They can be big time wasters because most of us fail our resolutions in the first month, and even if we make it to February, only 9 percent of people will achieve their resolutions.
That's okay, because we are going to use our knowledge and research to create actionable goals and set up habits to achieve exactly what we desire in 2019.
If you follow my rules for making resolutions, odds are you will join the 9 percenters.
Here is how you will achieve your 2019 goals in 6 easy steps (followed by my 2019 trading goals).
Past Year Review
This is an important step that almost everybody skips.
Past year reviews are a crucial step in setting future goals. As Winston Churchill said, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it". We don't want to repeat our mistakes, and we do want to replicate our successes. So make sure to spend a few days reflecting on the past year. As 2018 comes to a close, don't just jump into the new year.
Instead, take some time to reflect on the past 365 days.
At the end of the year, I always slow things down, think deep and take some time to reflect.
This reflection is not something that can be done in an hour or two. It's not a surface level exercise. Think deeply about the past year. Deep thinking is a lost art. It creates focus, creativity and results. So study the past year in depth. Ask yourself what worked and what didn't. What were the positives and negatives of the year and how you achieved your results. Now create list of lessons that you can take into the future (I did that for my own 2018 trading with these 11 lessons). This will help you set and accomplish your new goals.
Create Big Picture Goals
I used to make a list of everything I wanted to achieve and stare at it everyday. This was a big mistake.
Every goal was worthwhile, but there was no theme that guided me through the process of acting on them. Instead, I went through my day randomly working on one or two of the goals.
Pretty soon I couldn't even decide what to work on that day.
Now I create big picture goals that break down into smaller goals that tie into the theme.
For example, this year I had four big picture goals impacted different aspects of my life:
- Beat the market by 20 percent (career)
- Increase my family time by 30 percent (family)
- Improve my fitness by 50 percent (health and wellness)
- Learn 10 percent more than last year (self improvement)
These big picture goals guide everything I do.
Every single day, I wake up thinking about how I will achieve these four pillars.
Notice that each big picture goals relates to a different area, like career or family. I only have one thing for each area. Also notice that I give each a specific percentage for improvement.
These percentages give me something tangent to shoot for. We perform better when we have specific measures that keep us striving for more.
These big picture goals are a good guide, but now we need to create something actionable to achieve them.
Create Specific Actionable Goals For Each Big Picture Goal
Big picture goals are important, but without smaller goals there is no road map for achieving them. That's where specific goals come in.
Ask yourself what it will take to accomplish the big picture goal. Whatever your answers are, those are your specific goals.
For instance, I expect to learn 10% more than last year. How do I achieve the required improvement?
My answer to achieving this goals includes:
- Read 10 more books than last year (52 books last year)
- Watch 10 documentaries (I watched 8 last year)
- Read from 10 scientific journals weekly (I regulary read 5 last year).
These are specific actionable goals I can do to achieve my big picture goals.
Create Habits For Each Specific Goal
Now is the time to lose ourselves in the micro, without even having to think about the macro or big picture goals.
The first step is to create small habits for the goal. These habits should be easy to do.
Make it really easy to complete, almost to the point where you would have to actively avoid your goal to not accomplish it.
For example, one of my specific goals to learn more is read 62 books this year. Since I read 52 books last year, it means I now have to read 10-15 more pages per day.
So I make it a habit to read 30-45 minutes everyday right after I wake up and before I start my prep for the stock market open. I do this without fail in order to get my habit done.
The beauty is once the habit is formed, you don't have to even think about it. You just do it and are easily on your way to accomplishing your goal.
I also have replaced time wasters like social media with the reading habit. It's not hard to do.
How do I make this easy for myself?
I keep books everywhere I hangout.
Books I'm reading (I'm usually in the process of reading 5 books at any one period of time) are on the coffee table, desk, dining table, bedside and in the car. I also keep my phone stocked with digital books. It's almost impossible for me not to read.
See how easy it is to accomplish your goals? All you need to do is create habits and make it easy to exacute. It really is that simple.
Review Your Progress
It's important to schedule regular progress reports.
Without them, you really don't know where you are going or how far you have come. I do this once every week. Don't complicate it. Just take all of your goals and track where you are big picture, then look at how you performed on a daily basis. If you are behind, make sure to pick it up in that area.
If you are more than a little bit behind, and truly struggling on a goal, don't give up.
Prepare For Failure
I have a secret for you: you will fail. Stuff comes up. There might be a day where I can't make time to read or exercise. This is where many resolutions are broken. At the first hint of failure, people tend to give up.
They are no longer perfect, and that makes people want to quit.
Don't worry about perfection. Don't think about today, think about the end game. On the last day of the year, when you review your goals, you won't care that you missed reading one, or even two, days. All you'll care is that you accomplished your goal.
So remember, you will fail and it's okay. Just put it behind you and keep moving toward the end of your goal.
Paul's 2019 Trading Goals
Now that you know how I work to accomplish my goals, here it finally is: My 2019 trading goals.
Big picture goal: Beat the market (SPY) by at least 20%.
Why: If you are a swing trader and can't outperform the market, you are wasting your time and might as well just invest in the indexes.
Specific "micro" goals:
1. No losses over 1.5%
Why: Earlier in the year I took on some added risk and bigger than normal losses. My performance this year would have improved by 2-3% sticking to this rule.
Habit: Before each trade set a stop loss no greater than 1.2%. This gives me a cushion in case there is a gap down.
2. Hedge 20% of trades
Why: I believe 2019 is going to continue the 2018 trend of extreme volatility. While we are better than most at directional trading, sometimes were are wrong. In volatile times, it pays to hedge.
Habit: I will ask myself before every trade how strong the market is. If I do not have a directional bias that is "extremely bullish" or "extremely bearish", I will consider hedging with a trade in the other direction.
3. Trade in direction of the market (when not hedged)
Why: The big money is made when you trade with the trend
Habit: When my market analysis tells me to trade directionally, I will not even make a watchlist in the other direction.
4. Increase frequency of trades during earnings season by 30%
Why: In 2018 I focused on market analysis even during earnings season. While this strategy is sound, there were some opportunities I felt I missed.
Habit: During earnings season, I will take my earnings watchlist and create a list of 5 actionable earnings trades per day. When one triggers, I will take it regardless of direction of trigger, unless market is in an "extreme" phase.
5. Learn one new trading strategy (TBD later)
Why: Traders must always build on skills. I pick one new thing to master every year.
Habit: Spend 45 minutes after every market close working on new concepts. Once I've decided on a new strategy, I'll use that 45 minutes to research and test daily until satisfied with strategy.
6. Test out new charting platforms
Why: While I still love TC2000, I want to make sure I'm not missing out on more efficient platforms.
Habit: Spend one hour every Saturday morning testing out new charting platforms.
These are my 2019 trading goals.
I'll use the exactly strategy outlined above to accomplish them. I am confident I will beat the market by 20% (My alerts beat SPY by 40% this year) even without the micro-goals.
However, I have no doubt that accomplishing these 6 specific trading goals will vastly improve my year end trading performance.
Now I want to know what your 2019 goals are.
Send me an email and I'll keep track of them with you!
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