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.

(Image: Cessna 172RG VH-SKY enroute Tindal to Tennant Creek, NT, Australia, at 1:10am sometime in 1992/93)

Similar benefits can be attained through defining and using scan patterns for the critical parts of your trading routine. Identify the window which contains the most important information. That becomes the centre of your radial scan. Then identify the other windows which should also be scanned. You may wish to prioritise them as shown in the examples below.

The first image shows a scan which might be suitable when price is in the setup area. Primary attention is focused on the lower timeframe price chart, scanning from time to time to the middle timeframe and back, to the NYSE Tick and back, and to a lesser extent to the DOM and back (lower priority indicated by a fainter arrow). This ensures we maintain focus on the lower timeframe chart, and do not miss critical price changes through having our attention wander randomly around the screen for 30 seconds before noticing the movement.

Below we have another example which might be suitable for initial trade management. Primary focus is maintained on the DOM, scanning back and forth to the lower timeframe, and to a lesser extent the middle timeframe and NYSE Tick.

These are just examples. I'm not going to give you actual scan patterns. You'll need to develop your own, as they'll vary depending on your screen setup and your trading methods.

If you're a short timeframe swing trader or scalper, I highly encourage you to do so. Spend 10 minutes or so considering where your attention needs to be focused. Establish scan patterns. And drill yourself in using them at critical times during your trading routine. Ensuring a greater likelihood of capturing important trade information, rather than missing it as your mind wanders elsewhere, could save (or make) significant $$$$ one day, making this 10 minutes of time well spent.

Let me know how it goes!

Happy scanning,

Lance Beggs

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