Procrastination and ways to overcome it


I always wondered why traders never get to the point of creating a solid trading plan/system and the reasons behind this phenomenon.

I love writing articles about trading psychology and this topic made me come out of hibernation. This blogpost is a small attempt to see the probable reasons behind procrastinating in formulating a system – from a psychological perspective.


Procrastination – we all know what it means and many even admit that they are procrastinators. In the world of trading, many get convinced that a proper trading plan/system is the first and pivotal step to be taken (at least the majority of us :)) but when we try to develop a system, we face this ‘procrastination’ demon. They never start developing one or drop the ball on the way.

Many a times, becoming aware of why something happens is the first step towards changing that pattern.

Procrastination and fear of failure

In my opinion, the primary reason for procrastinating in developing a system is ‘fear of failure’. This fear can manifest itself into various forms –

a) If someone had ventured into trading without a methodology/plan (99% start this way), they would have either blown the account or figured out how risky trading could be. So, part of us may be very scared of the consequences of trading any more that we will have difficulty in starting to develop the system.

b) More often than not, folks would have quit their job to start trading fulltime (or trading for a living – by the way, both are different things 🙂 ), but we are so afraid of the results of not trading well (that happened in the past) that we cannot complete the job of developing our system.

c) Lack of self-confidence – Based on past experiences, we might be uncertain of our ability to perform or just a general lack of self confidence, and this leads to procrastination.

d) If the time pressure to perform is greater, then it will invariably create more fear of failure and let us procrastinate on the things that are needed to develop a trading plan.

Procrastination and fear of success

This point will be counter-intuitive to many but lets face it.

a) Fear of change that success brings in – People fear success because it will bring something new. A change from status-quo.

Lets say that we become rich (by your own definition) and based on our 3rd party experience, we dont like the implications of what it means to be rich. One of the implications could be that your friends no longer want to associate with you as your lifestyle has changed

b) We might have a notion that wealthy people are evil-minded and parsimonious in their ways. If one does not want to be stingy or evil-minded, then there will be internal resistance in making money and hence keep procrastinating a probable way/process involved in making lot of money (trading with a plan/system)

Procrastination and fear of work/lack of interest

a) It is easy to just log into the computer in the morning, enter some random trade based on somebody’s recommendation/news and exit whenever there is a ‘feel’ of profit/loss is enough 🙂 . It takes lot of strenuous effort and commitment from a trader to create a well-thought out plan without any major loopholes.

On top of that, many loathe the sheer amount of work involved in backtesting the system for 10+ years. We have started enjoying the luxuries of modern vagaries that it feels almost archaic to go back to the basics and do things the hard way.

b) If someone told us to create a system and if we don’t like that person (for whatever reason), we tend to feel resentment towards developing a system. We don’t want to be like that person and hence we keep procrastinating. The more we dislike the idea of developing the trading system, the more we tend to push it away.

This essentially means that we will leave the toughest part of the job for that portion of the day when our energy level is low. We do this for any activity that we detest/lack interest in.

Procrastination and lack of understanding/objective

a) It is unfortunate that there is no proper understanding of how to create a trading plan/system. There is a structured process to follow in creating one and not much literature floating around on this less-discussed topic.

b) Traders who start trading usually does not know what they really want out of trading or a trading system. Getting our objectives down is 50% of the task. Until we have your objectives written down, we have no way of knowing what we want or knowing when we’ve got it.

How can we even monitor our advancement, a major factor in ongoing procrastination, until we know exactly what we want? On the contrary, once we know what we want, we can set deadlines for each phase of the system development.

Overcoming procrastination

1. First and foremost step is to realize that procrastination comes from us and we need to take control of the situation. Start today, however small the step/action maybe. There is no better day than today.

2. Worst case is you spent few hours/days/weeks of your time but let us think about the average/best case of start doing something today. We have spent/spending too much time on non-productive things anyways 😊

3. Don’t let the perfectionism get in our way. Even if the quality of the work is poor, it is very important to try something and fail rather than wondering what if.

4. Eat the elephant one bite at a time. Write down your objectives for trading (being vague kills clarity) and steps involved in developing a trading plan/system. Get to know the process involved in developing one. If developing a trading system looks onerous, break it into pieces and create smaller chunks to accomplish.

Final thoughts

None of the businesses started or flourished without proper due diligence/business plan. Why trading should be an exception? This begs to a very important question on our thought process about trading as a profession?

If one is serious about it and think money can be made through trading, not coming up with a plan/system is completely illogical.

As the popular saying goes – ‘ A journey of thousand miles begin with a single step’. We might delay but the time will not. So, lets kick that ‘procrastination’ bucket hard and take that first step today.

Good luck all in developing your trading plan/system !!