Trader Routines Revealed: Nothing Wrong With Good Habits

TD Ameritrade's trading experts share their daily routines.
6 min read
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Like most people, traders are creatures of habit. Those lucky enough to be living with the market-obsessed might even argue that traders are a species entirely of their own. In all seriousness, pre-market and post-market routines can be what makes or breaks a trading approach.

Thankfully some members of our trading team have been nice enough to detail the steps they run through as global markets give way to the U.S. opening bell, and how they wrap up a trading day that we all know never really closes.

There may be “no crying in baseball,” but there is kissing in trading! There’s a message to be found in that revelation too. Trading routines and happy home life often overlap. And that’s all the more reason to make your regular market checks as simple and convenient as possible.

And now, in their own words, here are some of the crew’s trading routines:

JJ Kinahan, Chief Strategist at TD Ameritrade


  • Get up, check the SPUs (S&P 500 futures) and overnight markets on my TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader app.
  • Check my email and read the daily market summaries.
  • Kiss my wife goodbye and leave the house, listening to CNBC radio as I drive.
  • Quick check of the SPUs and then off to work out. I check CNBC and Bloomberg from the gym.
  • Back to the office and review my trading position.
  • Check markets and read posts from the many interesting folks I follow on Twitter.
  • Monitor any 8:30 a.m. ET economic releases.
  • Finalize my trading plan. Let the day begin!


  • Check order fills and overall trading position.
  • Enter any evening futures orders. I will check futures markets every 30–60 minutes all evening.
  • Kiss my wife goodnight. Check futures one more time.

Tom White, Director, TradeWise Advisors


  • I usually wake up about three to five times instinctively to check markets throughout the night on the Mobile Trader app. If any large swings, I check the news outlets.
  • I’ll read news or watch CNBC in the gym before hitting my desk.
  • As the strategist for TradeWise Advisors, I write a Market Blog each day before the open. I draw from the S&P Capital IQ morning briefing on the TD Ameritrade website, Bloomberg, CNBC, the FlyontheWall, MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance, Reuters, and Seeking Alpha, among other sources.
  • My job is to be market-obsessed. I watch CNBC on the trading platform from the time I get in until the market closes. And I scour my existing positions and look for new trades. I have the “Live News” feature open on the thinkorswim® platform to keep up on any potential market-moving news to help with adjustments and closing trades. I’m monitoring social media sites continually throughout the day for the latest news.


  • I usually follow earnings and economic data released after the close, using the Live News feature or CNBC on Trader TV.

Scott Connor, Director, Trader Education


  • Pre-market for me starts the night before, watching Asia markets after dinner on CNBC (on TV or on thinkorswim platform) and Bloomberg. Scan for issues that may carry over to US opening and ultimately affect any executed trades I already have.
  • First thing in the morning spot check US Index futures, interest rates, US Dollar, and select commodities on the TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader App. I then flip on the TV and run it in background as I get ready for work.
  • On the commuter train check everything again and scan news sites and Markets: Overview plus Morning Briefing on Also start compiling US economic data releases.
  • On the commuter bus to the office start listing important topics and market news we’ll cover on our live daily Swim Lessons broadcast each morning.
  • Monitor existing trades with particular attention to any executed earnings strategies I might be looking to close or manage in the first hour of the market opening. Also check for any Ex Dividend dates and potential assignment risk.
  • Until the live broadcast at 10:30 a.m., I continue to monitor Twitter, existing trades, stocks in the news, unusual options activity, corporate actions, and follow Trade Flash on the thinkorswim platform.


  • Watch aftermarket earnings releases and relevant market news.
  • Check out Greeks and P/L individually and Portfolio Beta Weighted for groups.
  • Check out CBOE TV, particularly Most Active Options and Volatility 411.

Kevin Hincks, Senior Specialist, Trader Education


  • Wake up at 4:45 AM to check futures on TDA Mobile Trader and foreign markets for Macroeconomic Tone.
  • Check overnight Grain Markets for any fills from night session orders as well as the CNBC app and all financial shows while on treadmill for news and event summaries.   
  • Check individual names/sectors for Microeconomic tone. Develop Trading strategy for day based on matching option/futures strategies to current IV trading environment.  
  • Check my daily assumptions and trade options while fundamentally blocking out noise/rumors.


  • Check TWO P&Ls every day: Position P&L and day trading P&L. I combine the two to determine my total P&L. This habit gives me a clear view of what trades have worked and which have not.  
  • My daily news is market news since I see everything through the prism of trading.
  • My news services (CNBC, FOX Business, Bloomberg) all flash on my phone for instant updates.
  • After dinner, futures and Grain markets open, and I make sure orders are in for night trading. Gets Personal!

FIGURE 1: MY DOCK. An enhanced My Dock feature showing a three-column view. Additional customization available. Source: TDA. For illustrative purposes only. 

Not quite ready for the elite level like our pro trading team? We understand. But traders of all experience levels could potentially benefit from having a structured routine. That’s why we have worked hard to make it easy for you to practice good habits.

If your portfolio doesn’t look like anyone else’s, your website shouldn’t either. With the My Dock feature, you’ll be able to customize your website experience with what’s most relevant to you. Select from a variety of modules such as watch lists, streaming news, videos, account balances, indices, and more, all in one convenient place.

Getting Personal

Your website should look as unique as your portfolio. With the My Dock feature you can personalize your website experience with what’s relevant to you.


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