At Appointed, we’re always looking for new ways to organize our days - whether it’s putting the latest time-management technique to the test or developing brand new planner formats. One tried and tested method we can get behind? Using color to organize our planners. Today we’re outlining step-by-step instructions on how to color-code, tips for designing a system that works for you, and all the tools you need to get started.
Is Color-Coding For Me?
Our planners are turn-key, with a format for everyone and clear, fan-favorite layouts that make getting started a breeze. Take our best-selling Year Task Planner for instance: plug in your appointments in the month and week spreads, list your priorities and to-dos in the coordination sections, and miscellany in the notes section—it’s as easy as it gets. But if you’re ready to take that next step towards maximizing the efficacy of your planner, incorporating color is the ticket to better project planning, optimized scheduling, and clearer to-do lists for increased productivity.
Personalizing your planner with color not only makes it more fun and aesthetically pleasing, but can lead to increased productivity and better organization. Do you use your planner for tracking and coordinating multiple areas of your life? Are you the kind of person who keeps a long to-do list? Color-coding may be just the technique you're looking for.
How To Color-Code Your Planner
- Make A List—Start by asking yourself this question: “What do I use my planner for?” Make a list of the kind of tasks, appointments, and projects you typically write down. This could be home chores, exercise regimens, work meetings, personal appointments, travel, errands, kid’s activities—anything you keep track of in the day-to-day.
- Streamline—If your list is particularly long (think over 4-5 categories), see if you can group any categories together into parallel tasks. For example, if I use my planner to track doctor’s appointments and after-school pickup, I might combine these into a single category as they require me to arrive to a location at a specific time. Why 4-5 categories? The purpose of color-coding is to provide yourself with clear visual cues. Limiting to just a few colors will keep your system from becoming too complicated and therefore ineffective.
- Create An Index—Here comes the fun part. Create an index to list out your categories and their corresponding colors. This could be inside the front cover of your planner, on an adhesive note posted at your desk, or even a small note in the corner of each 2-page month spread (see this in action in the below month spread of our Year Task Planner). An example might be: Green = Financial, Blue = Personal Appointments, Yellow = Self Care and Social Events, Red = Urgent Tasks, Pink = Kids Activities.
- Add Color—Your color-coding system is now prepped and ready to go! When you sit down to plan the week or month ahead, simply list each task in the coordinating color with colorful pens or highlighters (more on that later). Give yourself a few weeks to adjust to the new system and see if it works for you—remember that color-coding should save you time, make checking off your to-do list more efficient, and help you keep a closer eye on your schedule and priorities. If you haven’t seen a benefit you can then re-assess and consider modifying your categories.
More Ways To Color-Code
We’ve outlined the most basic and intuitive way to color-code—grouping to-dos and appointments by category. However, there are endless opportunities to use color in your planner in the way that works best for you:
- Batch By Project—Do you use your planner for work? Consider choosing a different color for each on-going project. Let’s look at an Appointed team-member’s current system—they chose green for an upcoming planner collection launch, blue for an internal systems refresh, and yellow for website management. As projects wrap up and new priorities emerge, they’ll simply update their index accordingly.
- Color Choice—Use bright colors for deadlines and “don’t forget!” tasks. This will draw your eye to must-do priorities and keep what’s important top of mind. It's also a super-easy way to color-code without setting up a complicated system—simply list urgent tasks in red ink.
- For Parents—Coordinating multiple schedules for your kids and yourself can easily become overwhelming. Consider choosing a single color for each kid to make sure after school activities, pick-up and drop-off, and playdates are straightforward at-a-glance.
- For Students—If you use your planner for school, try color-coding your assignments and schedules by class. Plus, visualizing the amount of reading or assignments that need to be completed for each class will help you better understand your workload, and which areas require the most time and energy.
- Time & Effort—When you write down a task, estimate how long you think it will take, whether it’s a 10-15 minute phone call, or a 2 hour trip to the DMV. Create a color-coding index by time (orange for <15 minute tasks, pink for <30 minute tasks, purple for <1 hour tasks...) and note each task with its coordinating color. For example, if you utilize the “Tasks” section of our Year Task Planner to list your weekly to-dos, color-coding them by estimated time will help you decide what to prioritize when you have a free moment, inspire you to group tasks together based on available time, and better visualize what you can realistically get done in a single day.
- Must Do, Should Do, Could Do—Inspired by our bestselling Task Adhesive Notes, this tip for color-coding categories by importance will give you a clear visual cue for your most important tasks and appointments.
The Tools You’ll Need
Though we offer a wide range of high-quality, colorful writing tools sourced from leading manufacturers, our recommendation is the Mildliner Highlighter. Why a highlighter? If you envision yourself taking your planner with you on-the-go, you’ll be able to simply list new appointments or tasks with whatever pen or pencil you have on hand, and then go back and color-code at a later time. This way, you’ll never have to worry about having every pen color in your arsenal with you at all times. Plus, the double-sided ends of this highlighter provides versatility with each use (a chisel tip for highlighting and a fine tip for the little details), and comes in soft, pastel hues to keep your weekly spreads clean and minimal. Choose from 8 available colors, or purchase the classic 5-color set.
A pen test of the Mildliner Highlighter shows 3 classic colors on our grid paper.
Whether you're new to the planning game, or a long-time planner afficianado, there's always room to try out a new technique that not only increases your productivity, but inspires a new mindset towards achieving your goals. We hope these helpful tips and tricks can motivate you to make the most of your planner for better days ahead.