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Trading Psychology Posted by Team Topstep October 7, 2021

5 Tactics That Will Help You Wait For The Best Trades


Does This Plot Line Ring A Bell?

Check out this scenario and tell me if it sounds familiar. It’s a slow trading day; nothing seems to be materializing within your market. Eventually, you begin to negotiate your entries and compromise your setups. Finally, you take a trade, it fails, and you are left feeling disappointed in yourself because you knew better.

This is part of the development of every trader. Even the best have to combat these urges daily. Meanwhile, other traders experience this behavior as an essential growing edge that hinders meeting their potential. However, regardless of who you are, I’m confident that anyone who has traded the markets has shared in this experience. 

Fighting Human Tendencies

The problem is not so complex; we are trading because we want to make money. Furthermore, we want to gain experience. When our strategies are not signaling, often on days of slow price action, we feel that meeting our profit quota will be impossible. Then, our mind begins to work against us the more time we have to process the market inactivity. 

Eventually, thoughts cross our minds that include ideas like, “If I don’t take a chance now, there may not be another one this good for the rest of the day.” Yes, this is a natural thought; but I’m sure we can all realize that taking a trade based on that thought is not as healthy as trading while thinking, “This is as close to an ideal setup as I can hope to find.”

The unfortunate side of trading is that it’s tempting to slip into the slope of adrenaline surge. Trading can become like an addictive substance, sometimes comparable to gambling problems, insomuch that we don’t know how to sit patiently on our hands and wait for the ideal setup. So instead, we become fidgety, hoping for something stimulating to happen. 

In contrast, I’ve had the opportunity to observe some truly professional traders who have built strong careers in the markets. One impressive trait that I have witnessed in their behavior is the ability to wait, sometimes many hours, for their trade to develop. 

5 Tactics That Will Help You Wait For The Best Trades

Today, I will examine some techniques that may assist you in developing the patience to sit on your hands like a professional. Some of these ideas have come from watching or interviewing certain notable professionals. Other ideas are things that I have successfully practiced in my career. 

  1. Automate Your Alerts

Let’s face it—one of the components that create frustrations with waiting for your preferred setups is watching the charts create patterns that may look promising but then fall short of generating your signals. Eventually, staring at the screen leads to wishful thinking as we begin to project our hopes upon the chart patterns and negotiate what our eyes see. Then, in slow markets, we talk ourselves into taking lower-quality trades.

The solution for some traders will be to automate your alerts. If you can automate your entries and exits successfully, then go for it. However, what I am specifically referring to is having alerts when conditions are signaling for your trades. 

This helps you to be able to move your eyes away from the screens and avoid micro analyzing every one or two ticks. It also keeps your minds fresher, enabling you to make better decisions when you do get a reliable signal. 

  1. Become a Multitasker

This idea leans on the first potential solution. That is, engaging in responsible and productive multitasking while you are waiting for your market to materialize. Whatever your multitasking is, it should require discipline. In other words, I would not suggest that you watch TV while trading. The reason is that entertainment often leads to distractions and a dissolve of discipline. 

However, an ideal example of multitasking would be to exercise while waiting for your alerts. If you have the proper exercise equipment in proximity to your trading screens, then you can conceivably keep an eye on your markets while you enjoy a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or whatever tool of your choice. Exercise is a discipline, and it doesn’t have to detract from your market focus, especially when you have automated alerts to keep you in tune with your system.

Exercise is also physically beneficial, helping to combat the stress of the trading day and the disadvantages of the sedentary nature of trading life. One more benefit this has is that when you are in positions and want to be patient, it helps with letting your trades work toward their targets without taking an early exit.

  1. Branch Out

The third idea that helps traders sit on their hands patiently waiting for good setups is to extend the scope of markets and timeframes they watch. First, there is a caveat that should be articulated: not every trader is ready for that type of stress. However, I’ve known other traders who had an exemplary system but, for whatever reason, only maintained an interest in a single market. What happens is that when their market was slow and produced no signals, they were out of luck, leaving them with the tendency to chase orders for the rest of the week. 

Many futures and currency markets trade in tandem; however, there is enough diversity out there to the extent that a trader who has a proven system on a market like the equity index futures could test the same strategy on a commodity like crude oil or even soybeans. There is a fair chance that one of those markets will present a good trade in the course of a day. The more markets you responsibly watch, the pickier you can be about your entries because, theoretically, the greater likelihood is that you will have more reliable signals. Furthermore, if your entry alerts are automated, you can cast a considerably wider net of traded markets. 

  1. Value Your On Base Percentage

Some of you may have seen the movie Moneyball, which dramatized the Oakland Athletics baseball team twenty years prior. The ballclub had little money for payroll compared to the other MLB teams, and they began to tout on-base percentage as a more esteemed statistic. Simply put, the team constructed a club not by hitting home runs but merely by getting on base. 

This reminds me of a simple truth I heard expressed by an exceptionally gifted trader who said, “I don’t need dozens of trades a day, I just need one trade, if it’s the right one.” This trader described how many counterparts were “swinging for the fences,” but the secret to his success was to start with small trades at the beginning of the month and compound winners throughout the period. As a result, he frequently ended the month with substantial success.

The wisdom of that trader is a critical reminder that we often fall into the trap of trying for the huge winning days, which means we look for the big setups early in the day. However, the patience of matured skill suggests that long-term success comes by waiting for the right pitch.

  1. Strategize for Slow Days

This final idea is just as crucial. If you have a problem sitting on your hands when your market is not producing signals, then use multiple strategies on your same market. A great way to complement your style would be by having setups that signal during slow times when your market isn’t producing the expected signals. If you do the necessary work and appropriately backtest with a responsible risk to reward ratio, your opportunities can be significantly enhanced by employing this method. 


Each of these is an idea that may help any trader in overcoming the urge to press buttons. However, everyone is unique, and there may be personal ways of incorporating these that will be more suitable for your style. It’s important to remember to guard against our impulses. Cognitive psychology informs us that people often act on what is sometimes called “automatic thoughts.” One crucial aspect is to counter negative thoughts by reinforcing healthy ideas. It is challenging to conquer the human mind and habit; however, successful long-term trading requires more than a mastery of market analysis—it requires a deep analysis of oneself. Until next time, trade well!