If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all the different tasks and projects you have to juggle, you might want to try color-coding your planner.
A color-coded system adds structure and organization to your work, appointments, and deadlines. It’s a visual reminder of what you have to do, enabling you to quickly and efficiently manage tasks.
The same way a traffic light signals to a driver when to stop or go, color-coding tells you when and how to proceed. By color-coding your planner pages, you’ll have an easier time identifying deadlines, events, and other key details or dates. This system allows you to navigate your day with more ease.
The great thing about color-coding is that it’s not a complex process you have to learn. It’s something you get to customize for yourself, so it always works for you (and you can always change it too!). Plus, you probably already have lots of tools on hand to help you develop your own color-coding system.
Below, you’ll find tips on how to organize your tasks by category and priority, designate colors, and stay organized with our favorite products for color-coding your planner.
How color-coding your planner can benefit you
If you’re new to color-coding your planner pages, we’ve listed some of the ways it can provide some structure to your work and inject some fun into your pages. Color-coding can help you:
- Identify important tasks and deadlines in your planner
- Take better notes in meetings or classes
- Visualize your plans for the day more easily
- Manage your workload
- Keep track of different moving parts in big projects
- Track your habits
- Remember key dates and events
- Express your personality and creativity in your planner
- Have mindful time every week as you set up your weekly system
Seeing a bright burst of color or a fun pattern on your to-do list can do wonders for boosting your morale or getting you excited for crushing that goal.
After all, there’s a reason why we loved getting those gold stars in elementary school. By adding some stickers or using colorful pens on our planner pages, we’ll find ourselves more pumped for the day ahead.
While color-coding is a fun and efficient way to manage your work, it’s a good idea to avoid getting carried away. Strive to keep the number of colors you use to a minimum. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and keep track of too many colors.
Stick to a few colors and you’ll have an easier time referencing them. You don’t have to be locked into these colors forever -- you can always change -- but don’t commit yourself to managing a complex color-coding system that creates more chaos than order.
Favorite products for color-coding
Here are some of the tools you can use to color-code your planner:
- Gel pens
- Brush pens
- Micron pens
- Washi Tape
- To-do list tape
- Color post-it flags
Take stock of your work
Before you start creating your own color-coding system, you should first assess your workload and your work style. This way you can put a structure in place that aligns with your preferences, which will make you more likely to stick with it.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you work for yourself, report to one primary person, or report to several people?
- Do you spend a lot of time taking notes for meetings or classes?
- Do you work on multiple projects and tasks concurrently?
- Do you frequently have meetings or events to attend?
After doing an “audit” of your work, start organizing your tasks by category and priority.
How to organize your work by category
In order to stay on top of all your work and create a cohesive system, try identifying the main categories of your workload. Then, organize your different tasks into the main category.
For example, here are some work categories you can use:
- Work (Assignments, deadlines, projects)
- Meetings (Clients, vendors, managers, team)
- Finance (Bills, taxes, housing)
- Occasions (Birthday, anniversaries, vacation)
- Health (Gym, medical appointments)
- Personal (goals, social outings)
How to color-code planner categories
After identifying the main areas/themes of your workload, select a color for each category.
When picking your color, ask yourself what you associate with that color. For instance, the color green might be associated with money/finance for some people while for others it might make them think of nature/wellness. If you use colors that make sense to you, you’ll be more likely to remember what categories they correspond with.
Here’s an example of a color coding system used in an office setting:
- Red – speaking engagements
- Orange – clients or vendors
- Yellow – training
- Bright Green – team-related
- Standard Green – finance / accounting
- Blue – business development
- Teal – administrative
- Purple – article/book writing
Here’s how you can use your favorite products to color-code your work categories:
- Use washi tape to designate different tasks in your planner. For example, pink washi tape can represent personal goals and blue washi tape can be used for business-related work.
- Use washi tape on the calendar pages to help you distinguish deadlines and meetings. If you have a big work deadline coming up, use washi tape to decorate that day and make the deadline stand out.
- If you work in admin and support several executives, keep track of your work by using different color washi tape to correspond with each executive.
- We love using washi tape in our planner. You can find more ways to decorate your planner with washi tape here.
Highlighters/Gel pens/Micron pens
- Use different color highlighters or pens to underline different tasks. Designate green pens for finance tasks. Or red pens for work meetings.
- Use gel pens to mark up notes in your planner. Use bold colors to highlight key information so you have an easier time referencing them later.
- Use your favorite color pens to decorate your planner page to pump you up for a big goal. Decorate the calendar page so you have even more reason to keep going and accomplish it.
To-do list tape rolls
- Just because you want to be organized doesn't mean you can’t be creative too. Color in the dots with Micron pens or gel pens.
- Apply these stickers next to important tasks and work categories in your planner pages.
- Apply the numbered list tape in your planner to make a schedule or a numbered list of priorities.
How to organize your work by identifying priorities
If you work in a deadline-driven office environment, or if you just want to better manage your tasks, use a color-coded system to identify your big priorities.
Here are some ways you can organize your work by importance:
- Urgency: low, medium, high
- Deadline: morning, afternoon, evening
- Status: Initiate, half-way done, completed
How to color-code by differentiating priority, status, or time
After determining your priorities, designate a color to correspond with the urgency of the task.
- Red: Urgent, high priority
- Green: Important, medium priority
- Blue: Not important, low priority
- Green: Initiate
- Purple: Halfway done
- Black: Completed
- Pink: Morning
- Yellow: Afternoon
- Dark Blue: Evening
A color-coding system can complement your planner pages and help you become more productive and efficient. Instead of flipping through your pages to figure out your priorities, you can simply refer to the color and recall information instantly.