Tag Archives: Focus

What if you Narrowed Your Focus?

 

For those day traders who might be stuck in a cycle of continual failure… what if you narrowed your focus?

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

Some days there might be no opportunity. That's fine.

Other days there might only be one trade opportunity. Again that is fine.

The idea is that this is not necessarily a permanent change to your trading.

It's simply a narrowing of focus to ONE key segment of the trading session.

Master this one key segment – the opening hour.

Prove you have edge in managing the opening sequences of your trading session.

And only then expand to further opportunity.

Let's look at another session:

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

And again:

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

<image: What if you narrowed your focus?>

For those who trade differently, whether through higher timeframes or multiple markets or in fact any other difference, see if you can adapt the same general concept to your own trading.

Narrow your focus. Build expertise and prove edge in ONE key sequence at a time, or ONE market at a time, or ONE A+ setup type. Whatever works for you.

Narrow your focus.

And fight to get off that cycle of continual failure.

Best of luck,

Lance Beggs

 


 

A Small Hack which has GREATLY Improved Consistency

 

For years now, I have been trading with a 5-minute countdown timer.

When it counts down to zero it sets off a buzzer before resetting and starting again.

<image: A small hack which has greatly improved consistency>

This served two purposes.

(1) It brings my focus back to the markets, in the event that it's slipped away (not unusual given that I trade overnight).

(2) It reminds me to carry out a process checklist which cycles through various aspects of higher and trading timeframe analysis. The aim here is to maintain some "bigger picture" situational awareness.

But here is the problem…

The buzzer has become such a common occurrence that it tends to slip into the background of my awareness. Especially if I'm getting tired. I effectively just IGNORE it.

Damn you brain!!!

It worked great for the first few months.But for quite a long time now, it just hasn't been effective. (The buzzer, I mean. Not the brain!)

So here's a little hack. It's an idea I got from the TV show "Lost".

In "Lost" there is a countdown timer that must be reset every 108 minutes, otherwise the world ends. The important difference is that this timer must be reset BEFORE it hits zero. It's not reset AFTER reaching zero, like my little timer.

So what if I did the same thing?

What if my intent was to complete my regular "situational awareness" routine and manually reset the timer BEFORE it hits zero, or else the world ends and we all die in a fiery inferno?

Disclaimer: The world doesn't really end. It's just a game!

Sounds good so far. Apart from the dying bit.

The results have been tremendous.

Simply shifting my intent from "taking action AFTER the buzzer goes off" to "taking action BEFORE the buzzer goes off… or else everyone dies", has dramatically improved my consistency.

It's turned the process into a game. Into a bit of fun. I can maintain a higher state of focus for most of my trading session. And it REALLY annoys me when I slip up and let it hit zero.

Particularly because I changed to the standard Windows-10 Alarms & Clock app. When it hits zero it sounds an alarm and displays a pop-up notification, and DOESN'T STOP until I manually stop it. It's damn annoying.

<image: A small hack which has greatly improved consistency>

If you also struggle with consistency in applying regular routines or procedures, consider trying this little hack.

It kind of adds to the enjoyment of the day.

But more importantly… it seems to work.

Give it a try. Reset that timer. And help me keep the world safe.

Lance Beggs

 


 

Improving and Maintaining FOCUS for Day Traders

 

This is not for those who trade longer timeframes. If you trade the 15 minute chart or higher then you should NOT be aiming for constant screen watching all day. Set alarms to monitor price on completion of each trading timeframe candle. And price alerts to bring your attention back to the charts at key levels.

If you trade the 5 minute chart, perhaps you'll want a blend of the two. Alerts when price is well clear of potential setup areas. Screen watching only when there is potential for trade opportunity.

But below 5 minutes, you'll likely want to spend considerable time watching the price movement.

And for you, it's important that you develop a plan to achieve peak-performance levels of focus.

<image: FOCUS>

Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

Here are my thoughts:

Let's start by reviewing one of the key ideas in the article on discipline.

Read it here if you missed it: http://yourtradingcoach.com/trader/how-can-i-get-more-discipline/

In that article, I suggested that you can't "get more discipline". Discipline is actually an outcome. And it comes about through effective HABITS and STATE MANAGEMENT.

The same applies when we think about focus.

Focus is not something you can just get more of. Again, it's an outcome. And it comes about through HABITS and STATE MANAGEMENT.

We aim for habitual use of processes in our pre-session, during session and post-session routines, in order to establish a focused state. And to return quickly to the focused state if our mind should start to wander.

