Benefits of Color Coding in Your Planner

After you have chosen the planner you want to use and have some basic ideas of what to include in it, one of the next considerations is how to use it effectively. The use of color coding can help better organize items in your planner.  Color coding involves using colored pens, highlighters, or stickers to make each section or item a different color. Here are some reasons why this is a great idea.

Related: Tips for Choosing the Right Planner

Increased Organization

One of the main reasons for purchasing a planner is to help you stay organized but you can easily get overwhelmed with all there is to keep track of in your planner.  When you look at a monthly calendar and see a lot of text all in the same color, it tends to blend together. Choosing a different color for items related to finances, home, family, work, blog or other areas of your life can help you quickly see areas of priority for the day.

There are many ways to color code different sections of the planner to make it more effective for you. And there is no right or wrong way to color code.

For example, you may choose to write everything related to finances in green, all health-related tasks in purple, and family functions in blue. This is color coding by category.

If you’re a mom running a busy household, you may prefer to color code by family member. In this method, you assign each member of the family their own color. One quick glance at your calendar and you can easily see who has what going on for the day.

Laura over at I Heart Planners has a unique way of color-coding. Here’s how she described her method,

One of my favorite ways to color code is by urgency rather than category. Therefore a must do gets one color, a really should do gets another color, and a could do gets yet another color. This way I can tell at a glance one must be done and what could be pushed off to another day if needed

Having Fun with Customization

Color coding isn’t just about organization, but it is fun to do!  Having a visually appealing setup in your planner helps it become something you look forward to opening each day. Your planner becomes something you love working in because it’s pretty and you get to use different pens and artistic tools. Make it a creative project so that it is not only helping you be more productive but becomes a fun creative outlet as well. Did you know there is a whole planner community in which you can get inspiration and ideas?

Keeping Areas of Your Life Separate

Another excellent benefit of color coding in your planner is to help keep different areas of your life (and schedule) separate. If you are filling out task lists, it might get confusing when it is all written in black. If these tasks aren’t necessarily related or even for the same goals one day, it can make it easier to use different colored pens for each type of task on the to-do list.

Deciding What to Color Code

You can color code anything and everything in your planner. This might be changing the pen color when making a to-do list, using stickers or highlighters for certain sections on the calendar pages, or even separating the planner into sections based on the color of the pages.

Have fun with it, and remember not only to make it fun but to be sure you are making it more effective, instead of distracting. There is a balance here between being helpful, and going a little overboard.

How to Get Started With Color Coding

So you decided to give color coding a try. But where do you start? An essential place to start is choosing what categories you want to focus on in your planner. Consider your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tasks.

After choosing your categories, start small by taking your monthly calendar for each month, and separating each area into a different color. This might be for things like work, family, and personal life. Or type of event, like holiday, birthday, appointment, or due date. Need some category ideas? Check out this list of 50 Category Ideas for Color Coding in Your Planner.


Next, you will need to develop a color-coding key and place it in a prominent spot in your planner. A key will help you consistently use the appropriate colors for each category and help with easy identification until you have your system memorized.

Don’t be afraid to make modifications to your color coding system at times to better suit your needs. A planner is designed to help you not be more constricting.

Tools You Can Use to Color Code Your Planner

There are a variety of tools you can use to color code your planner; however, they fall into these basic categories:

  • Pens – one of my favorite pens to use is the Papermate Flair pen. It comes in a variety of colors and doesn’t tend to bleed through planner pages.
  • Pencils – colored pencils are another option to use for color-coding
  • HighlightersMidliner highlighters tend me a popular choice among members in the planner community
  • Washi – you can find washi in a variety of sizes and designs
  • Stickers -there are a plethora of planner stickers that you can find online in places like Etsy or in stores like Michaels, who often have discount coupons. I love sticker books from the Happy Planner line.

Things to Consider When Choosing to Color Code Your Planner

While we have identified some positive reasons to implement color coding in your planner routine, there are a few drawbacks to consider such as:

  • Time – choosing a specific color for each category, family member or activity can increase the amount of time needed to write things down as you have to locate the specific color needed for each category.
  • Supplies – depending on the number of categories you use, it may be necessary to have a lot of different colors. Some pens, pencils, and highlighters come in only a small variety of colors. And those that come in more varied colors can be more expensive.

Questions to ask before you commit to using a color coding system in your planner are:

  1. Do I have the time to commit to using the system? If you’re a busy executive with a demanding schedule it’s not likely you will have the time for documenting each task in the appropriate color.
  2. Does my chosen color coding supplies come in enough different colors to meet my specific needs? If you have several categories you will need beyond the standard black, blue, and red ink.
  3. Do I have enough space to carry or store my color coding supplies? If you’re a person who carries your planner with you, you need to consider not only if you’re willing to haul all the necessary different color supplies but does your purse or bag have space?
  4. What is the cost of the color coding supplies? Using a variety of colored supplies increases the cost of using your planner. Albeit planner supplies like pens, highlighters, and washi can last for a while depending on the use frequency.

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