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One of the most popular planning techniques used in the planner community today is ‘color coding’. Color coding involves using a pen/marker/pencil in a specific color for a specific task, person, or area of your life. For example, I use a specific color to identify a specific project in my work planner and a specific color for each member of my immediate family–including the pets–in my personal planner. As a visual person, I find this extremely helpful because I can quickly scan a page and immediately find the information I’m looking for. Sounds great, so what’s the downside? Well, it could create a portability nightmare depending on how many colors you choose.

I use primarily 5 colors to keep things simple but differently depending on whether I’m at work or home. On the other hand, I know some planner geeks that use anywhere from 10 to 20 colors for a higher level of granularity. This means they are carrying around a significant amount of writing tools along with their planner and possibly other supplies in order to continue supporting their color coding system on-the-go. As a result, I’ve gone thru phases where I color code in a few different ways (and sometimes, not at all!) depending on how much ‘stuff’ I want–or don’t want–to carry.

For work, my planner stays in the office so carrying a pencil case for all my supplies is not a problem. My color coding system for work involves writing all my meetings, tasks, and notes with a black fountain pen then using a highlighter in the designated color to identify specific projects. For tasks, I’ll only highlight a completed task in its designated color so outstanding tasks remain in the background for follow-up. This is helpful when generating my end-of-week report because I can see what was and wasn’t completed for each project.

Day Designer, planner, planners, color coding, highlighters
Work planner showing coding system using highlighters
Day Designer, planner, planners, color coding, highlighters
Work pencil case used to carry highlighters and other tools

In my personal planner, I tend to use different color coding techniques depending on what I want to carry (or not carry) on-the-go. In general, I’ll use one of following techniques:

  1. Color pens or a multi-pen
  2. Color stickers
  3. Color highlighters

With the first technique, I’ll use either a multi-pen (e.g. Pilot Hi-tech-c Coleto Lumio 4-color or a Coleto 5-color) so I’ll only have to carry one pen with 4-5 colors or 5 individual pens/markers in each of the colors I use. If you decide to try this approach, I highly recommend using a multi-color pen. There are many brands on the market but my personal favorite are the Pilot Hi-Tech C’s because I can carry a maximum of 10 different colors with just two pens in a binders that has 2 pen loops–how cool is that!

Custom inserts, planner, planners, color coding, Pilot Hi-tech C, Lumio, Coleto, Bella Pilar, vertical layout, personal size, Gillio
Pilot Hi-tech C multi-color pens and individual color Sharpie pens

With the second technique, I’ll use a sticker in each of the 5 colors (e.g. a removable Avery 3/4″ rectangular or round white labels colored using Copic Markers) or 1/8″ Mark-It dot stickers which I’ll use ‘bullet style’ meaning placing the dot at the start of a line then writing the information next to it using whatever pen I have available.

Planner, planners, Gillio, personal, vertical layout, Avery
Colored Avery rectangle stickers
Avery 3/4″ rectangle and circle white labels colored using Copic Markers
Mark-It Dots in various colors

The last technique I use is the same used in my work planner meaning I’ll carry 4-5 highlighters. I have a few pencil cases in various sizes so depending on what else I need to carry–e.g. pencils, scissors, rulers, white out, glue stick, etc.–I’ll either prepare a case for on-the-go or just leave one stocked but keep it at home.

Color coding is a great technique for differentiating information on your planner pages. The challenge is balancing how granular you want to go versus how many supplies you are willing to carry. If I want to go ‘light’, I’ll use a multi-pen or stickers; if I don’t mind carrying a pencil case, I’ll use color pens, markers, or highlighters.

Do you use color coding? What tools do you use? Share in the comments below! And if you found this blogpost helpful or know someone it could help, please like, subscribe, and share on social media.

Until next time,

♥ LilD ♥