How do the pros spend their time? Jeff Wilser of CoinDesk asks two of the best.
Charts, charts, and more charts. Then more charts. If it’s a day that ends in a Y, a crypto trader is looking at charts. “I have to be on top of things at all times,” says Adrian Zdunczyk, a Chartered Market Technician (CMT) and founder of the trading group The Birb Nest. “At no point can I say, I don’t give a [damn] about the market for the next week.”
If you’re a trader of US stocks, then you can focus on the first hour of trading – which has the most volatility (and the most trading opportunities) – and then shut down for the day. And when the market closes at 4 p.m., you’re forced to stop trading and go have a life.
Not the case with crypto. It’s 24/7 and it’s blinking and flashing and tempting you with juicy alpha. Does this mean that successful crypto traders spend all of their time trading?
It’s almost the opposite. “Most successful traders don’t scalp all day long,” says Christopher Inks, founder of the trading group TexasWest Capital. “For most of them, it’s a few hours out of their day.”
This doesn’t mean the charts can be ignored – it just means you need structure. “It’s about finding the right balance,” says Zdunczyk. “It cannot become an around-the-clock addiction.”
This 24/7 addiction is what Zdunczyk often sees with the “average crypto trader.” He then describes this average trader: Someone who’s “probably a little depressed,” often middle-aged, often male, and they “f**king hate their day job.” They trade on their emotions, they lack knowledge, and “they will lose 90% of the time.” They stare at charts with red eyes until 2 a.m. They impulsively trade with leverage. “They imagine that high-frequency trading is going to be the answer to their problems,” says Zdunczyk. “But the more they do it, the more they blow up their account. This is the completely average trader.”
So instead of focusing on this “average” (and miserable) crypto trader, we’ll look at a day in the life of two successful ones – Zduńczyk and Inks.
This is how they trade crypto and maintain their sanity.
6:30 a.m. – Adrian Zdunczyk wakes up. He takes his dog for a 20-minute half-walk, half-run. A practicing Catholic, Zdunczyk listens to the Gospel on his AirPods because “it opens my mind and sets me right for the day.” So, does he wait until after this healthy routine to check the charts? Well, the man’s only human. “The first time I check is when I open my eyes,” says Zdunczyk with a laugh. “When I go to the toilet, I’m taking a pee and looking at my phone and scrolling through the crypto charts.”
7 a.m. – Christopher Inks wakes up. “I’ll admit, I pull up my charts real quick before I get out of bed,” he says. In his Texas home office, he’ll then romp through charts across many markets – crypto, US equities, forex. If the action is quiet in one asset class, he’ll move to another. He’s actively looking for opportunities. “I’m always looking to enter,” says Inks. “Any time I look at the chart it’s always with the intent of finding the trade.”
8:30 a.m. – Inks is still crushing charts. He’ll always start with the larger time frame – daily or weekly – before zooming in to the intra-day. “A lot of new traders don’t look at the larger time frames,” he says, which leads to over-trading (and getting chopped up) on the 1-minute or 5-minute charts.
9 a.m. – Zdunczyk uses the pomodoro method to stay focused, meaning 25-minute bursts of focused productivity followed by a short break to do whatever he wants. (I’ve been using this method for years; it works.) During the blocks of focus time, he works on developing his business (such as working on new partnerships), and in the short breaks he’ll check Crypto Twitter and scan the charts. He can’t let that slide. “You can lose your money in the blink of an eye,” says Zdunczyk. “You have to react immediately. You have to be fed information all the time.”
12 p.m. – Inks tries to step away from the charts for lunch. “I talk to traders all day long, and I know a lot of them tend to pull out their phones if they’re out on a date or out with family,” he says. “I try really hard to get them not to do that.” Not only is this bad for mental health, it’s also bad for trading. Inks says that when you never peel away from the charts, you’ll become overly stressed and you will “make decisions that you normally wouldn’t make.” Bonus reason to take breaks: Staring at crypto charts, as a general rule, is not the best strategy to get a second date.
12 p.m. – Zdunczyk is an intermittent faster, meaning he can’t eat his first meal until around 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. “I don’t have much time to cook,” he says, so he orders in healthy lunchboxes that contain specific nutritional and caloric content. He checks Twitter and Discord. “I’m seeing what’s trending and what’s not trending, what’s quiet and what’s loud.” After lunch, in the natural post-meal lull, Zduńczyk knocks out tasks that require less focus – catching up on email and administrative work.
1 p.m. – Inks dives back into the charts, often preparing analysis that he’ll share on Twitter or a class for Texas West Capital. He uses scanning software to find possible trades.
3 p.m. – Zdunczyk takes his dog for a longer walk. He’s also listening to podcasts and longform interviews, “feeding my brain with information.” Or sometimes he’ll go on a walk with his wife, and around then he eats his second meal of the day.
3 p.m. – Inks holds a live class for his trading group, answers questions and walks through his perspective on the charts.
4 p.m. – Zdunczyk begins his second wave of highly productive work, focusing on tasks that demand peak mental engagement – recalibrating his company’s sales strategy, for example.
4 p.m. – Inks interacts with his trading group on Discord, where he’ll usually find an ocean of DMs. “A lot of my day is speaking to subscribers to our service and helping them out,” he says. “I fit in all the business stuff where I can.”
4:30 p.m. – Zdunczyk continues to focus on the “business work” whole, stealing peeks at the charts and Twitter. It can be tricky to get the balance right. If you ignore Twitter, you might miss something big; if you’re too Twitter-happy, you lose focus on the real work.
5 p.m. – More charting for Inks. Much of this is for the benefit of his trading group subscribers, as opposed to his own personal trading. This is not uncommon for successful traders. While the exact specifics of other successful crypto traders will vary, they’ll often share this one thing in common:
“The actual trading only takes a few hours, and the rest of the day is packed with running their business or writing their newsletter or engaging with their community. Traders aren’t always trading.”
6 p.m. – Zdunczyk hosts a livestream where he analyzes the charts, answers questions, and explains the logic of his technical analysis.
7 p.m. – Inks breaks for dinner, spends time with family.
8 p.m. – Zduńczyk has calls and meetings, conducts interviews, talks with friends on Twitter.
8 p.m. – Inks returns to the charts … and he’ll stick with them for hours. He’ll often work until 11 p.m., midnight or even 1 a.m. to study the charts and share his thoughts with the community. “At the end of the day, I tend to be a bit of a workaholic,” he says. “I have to watch that, because I do have a young son.”
10 p.m. – “I slowly detach myself,” says Zdunczyk, and spends time with his wife. He does his best to avoid the siren song of the charts but sometimes he succumbs, even when he knows he shouldn’t, even after all these years of experience, even when he knows it’s healthy. Because ultimately, Zdunczyk says, “every trader is a child at heart.”