The Quickstart Guide To A Decluttered Trading Screen

One of my best moves since I freed myself from the throes of corporate servitude through Day Trading index futures was the act of decluttering my screen.
Early on I was skeptical of course, but over time I came to realize that I had never actually even liked the cluttered screen… much less benefitted from it… I just never felt comfortable getting rid of everything… nor most everything.  I was under the incredibly mistaken impression that I needed all of the tools clogging my view and distorting the information nestled in the price movement.  The fear of removing one of the many indicators on my screen was constantly affirmed whenever I haphazardly removed then returned an indicator… almost invariably upon returning the indicator I would “realize” that I had just missed a great trade.  If only I’d had the indicator on my charts… Completely forgetting that one of the many other indicators on my screen would likely have caused me to do nothing.
SPY 5 Mar 2015 Too Much

Just… too… much.

This vacillating went on for a very long time.  I mixed and matched indicators and their settings for far longer than I care to admit.  What’s more, I was not only using too many of them, but I was using each of them incorrectly on their own.  Don’t get me wrong… it all looked very fancy.  Whenever someone happened to see my screen, they were more than a little impressed.  With flashing numbers and lights and crazy audible alerts, it was like information overload.
Actually, not like… that’s exactly what it was… information overload.
It was frustrating… Very frustrating.  I knew that there was enormous potential in understanding price and its movement.  But my results were far from reflecting those possibilities.  At the end of lots of days, I would see that in the midst of all the “action” that I missed the very trade for which I was looking and which would have paid me… well.  I was the proverbial dog chasing his tail.
And then… it happened.
In the midst of preparing a new computer to replace the old one, I looked at a 5m chart with nothing but the price on it.  I hadn’t yet corrupted the chart with a small army of indicators, so there was nothing there but… the price action.
The patterns looked so… obvious.  Support and Resistance levels jumped off the screen like Michael Jordan used to jump off the floor (sorry Michael, but you post the half century mark).  I could see where trendlines could be drawn cleanly and where price looked to be creating patterns like a Bull Flag.
SPY 5 Mar 2015 Clean

Is there any question about where Support & Resistance levels are?

I started to get excited, but before I let myself go too far, I remembered that the true test was if the information made itself clear when the market was open and fresh prices were streaming.  I knew I had to test this in the live market.
The next morning when I turned on my computer and opened my charting software, I had the inevitable moment of doubt… Should I just load all of my indicators as usual?  Eventually, I decided against it and to just watch the price action for the day (sans indicators).  The cash market opened and the futures went nuts…  I sat and watched the action and tried to not think about what the indicators would be drawing if I had them on the charts.
At first, it just seemed like the price movement was random… No rhyme nor any reason… just frenetic.  Then, after about a half hour as luck would have it (also the normal amount of adjustment time each day), the patterns began to emerge again.  I could see price forming Support & Resistance levels and acting in certain ways at each.  I saw the price range of each bar tighten when exhaustion set in and expand rapidly when market participants took price through a given level.  I even saw what I later came to know was price movement typical of computer algorithm.  In short, I saw price play out an entire symphony without the aid of any other instrument sections.  It sometimes felt like there was a dude in tails gesticulating wildly, but even then the movements were organized and harmonic.
I have, of course, continued to refine my screens, but always from a place of minimization.  I’ve even added back a couple of indicators (now that I know how to use them properly).
And do you know what else good people?  It still works.
Check out my next post when I’ll tell you how to clean up your charts… and what to add back.