Dr. Steenbarger wrote an important post on optimal downtime for peak performance. This got me thinking about improving my downtime so I could increase my creativity and performance in my domain. Our modern society sets up procrastination and wasted time road blocks with Web surfing and endless options of unproductive TV. Months of wasted performance opportunity can pass without our recognition. Pre-thought and a trader-developed list of optimal downtime activities can help us avoid these periods of malaise.
Here are downtime tasks that I enjoy most and, most importantly and interestingly, how they help me perform better:
1) Spending time with Luke and my wife. There is not anything more fun than watching your son and wife smile with happiness. The Happiness Advantage presents studies that show that happier people perform better.
2) Visiting my wife’s family and mine and spending time with their kids. I just love those stinkin’ kids. Don’t we all need moments to feel younger, post-40? Does anything do that more than playing whiffle ball and throwing a football around with young kids? (Warning: pulled hamstrings and a strained back will result.)
3) Reading about the Yankees (Pinstripealley.com). Baseball, after Moneyball, has been a game increasingly about crunching stats. Reading how teams use statistical data to evaluate players spurred my idea for the SMB ChopTracker, which inspired Tradervue, which we now use for the SMBU Performance Center powered by Tradervue. Short summary, my love of baseball and its recent math advances has lead me to find better ways to crunch the trading performance of our traders.
***Anything on the MLB Network (the greatest TV content created by man) cannot qualify as unproductive TV!
4) Working on my fitness game (retrofitme.com, fitbit.com). I actually haven’t noticed an improvement in my work performance from improving my fitness and losing about 15 pounds since my weight high. But this is probably an individual anomaly as most will see spikes in production.
I just enjoy activities that challenge me to be better and record and plan my progress. I have significantly improved my health with retrofit and fitbit. I can envision all of our traders in the future utilizing similar metric tools to improve trader performance (particularly health monitors that track quality sleep).
5) Watching a well-written movie with charismatic actors. Watching great actors, and how they move through ranges of emotion, helps me lecture better. I sense that I have developed an interesting speaking voice and cadence from watching many elite actors.
6) Watching Morning Joe (I just lost half of my audience), feeding Lukey his AM bottle and stealing kisses. An in-depth understanding of politics and government (not the same thing) helps me spot geopolitical trade opportunities.
7) Eating at new restaurants. Unique experiences builds creativity and a larger social map.
8) Reading performance literature. (Barking Up the Wrong Tree helps me stay current outside the trading world.)
Things I wish I did more of:
a) Play basketball. I go back and forth on this one. Part of me loves playing and another knows I do not have time for it and wonder if my body could handle the pounding. But if you asked me what is the one thing I miss most after starting SMB it is that. I loved hanging around the guys at Reebok, competing, and being in world-class shape.
b) Traveling. When Luke gets a little older we will get back to this. A few family trips to our Florida condo are up first. But we are talking about a trip to Spain next summer.
c) Read. I just do not have the time to read as much as I would like. Taleb would be very disappointed.
d) Go to NYC shows. My wife really doesn’t like to go but I really appreciate great writing.
e) Drinks with the boys. I want to get home and see my son after work, but I also could find a few more opportunities to have a few with the boys on the desk. Many important firm improvements can be found while enjoying a pint (or two) with our traders.
I will keep thinking about my list for optimal downtime. I will ping some of our coaches at SMB and encourage them to build their list.
What is on your list?
You can be better tomorrow than you are today!