Become a Successful Trader

March 7, 2012

Tim’s Trading Screen Experiment

This past weekend while on a walk and listening to my ipod (as I often do on these cool Arizona evenings) I found myself listening to Tim Ferris’s “The Four Hour Work Week” for about the 5th or 6th time. In the book, Ferris talks about how less is more and how reducing sensory input leads to increased focus.

Over the years after testing out various methods and indicators I have taken away more and more from my screen. I thought I would challenge myself and consolidate my trading screen once again.

This was my most drastic change yet…

Click here to open a TDAmeritrade account and get thinkorswim® charts.

My Old Trading Screen

Tims Old Chart LayoutMy New Trading Screen

Tims Simple Chart LayoutThe Purpose of the Experiment

One of my rules has always been if a trade is visible on a 15m chart then it’s a valid trade. The purpose of the experiment is to limit my exposure to inhibiting factors (thing that simply get in the way of me making decisions while trading).

I’ve already cut out all media sources like CNBC, Jim Cramer, and all news programs. The real challenge was the trading screen itself. I’ve had my screen setup across 3 monitors for about 2.5 years now and my eyes became accustomed to the layout. I decided it was time for a change.

From Old to New: Trading Screen Changes

Two Main Charts:

I consolidated my 4 main charts down to two, a 15-min ES and a 15-min 6E. Now when I want to switch between the different time frames like Daily, 15-min, and 512t I just click the Style > Aggregation Type > Tick or Time.

Toggle Between Tick & Time Charts

Ditched the 5-min Heikin Ashi:

While I like to confirm my entries on the 6E with a color change on the 5-min Heikin Ashi chart, I found this to be unnecessary in certain instances. As long as I was entering close to the 15-min entry the trade was valid. Thus, she gone!

5-min Heikin Ashi Chart

Shifted the NYSE Tick Chart Over

The one chart that has changed the least is the NYSE Tick chart. I slid it to the bottom right and kept the main settings. I left my market internals on the chart as well. The NYSE Breadth and NYSE Advance/Decline Line Ratios come in handy during the day to see how strong or weak the market really is “under the hood” so to speak.

Here’s my post with the NYSE Tick and Breadth Code.

NYSE Tick Chart

Additions: Indices and Futures Quotes

Since my goal was to consolidate my charts to one screen I left my top line figures (the S&P500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, and Russell 2000) quotes on the screen. I also display the VIX (volatility index). Right below that I have the corresponding futures quotes (ES, YM, NQ, and TF).

Indicies and Futures Quotes

The Benefits of My New Trading Screen

So far I really like the new trading screen setup. It allows me to focus on the ES and 6E and keeps all my drawings on one chart so I don’t have to redraw them multiple times. This is a benefit when zooming to the smaller time frames especially.

So that’s it. I’m down to two monitors. I upgraded this spring to the HP S2031 20” monitor. They’re fantastic!

Uploading My Workspace

If you’re using Thinkorswim and you’d like to try out my trading screen layout you can simply upload my settings via the following.

Click here to open a TDAmeritrade account and get thinkorswim® charts.


Download and unzip the file below and place it in the thinkorswim directory folder C:\Program Files\thinkorswim


On the Thinkorswim login menu select ‘Tim’s-Simple-Chart-Layout’ from the drop down menu.

Thinkorswim Login Screen

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About Tim Racette
Tim Racette is a day trader of 15+ years in the E-mini futures and swing trader of stocks. Mountain biker, lover of the outdoors, and explorer. Tim is an ASU Sun Devil and a Chicagoland Native now living in sunny Scottsdale, AZ.
  1. How many monitors do you use in your trading? Have you ever tried to condense it down?

  2. Hey Tim,

    Great idea, I’m doing a similar experiment myself regarding news feeds and media sources. Too many biased information out there.

    I want to still stay on top of the macro econ picture and be aware of potential big events, I don’t want to be completely oblivious to what’s going on, especially since I’ve started doing more swing trading than day trading in light of these smaller daily ranges.

    I saw you made reference to news media also in your post and I was wondering if you found a good balance of how to get the macro information without all the biases and opinions and crap on the news.

    Thanks, as always great stuff!


    • Hi Jay, I use the EconoDay and ForexFactory calendars to give me the heads up for economic news announcements and I glance at the Reuters.com headlines for about 10-20 seconds as my browser opens up. Other than that I don’t tune in to any news feeds or TV programs. If it’s important enough it will find its way to my ear in conversation.

  3. why does your login screen look different than mine, are you using a Mac?

  4. Tim, I know your charts are 15M, but what hours…RTH, 24 ?!?!

  5. I found out why our log in screens are different; that’s b/c i am with tdameritrade and you’re with TOS.

  6. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for sharing..Do we have to add Tick Range Code and Breadth Box Code to display exactly like yours ? Please advise

    • Hi Raj, all of the content on the blog is for you to use however you see fit. There’s no requirement to utilize the breadth box code, if you feel it fits with your trading style then by all means feel free to set them up.

  7. hey Tim,

    Valuable information indeed – I like how your got the inspiration from “The 4Hr Workweek” – the principles of running a scalable business discussed in that text certainly apply to trading.

    Do you trade more on technical setups, basically “when I see this chart pattern I pull the trigger”, or feel? If you trade on feel, could you share what you use (i.e., the tape) to gauge that feel? Thanks!

    • Hi Eric, absolutely the technical setups. I admit feel plays a part to my bigger picture trader intuition, but when it comes to execution it’s all about sticking to your guns and trading the setups that you have outlined for yourself. I know some traders who trade off the tape, but gone are the days when traders would consistently trade by just shooting from the hip. The markets have gotten more technical (especially since 2008), but also more challenging. On another note, a sub VIX 20 market is not a trader’s ideal market. VIX 25-35 I’ve found is where the best market conditions arise for traders.

  8. Hi Tim, can you elaborate on your change color chart? Is there a blog post about that? I see there is only green for long and red for short, no in between on up and down days on a down trend or visa verse. Are you using avg/open and avg/close? I am using tradestation Thanks!!

    • Hi Zaida, with the Heikin Ashi candlestick it uses the midpoint of the prior candle as the “opening” price. In the Thinkirswim settings you are able to change the colors of the candles if you so choose, however with the Heikin Ashi study turned on you won’t come across many “in between” candles.

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