(The ‘Related’ links in the following text are recordings of prior webinars which were sent to attendees of today’s webinar.)
Having a consistent process is one of the most important facets to successful trading. Consistency in your approach will not only help lead to the obvious – consistent results – but make it much easier to identify strengths and weaknesses. Strengths of course are those things which you do well and want to do more of, and weaknesses are those areas in your trading process which you can dial in on and make efforts towards fixing.
Related: Focusing on the Process
It all starts with having a proper trading plan. A detailed plan of attack provides the framework necessary for a trader to ‘stay the course’. There are facets to trading which we have control over and those which we cannot control. Those aspects which we can control include risk management (trade size, risk/reward, account management), the type of tools you use to analyze markets and how you use them, trade execution, and how you go about handling the good and bad times.
Related: Creating a Trading Plan
Things which are out of our control include the outcome of a particular trade and market conditions. We can isolate opportunities which give us an edge, but even then, not all trades are going to be winners. In fact, you may lose more often than you win, but with the proper set of risk management rules (able to control) you can still come out ahead over time. In regards to market conditions – ‘the market is the market’ and it will do as it will. It oscillates from periods of low volatility to high volatility, from range-bound to trending; how we react to changing market conditions is the only part we have control over. Correctly identifying evolving market conditions and reacting to them accordingly is a skill acquired through experience.
Achieving consistency in your analytical process and application towards your trading strategy(s) is best done by keeping things as simple as possible. It’s good practice to utilize a select few forms of analysis and keep your ‘toolbox’ light. What you use matters less than you think. There is a plethora of ways to analyze and view the markets, with no real right or wrong way. The key is to be consistent in whatever approach you adopt.
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Each trade set-up identified needs to be approached with the same mindset each time, whether you are trading breakouts, buying or shorting pullbacks in a trend, trading ranges (mean-reversion), etc. For example, if you trade breakouts and are entering a long-trade, do you buy as soon as the price crosses to a new high or do you wait for the bar on the time-frame in question to close before entering? Maybe you take an approach which combines the two entry-types. All valid methods. In any case, consistent execution across all trades is the key.
Again, it comes back to having a trading plan with hard-fastened rules which keep you guided and acting in a consistent manner. Using a pre-trade checklist can be helpful in regards to making sure trades are in-line with your overall trading plan.
It is also imperative that one doesn’t jump around form one form of analysis or strategy to another without giving it ample time to see if it works or not. You won’t be able to determine the effectiveness of your approach if you are trading the ‘flavor of the week’. Jumping around is a sure-fire way to nowhere, fast. Allowing a few months’ time to see if something works or not will shed light on to whether major changes or smaller ‘fixes’ are needed. But it is only after an extended period of time can we draw accurate conclusions about whether something works or not.
Risk management is the single most important aspect to trading success, and where a large number of traders fail. It must be approached consistently if one expects to achieve consistent results. Trading is about probabilities – win % x win/loss ratio. With that in mind, if one doesn't have a consistent risk-per-trade amount those probabilities will go out the window as winners and losers will be on varying amounts of risk. For example, if you make 2% on one trade, lose 4% on the next, then make 1% on another then you will find yourself with very uneven (and in this case negative) results even though you were profitable on two out of three trades. Risk/reward (stop/target) objectives need to be consistently skewed in your favor.
We also touched on handling draw-downs (bad periods of trading) and run-ups (good periods of trading). This ties in with risk management from an overall account perspective. You need to have a plan which addresses the good and bad times. It is best practice to exit the market for a short period of time if suffering an extended drawdown, or at the least reduce trading size by a significant amount until issues are addressed and confidence is restored.
Last but not least, there are tasks which can be done to help keep you heading in the right direction and identify strengths and weaknesses as you go. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to identify patterns in your trading which you want to focus on – both positive and negative. Periodical trade review is also key to uncovering inconsistencies as well as seeing what is working best in your trading. Do more of what is working, less of what isn’t.
Bottom line: Having a consistent process and way of keeping yourself on course is paramount to achieving trading success.
For the full conversation, please see the video above…
---Written by Paul Robinson, Market Analyst
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