Mindful Investors Minimize Distractions


When you're a student pilot, your first couple of solo flights remain very close to your home airport. Basically, you get up in the air and do a couple laps around the landing pattern. This is meant to get you comfortable being in the plane by yourself, as well as help you gain confidence for the long solo flights.

The long solo is where you actually travel away from your airport and go somewhere else. This involves navigation, communication with air traffic control and many other moving parts. Honestly, it ends up being fairly overwhelming.

For my first long solo, I took off from Norwood, which is a great airport to the southwest of Boston. I was then set to fly due east over to Marshfield, right on the ocean, then take a right turn to head southeast, ultimately landing at Hyannis.

The takeoff went well, after which I turned due east to Marshfield, then southeast to Hyannis. That leg of the journey took me right over the water. I remember being absolutely captivated by the moment. I could see all of Cape Cod, the ocean and even Rhode Island off my right wing. Beautiful clear sky.

All of a sudden, I looked back and noticed the Hyannis airport off in the distance, getting larger and larger in front of me. I realized I had neglected to radio Hyannis Tower to let them know I was en route. Even worse, I completely forgot the radio frequency that I was given from the previous controller.

The good news is that I was taught to write all frequencies down on my kneeboard, so I glanced down at my notes, switched to the correct frequency and announced my intentions. Crisis averted.

One of the worst things you can do as a pilot is become distracted. When that happens, you lose your situational awareness, the recognition of what’s happening all around you. A distracted pilot is an ineffective and arguably dangerous pilot.

As investors, we need to maintain a good situational awareness of what’s happening around us and our portfolio. I often call this “market awareness” and it’s about having a good sense of what’s moving and why. It’s so easy to put on the blinders and forget that there’s a whole market moving around your positions!

So, how do you minimize distractions as an investor?

First, give yourself a focused time to get your priorities in line. Think through the things that you need to accomplish in a given week. Write them down and review them regularly.

I look at a lot of charts, hundreds if not thousands every day. It’s very easy to get caught in “stream of consciousness” mode, jumping mentally from one thing to the next with no real purpose in mind.

I developed a morning coffee routine with a set of charts that I review, in order, every day.  I’ve learned that if I start every day with this process, I can more easily track trends and identify inflection points.

Every once in a while, I review all the charts in my daily list and look for ways that I can improve my process. Sometimes I’ll add a chart or two, and sometimes I’ll remove one that no longer speaks to me. More often than not, I don’t change anything and simply confirm that I’m looking at the right content every morning.

Second, have a solid plan for each day. Set it ahead of time and write it down.

I like to break down my daily schedule like a football game, with specific tasks laid out for pregame, each of the four quarters and a postgame period. This helps me to focus on my key priorities and keep coming back to the things that I know will be most valuable to my work.

Finally, don’t forget to take a step back once in a while. Don’t get so focused on your investment process, your trading plan and the flickering ticks of the markets that you forget why you put in all of that effort.

For me, I focus on things like music, mindfulness, my family, my faith. I never want to become so engrossed in my investment strategy that I neglect the things that are truly the most important in my life.

Distractions happen, for pilots as well as investors. Mindful investors minimize distractions by setting their priorities, developing a good daily plan and taking time to reflect on what’s most important.


David Keller, CMT
President, Sierra Alpha Research LLC

Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. The ideas and strategies should never be used without first assessing your own personal and financial situation or without consulting a financial professional. 

The author does not have a position in mentioned securities at the time of publication. Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of any other person or entity.

David Keller
About the author: , CMT is Chief Market Strategist at, where he helps investors minimize behavioral biases through technical analysis. He is a frequent host on StockCharts TV, and he relates mindfulness techniques to investor decision making in his blog, The Mindful Investor. David is also President and Chief Strategist at Sierra Alpha Research LLC, a boutique investment research firm focused on managing risk through market awareness. He combines the strengths of technical analysis, behavioral finance, and data visualization to identify investment opportunities and enrich relationships between advisors and clients. Learn More
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