And we aim to place our body, mind and soul in as much of a peak-performance state as we can, in order to best maintain effective levels of presence, awareness and FOCUS.

So let's split this article into two parts, turning the idea of "focus" into a daily habit, and then ensuring effective state management.

Here's my plan:

Habits

1. The Power of Intention

There is nothing I've found more powerful in kick-starting my daily habit and ensuring disciplined focus than the power of intention.

This is a documented part of my pre-session routine.

It is simply a verbal statement of intent that "Today I WILL focus on the charts. I will not allow myself to open my browser for any non-trading purpose".

That is obviously set up for my most common distracter. "I'll just have a quick look at email and social media."

Adjust the statement to suit your own needs. But be sure to give it a try.

I can confirm through having monitored this as part of my review process, that days which begin with a verbal statement of intent are typically more focused than days when I did not make the statement of intent.

2. My Focus Statement

This is used during the session, whenever I have caught my attention wandering.

Here it is via a recent share on social media:

<image: FOCUS>

3. Regular Checks

Every 30 minutes I check my personal state. This includes an assessment on how effective I was in maintaining focus.

If particularly good or bad, I'll jot down some notes.

These then feed into the post-session review.

And if poorly focused, it's back to the statement of intent and the focus statement (above). 

4. The Focus Alarm

I don't always use a focus alarm. I find if used continuously that it tends to just disappear into the "background" after a while.

But from time to time, in particular if slightly fatigued, it has helped.

It's simply an alarm that goes off on the close of EVERY trading timeframe candle. It sounds a bit extreme. But it works. You can of course set it for longer if you prefer. Or shorter.

But it acts as a "wake up" to not only shock me back into focus if I've slipped away again, but also allowing me to "update" my market analysis with this new candle information.

I use SnapTimer, but there are dozens online if you don't like it.

5. Post-Session Review

The 30 minute notes on your ability to maintain focus are pointless if you don't review them.

So post-session… review them.

And then, if you were not particularly effective, aim to identify why and find a way to improve tomorrow.

State Management

1. Eliminate Distraction

Your mind cannot be focused if it's surrounded by multiple temptations or distractions.

The mind is NOT a multi-tasker.

Remove all distractions – social media, internet, phones, pets, kids, and whatever else acts to take your attention away from the charts.

For web browsers, you can find apps which block access to them during preset times each day. Keep one browser available though (not the one you usually use for surfing). If your platform goes down or you get other tech issues, you're going to want some way of getting online quickly.

2. Adequate Rest

Set a minimum standard for rest. And stick to it.

See here for mine – http://yourtradingcoach.com/trader/trader-fatigue-management/

3. Adequate Hydration

There's a water bottle just off to my right. Always accessible.

Essential.

Get one for your trading room if you don't have one.

4. Physical Health

This kind of goes without saying. If you struggle with focus, exercise better and eat better. Simple!

You will notice improvement in all areas of your life.

5. Relaxation processes

I have regular breathing routines from back in my Tai Chi & Chi Gung days.

If you don't, Google search it.

Find some exercises to relax the mind, body and soul.

6. Stimulants

Coffee pre-session. To be honest I'm not sure on the science of this one. It is effective for me, given the night hours I trade. But not too much. One a half-hour before trading seems to help me. Give it a try.

I have a glucose lolly pre-session. And then a second during the session if I feel a bit flat. See here – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?pagewanted=all

I've heard chocolate helps. But maybe I'm making that one up because, you know, chocolate!   🙂

I've heard blueberries are good for a sharp mind. Give that a try if you're not a fan of chocolate. (Send me your chocolate!)

Chewing gum, while not exactly a stimulant, seems to work well in dissipating any nervous energy that can act as a distraction.

7. Regular Breaks

Always aim to spend a few minutes every half hour AWAY FROM THE DESK.

Get up. Stretch. Go for a walk. Whatever you need.

Just get away from the charts to reset your mind.

8. Regular Exercise

Consider incorporating this into your breaks.

Nothing gives you a "wake up" quite as effectively as a short, sharp burst of exercise.

9. Background Music

Nothing with lyrics. EVER.

But experiment with background ambient music, binaural beats or isochronous tones. Or whatever works the best for you.

It's a process of trial and error. Add this to your post-session review until you find a number of preferred solutions.

10. Standing Desks

I don't have one right now due to the current layout of my trading room. But I've used this in the past to great effect.

Seriously, it works incredibly well.

Raise your desk. And stand back a bit, out of arms reach of the keyboard and mouse.

Step forward ONLY when it's trade time.

