What Do You Really “Need” at Your Trading Desk?

The state of a trading desk can often tell a lot about the individual who sits there. Some desks, for example, are clean and neatly organized, perhaps a lot like the traders who use them aspire to be with respect to their trading. Others are a frazzled mess of papers, books and resources, scribbled notes, and even random items like stress balls, children's and pet toys, back scratchers, and who knows what else? In fact, think about what's on your trading desk right now, and ask yourself whether you really need it to trade well?

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Now, the fact is that neither a messy trading desk nor a clean one is a clear sign of a successful trader. Everyone is different, and there are top-tier retail and professional traders who belong in either camp. However, while few traders, if any, could benefit from a messier trading desk, plenty more could improve by cleaning theirs up, removing unnecessary distractions, and simplifying their decision making processes.

To find out if you're one such trader, read on to discover the select few trading desk items that truly help your trading, as well as some of the more common items—many of which traders spend hard-earned money on—that can hinder performance instead.

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3 Items That Should Be on Your Trading Desk...

Trading Desk NoteLess is often more when trading the markets. For example, focusing on trading fewer set-ups—just the highest-quality ones; or trading only a select few markets, assets, and/or time frames where you feel most comfortable and perform best. Likewise, traders can often profit more by doing less with their trading desk as well, eliminating excess variables, and keeping close to them only a few items that really matter; items like…

A Simple Motto/Reminder

Displayed prominently and in plain sight, perhaps at eye level on your monitor frame, should be a clear guideline or a few words to trade by. Perhaps a message like "Be Mindful," or "Be Humble" would apply to you; or else a reminder to "Manage Risk," or "Be Selective," or "Let Profits Run" would be more applicable. It all depends on the trader, but incorporating a motto as part of your trading desk set-up is a fine way to stay on track and trade with a consistent purpose.

See related: Two Simple Words That Can Help Your Trading

Trade Journal

Forever within easy grasp should also be your trade journal, complete with your strategy and trading goals, your "rules" for trading select, qualifying set-ups, and the ongoing lessons you're learning along your journey as a trader. Keep it right next to you at your trading desk, refer to it often to remain plan compliant, and remember to thoroughly log each trade as soon as you take it so you can track your results, learn from successes, and improve upon those inevitable shortcomings.

Emergency Protection Measures

For all that's probably present on your trading desk, what may still be missing are things you need to be protected in case of emergency, like a power and/or Internet outage, a problem with your broker platform, or a technology stoppage. That's why measures like a separate battery back-up, having your broker's phone number and other tech support numbers pre-programmed, and having a written plan for exiting positions in case of emergency are all more important than a library of trading books, analysis tools and resources, and the other common clutter that's typical on most every trading desk for use under "normal" conditions.

…And 3 More That Are Unnecessary Distractions

Trading DeskMany dream of a futuristic trading desk with all the "bells and whistles," and it's not hard to understand why. While it all looks very cool, though, too much technology and sensory stimulation at your trading desk can also become a distraction. Below we have explored what items you may and may not need. And that's why items like the following are popular among traders, but aren't necessary in the least:


Many traders will find that having their TV tuned to financial media all day does more harm than good. Listening to all the "talking heads" can promote bias, afterall, and maybe even talk you into or out of positions. And, considering that trend trading isn't especially dependent on news and data, to trade with more confidence and simplicity, ignore the financial media while you're at your trading desk, and start by not having a TV by your side to begin with.

Excess Screens/Technology

What's smarter and cooler looking than a multi-screen set-up with the latest trading hardware and software, a multitude of tools and indicators, and data and charts everywhere? It looks powerful and professional, and, yes, some traders have it all at their disposal…but that's not what makes them successful! No trader "needs" all that functionality, so scale into more technology if ever you decide you must, but never feel a need for so many screens and so much technology that patterns—and most of all, your strategy—become lost in the shuffle.

Financial Motivations

Lastly, never make trading about the money, and eliminate anything on your trading desk that does. With that, make sure you don't have motivational photos of material things like exotic cars, beachfront homes, and a life of luxury on your trading desk or the walls around it. Fixating on those items and trading in pursuit of end results can lead to undue risks, ill-advised trades, and disastrous consequences. Instead of end results, fixate on the trading process, and follow the rules so over the long term, results will take care of themselves. All the while, though, make sure you aren't trading in pursuit of fast money or short-term profits.

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