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A Day In The Life Of A Swing Trader

What does a day in the life of a swing trader look like?

Swing trading involves using both fundamental and technical analysis to capture significant price movements while minimising idle periods. This approach allows for more efficient use of capital and potentially higher returns but also comes with increased commissions and volatility.

For the average retail trader, swing trading can be challenging. Professional traders have advantages such as more experience, better leverage, access to information, and lower commissions. However, they face limitations in terms of the instruments they can trade, the level of risk they can assume, and the large capital they manage. Large institutions often trade in volumes too substantial to quickly enter and exit positions.

Knowledgeable retail traders can leverage these dynamics to consistently profit in the market. Here’s an outline of an effective daily routine and strategy for swing trading, which can help you achieve success in your trading activities.

Key Points

  • Swing trading merges fundamental and technical analysis to capture significant price movements while avoiding idle periods.

  • Swing traders need to be adept at managing their trades with precision, using pre-determined entry and exit strategies based on technical analysis to maximise profits and minimise risks.

  • During market hours, swing traders focus on monitoring and executing trades, while after-market hours are used for evaluation and review rather than trading.

Pre-Market Routine

Starting Early: Retail swing traders usually begin their day a few hours before 9:30 EST which is when the market opens. The pre-market period is critical for understanding the day's market sentiment, identifying potential trades, creating a daily watch list, and checking existing positions.

Market Overview: The first task is to catch up on the latest news and developments. This can be done quickly through financial news channels or reliable websites (or you can get all the key information sent to your inbox for free from our 5-minute daily newsletter: swinglyreport.com/subscribe). Key areas to monitor include:

  • Overall market sentiment (bullish/bearish trends, key economic reports, inflation, currency movements, overseas trading sessions)

  • Sector sentiment (performance of various sectors)

  • Current holdings (news, earnings reports, SEC filings)

Finding Potential Trades: Traders look for trades with a fundamental catalyst, using technical analysis to manage or exit positions. Two primary sources for fundamental catalysts are:

  • Special Opportunities: These opportunities are best discovered through SEC filings and, occasionally, headline news. They may include initial public offerings (IPOs), bankruptcies, insider buying, buyouts, takeovers, mergers, restructurings, acquisitions, and other similar events. Typically, these are identified by monitoring specific SEC filings, such as S-4 and 13D. This can be easily facilitated by websites like SECFilings.com, which send notifications as soon as a filing is made. While these opportunities often come with significant risk, they can offer substantial rewards to those who conduct thorough research. These strategies involve swing traders buying when the majority are selling and selling when others are buying, attempting to "fade" the market's overreactions to news and events.

  • Sector Plays: These opportunities are best found by analysing the news or consulting reputable financial information websites to identify which sectors are performing well. For instance, you can ascertain that the energy sector is thriving by checking a popular energy exchange-traded fund (like IYE) or scanning the news for mentions of the energy sector. Traders seeking higher risk and returns might focus on more obscure sectors, such as coal or titanium. These are often more challenging to analyse but can yield much greater returns. Such strategies involve the swing trader buying into trends at opportune moments and riding these trends until there are signs of reversal or retracement.

Creating a Watch List: After identifying potential trades, traders create a watch list of stocks with a fundamental catalyst and good trading prospects. Some traders use a dry-erase board to categorise opportunities, entry prices, target prices, and stop-loss prices.

Checking Existing Positions: Before the market opens, traders review their current positions, ensuring no significant overnight developments have occurred. This includes checking news services and the SEC's EDGAR database for new filings. Any material information should be analysed to determine its impact on the trading plan, possibly adjusting stop-loss and take-profit points accordingly.

Market Hours

Trading Period: From 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST, swing traders actively monitor and execute trades. Many use level II quotes to see who is buying and selling and the quantities involved. Traders from a day trading background may also consider market maker activities to understand trade intentions and avoid misleading bids and asks.

Managing Trades: Upon entering a trade, the focus shifts to identifying an exit strategy using technical analysis tools like Fibonacci extensions and resistance levels. Ideally, exit strategies are pre-determined, but adjustments might be necessary based on the day’s trading activity. It's crucial never to increase risk by lowering stop-loss levels; instead, adjust profit-taking levels if the market looks bullish or move stop-loss levels up to secure profits.

After-Hours Market

Evaluation Time: After-hours trading is usually not ideal for swing trades due to low liquidity and wide spreads. The primary focus during this time is performance evaluation. Traders should meticulously record all trades and ideas for tax purposes and performance assessment.

Reviewing Open Positions: A final review of open positions is essential, paying close attention to after-hours earnings announcements or other significant events that might impact holdings.

The importance of relaxing and taking time off

While swing trading can be highly engaging and potentially rewarding, it also demands intense focus and can be mentally exhausting. It's crucial for swing traders to take regular breaks and engage in activities that help them unwind and relax. Incorporating relaxation techniques and leisure activities into their daily routine can significantly improve their trading performance and overall well-being.

The Role of Relaxation in Trading

Continuous exposure to the market's highs and lows can lead to burnout and decision fatigue, negatively impacting a trader's ability to make sound judgments. By taking time off and engaging in relaxing activities, traders can recharge their mental batteries and return to trading with a fresh perspective. This improved mental clarity can enhance their ability to analyse market trends, execute trades with precision, and stick to their trading plan.

Activities to Promote Relaxation

Sports and Physical Exercise: Physical activities such as running, swimming, or playing a sport can help reduce stress and improve mental focus. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, helping traders to feel more positive and energised. Regular physical activity also promotes better sleep, which is essential for maintaining optimal cognitive function.

Meditation and Mindfulness: Practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help traders manage stress and maintain emotional balance. These practices encourage a calm and focused mind, reducing the likelihood of impulsive decisions driven by anxiety or excitement. Even a few minutes of meditation each day can make a significant difference in a trader's mental state.

Hobbies and Leisure Activities: Engaging in hobbies unrelated to trading, such as painting, reading, or gardening, can provide a much-needed mental break. These activities allow traders to shift their focus away from the markets and engage in something enjoyable and fulfilling, which can help in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Benefits of Taking Time Off

Taking regular breaks and engaging in relaxation activities can offer several benefits to swing traders:

  • Improved Decision-Making: A well-rested and relaxed mind is better equipped to process information and make informed decisions.

  • Enhanced Focus: Regular relaxation helps maintain concentration levels, allowing traders to stay sharp and attentive during trading hours.

  • Reduced Stress: Engaging in relaxing activities helps manage stress levels, reducing the risk of burnout and maintaining overall mental health.

  • Increased Resilience: A balanced lifestyle fosters emotional resilience, enabling traders to handle market fluctuations with greater composure.


Adopting a structured daily routine like this can enhance your trading performance and help you surpass market returns. Success in swing trading requires good resources, careful planning, and diligent preparation. Incorporating relaxation and leisure activities into your routine is essential for swing traders. Not only does it improve mental health and well-being, but it also enhances trading performance by ensuring traders remain focused, clear-headed, and capable of making sound decisions. By striking a balance between work and relaxation, traders can sustain long-term success in the demanding world of swing trading.

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