It's just you and the charts. Absolutely NO WAY to click on that web browser, even if you wanted to.

If Nothing Else Works

I've yet to see a trader try this but it looks like it has potential.

– – –

Well that just about wraps it up.

What have I missed?

If you have any tips or techniques which you've found effective for improving or maintaining focus, let us know in the blog post comments.

Best of luck,

Lance Beggs

 


 

If You Suffer From Too Much Impulsive Trading…

 

The following was a social media post that I sent out just before my trading session on the 6th of February.

It was my first session following a two week holiday… and I was more than keen to get back into the markets.

If you suffer from too much impulsive trading... 

Click on the image or this link here if you wish to read the article – Patience is a Key Component of your Edge.

It was a simple reminder to myself that:

  • The real source of my edge is not in my strategy, but in ME.
  • Patience plays an important part in realising that edge.
  • And most importantly – I don't have to trade every price sequence.

 

In other words… knowing that I'm susceptible to emotional, impulsive trading when I first come back from a break, I reminded myself to slow down. And wait till I was truly in sync with the market.

As I write this it's now the 21st of February. It's the first trading day following a long weekend. I'm keen to trade. I'll be giving myself the same reminder pre-session.

And again next week. I'll be admitted to hospital next Tuesday for some very minor day surgery (nothing to worry about). But I'll likely need a day or two off trading as I recover. Again, I'll be giving myself this same reminder.

Slow down. And wait till I'm truly in sync with the market.

HOWEVER…

This is not all I do.

There is a simple "hack" which I've used for a few years now which provides exceptional help in overcoming my impulsive desire to trade.

I've thought about sharing it a few times, but to be honest it seems so obvious that I thought it would be a stupid topic for an article. My stats clearly show that readers prefer charts… and this is not a chart.

But it's so important. And such a great help. And given that I'll be applying the hack again today… I figure you should get it too.

This will be of most relevance to short timeframe day traders; those of us who "screen watch". But the general concept can be adapted for use by longer timeframe traders as well. We'll talk about that later.

Interestingly, there has been some exceptional discussion on this topic in other blogs in recent weeks. I'm not going to duplicate their advice. It's great work and you should go directly to their blogs to read their suggestions and solutions.

http://www.smbtraining.com/blog/a-solution-to-improve-your-patience-as-a-trader

http://tradingcomposure.com/traders-impulsivity/

Visualisation, meditation, mindfulness, and all the other methods discussed… they're very important and a key part of your solution. I particularly LOVE the technique provided by Dr Steenbarger, in the SMB Training link. I'll make you click to get that one! (Ha ha).

But I was surprised to see that my little impulsivity hack was not presented.

So here we go.

What is the solution? How do I reduce the likelihood of emotional, impulsive reaction to price movement?

I create a physical barrier between my desire to trade and my ability to execute.

If you suffer from too much impulsive trading...

In other words… I step back about a metre and conduct all analysis out of reach of the keyboard and mouse.

I know… right!

LAME!

No, seriously. Work with me here.

The key problem is NOT our impulsive desire to trade. It's the fact that we react to that desire by clicking the mouse and entering.

The solution is to put a barrier in place. Something that forces a break between your desire to trade and your ability to enter.

It does not need to be a massive barrier. This solution is about as small a barrier as we can get. It's simply space. And only one metre. But it's enough.

  • Step back from the keyboard and mouse.
  • Conduct your analysis.
  • When you feel that desire to trade, don't. You can't reach it. And you're not allowed to step forward. So just pause and reassess.
  • And ONLY step forward once that pause and reassessment screams out, "Yes! This is the opportunity I've been waiting for. This is an A+ setup. This does provide edge."

 

Discipline and patience are not just a function of willpower. You can create physical barriers to limit impulsive trading.

A physical barrier between your desire to trade and your ability to execute.

Just a small barrier. But just enough to have you pause and reassess.

Longer timeframe traders… clearly stepping back one metre is not likely to help you. After all, you've got a lot of time to make decisions anyway. But the same concept applies – adjust your environment to provide a barrier between decision and execution. One possible solution – conduct your analysis and trade decisions on a separate platform that does not allow execution. Once trade decisions are made and written down, open up your broker's execution platform and reassess the quality of your decisions. Only enter if they're still A+ ideas.

I'm sure you can find other solutions that better suit your particular trading setup.

The key concept applies though, regardless of who we are and how we trade – create a physical barrier between your desire to trade and your ability to execute.

