The Do-Nothing Technique | A Quick Trading Psychology Tip

By Yvan


Society… it conditions us to continually chase money, power, and a faster, wilder pace of life. Don’t slow down, and God forbid don’t pause, don’t reflect. Keep chasing or you fall behind.

Over-schedule, overthink, overwork… this is the mantra. This is supposed to be what progress is. This is supposed to be what success is. Early, we learn to believe that this is absolutely normal, and in due time it becomes an addiction.

We can’t sit still for a moment. Just like any addict, sitting still and doing nothing makes us feel unproductive. We feel we’re losing time, so we become agitated.

In trading, patience and the ability to sit still is not only a virtue, it’s gold. Doing nothing can be one of the most productive things you can do. But as one would expect, being the addicts that we are, the moment the trading session opens, we feel the urge to become more productive all of a sudden. It’s like our minds will not let us enjoy doing nothing. We have to analyze, anticipate, worry, stress, tweak, especially when we’re not supposed to.

The Reason…

You have thoughts, right? Have you ever noticed that those thoughts tend to occur constantly? Have you ever noticed that some of those thoughts are visual?– you have memories (past), plans (future), imaginations (fantasy) just popping up like that in that space you call mind.

Have you ever noticed that you have sensations all over your body–in it and on it; pleasant, unpleasant; some physical, some emotional?

Have you ever noticed that all these experiences–thoughts and sensations–are continuous?

You’re constantly pulled to mental states and body states, and, most of the time, you’re not aware that you are. You’re automatically in the stories, you believe them, and they urge you to act in a certain way. Which you do. Have you ever noticed that too?

Then, next thing you know, you’re entering your trades at the wrong time; you’re exiting at the wrong time; you’re removing your stop-loss; you’re increasing or decreasing your position size… essentially, you’re going against your trading rules.

This is a problem because this lack of awareness of your urges is costing you money. Trading is mostly a waiting game where you have to strike only when the time is right. If you want action that happens on your own terms, you’re in the wrong field. As a trader, you simply can’t afford to lack self-awareness.

The market does not hurry, it moves at its own rhythm, on its own time. And self-awareness helps you cultivate patience and ‘do nothing’ as that happens. This ability to let the market do its thing saves you time and energy.  It allows trades to come to you. It puts a stop to the chasing. It embraces the natural order and evolution of things.

But best of all, this is a learnable skill. Absolutely! Let’s try a little exercise…

The Do-Nothing Technique

Posture: Right where you are.

When: While waiting for your entry signal; while waiting for your exit signal.

Instructions: Just allow your mind to do its thing. It will generate stories and your body will generate feelings urging you to behave in a certain way. Your aim is to tolerate being there with yourself without trying to change or control anything. Just be there.

Let your attention go anywhere it wants. You can fantasize about the perfect trade that yields you 1000% return; you can worry about missing out on an incredible opportunity; you can fear a loss; you can think about nothing or everything.

But notice it. Notice where your mind goes. Tune in to that part of you that simply notices what you’re thinking and feeling instead of being automatically captured by those different states.

That observing quality of your mind notices things in a neutral way. Notice how it’s not entangled or captured by the different stories and mental and bodily states. It simply observes. Pure, neutral, unencumbered…

And that’s it. That’s the whole technique!

Now, the do-nothing technique is more readily applicable for day traders since they have to be in front of their screen during the entire process, from trade selection to exit. But swing traders and position traders can also make use of it. In fact, you can use it anywhere, anytime, in and out of the market.

This technique helps you tolerate whatever your body and mind do, which helps you overcome impatience. Impatience is you trying to force things to happen by thinking them more strongly or more often, without paying very much attention to where things actually are at.

On the other hand, when you’re patient, you’re a keen observer of what’s happening. You notice when there’s an opportunity for something to happen, and when there isn’t yet. You notice that things develop through different cycles, and different things happen at different points in the cycle. In other words, you drop the need to create action on your own terms, you only respond to the action in a systematic way whenever it appears.

Now, a few tips…

Tip #1 –This Takes Practice

It’s OK if you find it hard to do the do-nothing technique at first, but this is where you start from. By the way, Tom Basso (hedge fund manager interviewed in The New Market Wizards ) uses a very similar technique.

Tip #2 –You Are Intentionally Doing Nothing

You do not even have to approach this as a meditation technique, although you are free to do so. Notice what your attitudes are, and do not defend yourself against anything. Whether you are bored, happy, tired, excited, anxious, fearful, greedy, restless, you welcome it all. Your goal is to just observe yourself experiencing those different states. You cannot fail at this.

Tip #3 –Notice The Urge To Take Action

If you have a lot of noise in your head, you may find yourself wanting to take action in some form – entering (or exiting) before you even get a trade signal. As said, all that “noise” or mental rehearsal is not a problem and is not to be resisted. When you resist the noise, it only gets louder.

But just this act of noticing the noise is extremely powerful because it allows you to see what’s going on in your mind and body as if from a third-person perspective. This begets objectivity and you can then say “Okay, this thought, or feeling, or urge is not in line with my trading rules, so I will not act on them.”

The Bottom Line

The Do-Nothing technique is simply about interrupting your impulsive behaviors. It’s cultivating a calm acceptance that things in life can and will often happen in a different order than the one you could be holding in mind. It’s keeping a good attitude while waiting for your pitch. And this all starts with awareness.

Comments are welcome on Twitter.

Wishing you a very profitable trading week.

 

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Memorable Lines From This Post

In trading, patience and the ability to sit still is not only a virtue, it’s gold. Doing nothing can be one of the most productive things you can do.

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Trading is mostly a waiting game where you have to strike only when the time is right. If you want action that happens on your own terms, you’re in the wrong field.

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Impatience is you trying to force things to happen by thinking them more strongly or more often, without paying very much attention to where things actually are at.

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When you’re patient, you’re a keen observer of what’s happening. You notice when there’s an opportunity for something to happen, and when there isn’t yet.

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