Confession: I’m a color-coding addict.
My love for color-coding goes way back to when I was a kid in school. Every subject had a different color associated with it, and it was mandatory that my textbook covers and folders matched accordingly. I first learned about it from a teacher who clearly loved color-coding. Now, the system is ingrained in my life. I’m still using different colored notebooks to organize clients and corresponding colors to keep track of their tasks and deadlines in my planner and to-do list 20 years later so props to that teacher for giving me such a powerful organization tool!
Color-coding is hands down one of my favorite business systems. Not only is it great for keeping things organized, but it can also help draw attention to particular tasks and make schedules and notes easier to read. Thanks to this, I have a clear overview of my day and top priority tasks with a simple glance.
It’s no secret among my friends that I’m obsessed with my colorful Stabilo pens. I even received a pack of them as a bridesmaid gift. My desk is littered with neon Post-It notepads and I have the exact same notebook in seven different colors. There are also numerous colorful spreadsheets living in my Google Drive. These are all essential tools that every color-coding fanatic needs to have in their arsenal.
I realize that not everyone is as into color-coding as I am so if you’re new to the game, I’ve got some tips for you. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about using color-coding to organize your business and streamline your life:
Consistency is the cardinal rule of color-coding. Nothing in whatever color-based system you put into place will make sense and any meaning behind the colors will quickly become muddled without it. Whether you’re color-coding your planner, using different colors to group products, or are visually branding your entire business, consistency is key.
Use colors that make sense
As with any system you set up in your business or personal life, it needs to make sense to you. If you don’t understand your own system, then what good is it? Certain colors generally provoke particular emotions. For example, red is an alarming color that’s great for highlighting high priority tasks but it might not make sense for creative or relaxation time. Blue or green might make more sense in that case. That being said, everyone is different so work with color in a way that resonates with you.
Send a clear message
While color-coding is a great organizational tool, it can also be used to send a message. Using a powerful color like red to block off time for nonnegotiables, such as a morning routine or uninterrupted lunch break, will send a clear message to your brain that screams ‘stop!’ if you even think about scheduling something else during that time. In this way, color-coding can be used to help set boundaries for yourself and others.
If you’re using color-coding in a team, it’s crucial that the system makes sense to everyone else as well. Using colors to represent particular people or task priority in your own secret language that no one else knows isn’t going to benefit anyone. Using a color-coded system with other people? Make sure that it’s clearly communicated and understood.
Keep it simple
However you decide to use color-coding, remember to keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate things by using too many colors or shades that are too similar. Otherwise, you’ll soon find yourself forgetting the meaning behind particular colors or mixing them up.
Also, make sure to leave some white space. Color-coding is most effective when it’s used to highlight things. A system where everything is color-coded may make it difficult to read and reduce the power of the system.
Victoria is a communications strategist and content creator. She served as Public Relations Manager at InterNations and Communications Director for nonprofit The Unmentionables before successfully transitioning to a full-time freelance career. Her work ranges from travel tips for publications such as Fodor’s and Time Out to in-depth white paper content for SaaS providers.