sad, nothing may look worthwhile.)
7:35 Review the trading plan.
7:38 Review daily routine.
7:40 Assess market conditions based on market health indicators. Are conditions favorable for taking trades? If yes, or close, then scan. If conditions are unfavorable, then go do something else (or spend the time reviewing prior trades or working on other strategies).
7:45 Define which patterns I’m scanning for this evening. Start scanning for patterns; adjusting scan criteria for current market conditions. If I have lots of time this evening, relax the criteria slightly to allow for a larger list. If I have time constraints, then tighten the criteria so there are fewer stocks to go through (zero-in on higher performance parameters).
Write down all stocks that look close to fitting the parameters of a trade, or that are close (could fully set up prior to my next scan). Go through all stocks before analyzing any single one closely or putting out orders.
8:00 Once the list is complete, open each stock on a full charting platform like TradingView. Analyze for overall strength/trend, pattern, consolidation, volume, risk/reward (stop loss and target relative to entry), and proximity to earnings (I don’t hold through earnings…although a strategy for taking trades right after earnings is Earnings Drift).
Eliminate stocks that don’t measure up. Whatever possible trades/stocks are left, compare them to “ideal” trade examples (have some printed off by your desk). Every trade should look ideal, because an ideal trade means it meets all the strategy parameters.
Note how much capital I have available for trades, and then I know the maximum number of trades I can take (based on position size).
Choose which stocks orders will be placed in, per trading plan guidelines.
8:10 Place the correct order types for the situation in each stock.
Stocks with orders (and live trades) are placed on my live trades watchlist in TradingView watchlist (8 per layout, and I have multiple layouts open in multiple browser tabs), with the order levels marked.
Stocks that are close to triggering a trade, but that haven’t fully set up, are also placed on a 8 chart layout (multiple tabs if needed) so I can monitor multiple stocks easily over time to see if they setup fully for a trade. STOCKS ON THIS LIST ARE REVIEWED DAILY, AND IF THEY HAVE FULLY SET UP, THEN THEY’RE INCLUDED IN THE TRADE COMPARISON MENTIONED A FEW STEPS ABOVE. If the stock is no longer looking like it will setup, remove it from the watchlist.
8:15 Mentally rehearse what I will do if the stock rises falls after entering a trade; if it almost reaches my target and then turns the other way; if it gets close to my stop loss but doesn’t trigger it; if the price does nothing. THIS IS USEFUL TO DO EVERY DAY YOU HAVE TRADES OPEN.
Don’t come up with answers on the spot. The trading plan should already have all these answers in it! Our job is to just mentally rehearse what we are supposed to do in each scenario so that we are better prepared to follow the plan even if a scenario we don’t like arises.
8:20 PM: When finished, write a quick market update and stock watchlist for TradeThatSwing.
22:00 to 22:10: Focus on a few statements which will help my trading. These positively reinforce change when it comes to common trading mistakes. See examples in the Forex routine above.
Sunday 3 PM: Review trades from the prior week. Note mistakes and things done well. Make sure the trade log is up to date, and trades have been screenshotted and saved or printed. REAFFIRM THE EXIT STRATEGY IN EACH TRADE THAT IS OPEN. TELL MYSELF I’M STICKING TO THE PLAN I SET OUT FOR THE TRADE, AND SAY WHAT THAT PLAN IS (stop loss, target, trailing stop loss, or whatever exit it is).
Final Word on Daily Trading Routines
Make your own daily trading routines. Don’t just copy mine, because we don’t have the same life, goals, needs, capital, time constraints, etc. Spend a few hours and come up with how your trading day looks. Be realistic, and accommodate your strengths and weaknesses.
Tweak the above daily routine as needed. If you’re a day trader, lay out exactly what you do prior to trading each day to prepare yourself. Outline what you’ll do throughout the day as trades come and go. Specify what your review process is after trading ends, and set limits on when you will look for and take trades.
While they may seem unimportant to trading, I recommend the 5 to 15 minutes of “meditation” and mental rehearsal exercises. It’s this type of activity that’ll have the greatest impact on reducing trading mistakes. The daily debrief is also very important.
My daily routine took me several hours to think about and figure out (and some days I day trade, others I swing trade, so I have routines for all of them). I had to take my life into account, as well as my personality, and my trading plan. A customized routine is well-thought-out and helps you stay focused on executing your trading plan and eliminating mistakes.
My routine gets tweaked from time to time as life changes or I notice certain changes in my trading. Review the routine once a month to make sure it still fits your lifestyle and your trading plan.
Want some guidance?
The EURUSD Day Trading Course covers how I day trade forex in less 2 hours each day.
The Complete Method Stock Swing Trading Course covers how I swing trade in about 1-2 hours per week (can adjust based on how often you scan for trades).
By Cory Mitchell, CMT
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is personal investment advice, or advice to buy or sell anything. Trading is risky and can result in substantial losses, even more than deposited if using leverage.