It's not a full solution. See the links posted earlier for some other key parts in managing impulsivity. But it's a simple "hack" that I've found to be exceptionally effective.

I'll be using it tonight, as I trade the first session back after a long-weekend.

I hope you find the idea effective as well.

Happy trading,

Lance Beggs

 


 

Background Music for Focus

Over the years I've traded with various different forms of background music or noise, with the aim of finding that right combination that allows me to work with a positive and confident attitude and laser-like focus.

Not surprisingly, I guess, what works best tends to vary from time to time with my prevailing mood.

I've tried everything…

  • My favourite sing-along playlist – good when feeling a bit flat and needing some "pick-me-up"; accepting that it can at times distract a bit too much.
  • High energy punk and hardcore – sometimes I find that aggression is the only thing that can get me focused.
  • Binaural beats and Isochronous Tones – I can't vouch for the scientific claims, but it certainly relaxes me and I feel that focus improves.
  • Guided visualisations – again they're just brilliant for relaxation and focus.
  • Favourite webinar recordings – make sure they're repeats so you don't get distracted by any new info.
  • Motivational YouTube videos – there are tons of them. Give it a try. The intent is not to actively listen to the speech though – it's background noise only!
  • And of course silence – sometimes there is nothing better!

But more often than not over the last year my default has been ambient music.

You can find some great music via online streaming radio such as provided here: http://www.internet-radio.com/stations/ambient/. My usual preference is for AmbientRadio.org (the first on the list) and Chilltrax (about half way down the list).

But I continue to experiment.

Right now I'm also liking white noise. Try this for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNqERBWaJeM

I'll update this page if I ever find anything new.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you play in the background while trading. Feel free to comment below if you have any favourites that you use to provide a positive and focused mindset.

Cheers,

Lance Beggs

PS. There were of course some failures as well. In particular I find that background news and TV are just too distracting. They will likely never play a part in my trading room again.


Improving Focus – The Essential First Step

 

For the last year or so my trading computer has been on a desk just to the left of my work computer.

This has been fine except during quiet periods of price movement, when I've often found myself tempted by the work computer. All I have to do is turn to the right and it's within reach.

"I'll just check emails or facebook. It'll only take a second!"

Usually this is fine but occasionally I'll become so absorbed in whatever I'm looking at that I don't realise five or more minutes has passed without watching price.

The good news is that there was a simple fix, which has allowed me to maintain focus on price. I'll get to the solution just below. But let's talk in general terms first, because the solution works for many other causes of loss of focus.

How do you maintain optimal focus in a world full of distractions?

How do you maintain optimal focus in a world full of distractions?

The internet will provide many exercises on willpower and mindfulness, which should help with any focus issues you may have. These are great. But they're not the first step.

The first step is not to work on your focus. The solution is much simpler.

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Sometimes you need TIME-OUT

 

No… not the naughty chair. This is not a punishment.

Sometimes you just need to separate yourself from the screen.

Get away from the computer. Get some fresh air. Relax and refresh the mind and come back to start again.

Like a reboot for the trader!

Sometimes you need time-out

(more…)

How I Maintain Focus

EMAIL QUESTION:

My question is, "how does one stay focused while watching charts waiting for trade setups?"

Lance, my mind wanders while staring at charts waiting for setups. If I could take to the bank the number of trades I missed while NOT paying attention to the charts, I would be making a healthy income.

I've missed many trades wandering off. We all hear often about trader focus; but how does one achieve this??

REPLY:

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Improve Your Trading Focus through the use of Aviation Scanning Techniques

Here's something for the short timeframe swing traders and scalpers to try, in an attempt to improve your ability to sustain your focus and attention and to ensure that you do not miss critical information at the most important times within your trading routine.

Consider where your attention needs to be during key time segments (eg. price in setup area, entry and early trade management, ongoing trade management) and then set up standard scan patterns.

This concept comes from my aviation background. The primary means of maintaining an aircraft in a safe flight attitude is through being able to see the horizon outside the aircraft. At night or in cloud the pilot loses reference to the horizon, so needs to make use of information available through their flight instruments. Failure to do so can result in loss of control, sometimes within seconds.

Pilots are taught to immediately start scanning the instruments upon loss of external visual reference.

While there are several scanning methods available, one of the most common is a Selective Radial Scan, where attention is primarily maintained on the Attitude Indicator, and branches out to one supporting instrument at a time, returning always to the Attitude Indicator before scanning elsewhere. This reduces the chance of fixation upon any of the less important secondary instruments, maintaining greater awareness and ensuring faster response to unexpected changes in attitude.

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