Tag Archives: Performance

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.


Prime Your Brain for a Permanent Performance Gain (in a Few Minutes)

Guest Post by Steve Pavlina, http://www.stevepavlina.com/

Inside your skull is a massive supercomputer. You own it free and clear. With its 100 billion neurons, and with a typical neuron linking to 1000 to 10,000 other neurons, your highly networked brain is incredibly powerful and capable.

Pick up a simple object nearby like a pen or a spoon, and look at it. Turn it upside down. Spin it around. Notice that your brain is able to recognize the object no matter how you position it. You can change the lighting by putting the object in shadow. You can obscure part of it from view. You can bend or break it. And your brain still recognizes that object simply and easily. Even a child can do this.

But what’s happening under the hood? Your visual cortex, consisting of about 538 million neurons, is doing an enormous amount of parallel processing on the signals it’s receiving from your eyes. Your visual cortex detects edges, evaluates color, tracks motion, interprets reflection, and more — all in real time.


Creating the Conditions for Success

Performance psychology plays a VITAL part in my daily trading routines and processes, as I've outlined in the image below.

mindmap of my performance psychology plan

Have you established your own tools, methods and strategies to ensure peak performance?

If not, why not?

Your trading strategy may contain a tested and proven edge, and yet all too often we see traders poorly implement a strategy leading to underperformance or complete failure. This is because the edge within your strategy is really only a POTENTIAL EDGE.

The reality is that… YOU ARE THE REAL EDGE.

It's the implementation of your plan which determines success or failure.

Trading is a performance activity. Success requires effective operation under pressure. Effective operation requires simple, practical tools and strategies designed to manage your state and optimise your performance.

If you do not yet have effective tools and strategies in place, then you need to take action. Use the headings within the Performance Psychology mindmap (above) to (a) guide your study on the topic of performance psychology, and to (b) guide you in developing routines to maintain focus on process and to establish and maintain a peak performance mindset.


Lance Beggs

Biofeedback for Trader Psychology

(NOTE: This is not an advertisement! It's a report of my first attempts to introduce biofeedback into my trading routine.)

Several weeks ago I advised in the YTC newsletter that I'd bought an emWave2 biofeedback device. My plan was that I'd experiment with it over the following 6-8 weeks and report on it's effectiveness as a state management device for traders.

Quick summary… I like it… and I'm going to keep using it!

trading biofeedback

How I Discovered The emWave2

I'd heard of biofeedback being used by traders before, through the excellent blog posts and books by Dr Brett Steenbarger (see here for all three of his books under the Trading Psychology heading).

But I'd never had any thoughts of experimenting with it myself. The last thing I wanted to do was to be "wired up to a computer" while trading.

Then two months ago I got an email from YTC Price Action Trader reader, Jeff, in which he shared the following article link:

This is quite an interesting article about NFL kicker Billy Cundiff and his use of the portable emWave to place himself into peak physical and mental state prior to performance. This got me interested. And a quick search through Dr Steenbarger's old blog posts and a review of his books, led me to the discovery on page 84 of The Daily Trading Coach that the emWave is the same unit used by Dr Steenbarger himself.

Now I was really curious… and I just had to try one!

What is Biofeedback?


Trading Angry? F**k Yeah!

A common assumption is that a trader needs to be operating with a calm mind and relaxed body in order to trade with maximum focus and ensure peak performance.

Generally, I agree with this idea. Relaxation and positive affirmations have been some of the main tools I’ve recommended when asked for assistance with mindset and psych issues. And for years they have been a key part of my plan – relaxation and calming sessions prior to trading, along with breathing and relaxation routines during session and a recovery routine for when it all hits the fan and I need time out.

Now I’m no psychologist, but I’m not sure that this is always the best way to achieve peak performance.

Quite possibly it is, for most of us, most of the time.

But from personal experience I know that there are times I benefit greater from the very opposite of a calm, peaceful and relaxed trader – what I call trading angry.

It’s important to realise that relaxation is not our end goal. I’m a trader! You’re a trader! And this site is not YourMeditationCoach and is not dedicated to your spiritual journey towards enlightenment. Our end goal is peak performance as a trader.

We should aim to place ourselves in whatever state allows us to best maximise our performance. And while that may often be a state of calm and peaceful relaxation, it’s not always going to be the case.

Other traders have recognised the need to alter their state to maximise performance.

The most famous from recent memory would have to be Don Miller’s use of a fictional drawdown, as explained in his post here: http://donmillerjournal.blogspot.com/2008/07/cornerstone.html. Don has recognised a need for managing his state, and has developed an effective solution. And while I can only speculate as to the nature of his personal state, I’d imagine it’s closer to that of an aggressive comeback mentality, than to that of a relaxed and calm trader. (Don, please correct me if I’m wrong!)

I suspect that if you talk to most pro-traders there will be very few who constantly operate in a calm manner. Rather I expect that most will actively attempt to manage their state dependent on the personal and market-related circumstances they currently face.

What about me? How do I personally trade angry?


Trader Performance Drills

Here’s another great email question from a reader…


Hello Mr. Beggs,

I am serious about trading, but I am still a newbie. What are three things that I can practice to improve my performance that can be repeated a lot and will continuously provide me feed back on my results? You currently being a successful trader and instructor/mentor, so I figure you must know a few things that are highly mentally demanding and maybe not fun but would improve a traders performance if practiced.

Thank you in advance for your help, I truly appreciate it!




Trader Fatigue Management

Fatigue management is a favorite topic of mine, due to my interest in aviation and in particular aviation safety. In military aviation, in both a training and operational environment, fatigue management is recognized as an essential function of command, in order to minimize risk and enhance operational effectiveness.

The same applies to the management of your trading business. As a trader, fatigue will reduce the quality of your work – your preparation, your market analysis, your trade execution, your trade management decisions, your focus, your patience, your ability to psychologically accept a loss and your ability to stick to the process of trading.

Here’s a great quote on the dangers of fatigue, sticking to my military theme.

“Some of the COs were awfully heartless and brutal. A few had no idea about how to command men or judge a soldier’s capabilities. Too often they would order young boys to lug a dead weight for miles, and when the young fellows reached the front they would be too exhausted to fight. I have seen them in tears, too tired to struggle on. They furnished an easy target for enemy gunners. More than one frail, green kid got cut down due to such incompetence in officer’s ranks.

…PTE Vincent E Goodwin, WWI Diary

Ok, you’re not at war and your life is probably not at risk from the markets, but the results can still be devastating.

As a retail trader, you’re CEO of your own trading business, as well as the trader. As CEO, are you pushing your trader too far, trying to achieve too much too soon, without sufficient time for rest and recuperation? If so, if not managed properly, the results can be financially devastating.

Life is tough. There are many demands on an adult. For many of us, on top of a full-time job and a full-time family, we decide that we’re just not happy and need to work at developing another income stream to replace that job we despise. For varying reasons, often the allure of easy money, we’re attracted to the financial markets, and before we know it we’re burning the candle at both ends – effectively working at a third full-time commitment.

Being so busy, sleep is the first thing that gets sacrificed.

But how does that affect us, and our trading results?