Color Coded Organization

Before I kick off today's article I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Christmas, Festivus, or Winter Solstice. May you have a wonderful holiday filled with lots of paper and productivity toys. Here's looking forward to another great year of forms, articles and hacks in 2007!

Earlier this week I was musing over how to reorganize the types of information that come to me and how to quickly identify and sort each type into their permanent homes. The following is a quick and simple, but powerful way to wrangle your thoughts: according to color. This method works great for people who tend to keep multiple journals or like to separate out information into different "piles." I know some people like to keep their GTD items in one book, thoughts and plots for stories in another and spiritual ramblings in a third. I know I tend to think in categories and prefer my information in neat, organized piles myself. For those of you who carry multiple journals in some huge bag, at all times, this new idea may sound scary at first. But if you like this idea, give it a shot and feel free to make modifications according to what works best for you. You'll also love this tip if you are trying to pare down your lifestyle and make things a bit more simplistic.

The tools are simple. All you need is one journal and a pack of colored pens. Pick a journal you're going to be compelled to write in all the time. Make sure that it has enough pages and fits in whatever bag you carry with you. Moleskines work well to this method, so do composition notebooks. I prefer journals that give me as much space to write in, all the way to the spine. I'm also a left hander, so I tend to find something that doesn't conflict with to my writing style. Usually this means my journals lay as flat as possible and give me room to be as scriptic as I can with my language. Personally, I use my index cards for this method, as they're already in my backpack and go with me everywhere. Any index cards, whether they're blank or color coded will even work with this trick. Same goes with the pens. I've got a set of 10 Uniball Vision Elite pens that I've grown to love lately. You may not use all the colors of a set, which is fine, so use as many as you have categories for.

The book becomes your inbox. Any thoughts you have during the day while you're out and about, away from your separated journals, goes in this single inbox. Give each entry a date, and write the complete thought down. The colored pens, then, give you a color coded way to separate out the information according to topics. For example, if you're a dancer and have a thought about a new move or a choreography, write that down in black ink. Mark all appointments or meetings you've made that day in red ink. Make all your To-Do items blue and if you just want to record a simple thought or diary entry, or quote from some source you just read, write it out in green. If you're using colored index cards, reverse the process. Assign a category to the card's color and then use a black or blue pen to write your thoughts down on the page.

This way, when you go home and sit down, you can cull through all the gathered entries of the day and transfer them permanently into the other journals and books you have set up. Another benefit of this transferring step is that the when you write things down twice, they become more ingrained in your brain so that you'll remember it better. And because things are color coded to your personal tastes, it takes less time to transfer the bits down into each container. Plus, writing in color is fun and gives you a fast way to see just which interests your mind tends to settle on daily.

Like I said, this is deceptively simple but a very powerful way to help organize and manage multiple categories of incoming data so that you can quickly store and file it away into separate and permanent locations later. Let me know how this works out for you by leaving a comment below.

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Color paper and pens!

Innowen - Merry Christmas to you as well and to all my DIY Friends!

This is another GREAT idea! I actually purchased some great colored pens last night and was wondering how I should go about using them (Zebra Sarasa Gel Pens at OfficeMax). I also recently purchased colored paper from Levenger (for my Circa Junior notebook) and wanted to color coordinate the "areas" of my journal. So, I guess I am going to do both - the pens and the paper! Perfect timing Innowen!

nay nay

color = fun

Nay Nay,

I have the Zebra Sarasa Gel pens at work where I use them to write my notes. (Can you say I have a horrid, horrid addiction?) My only issue is that they do tend to bleed and smear if you don't give the ink enough time to sink into the card. I'm always putting my thumb over some word and getting light smudges on the index cards.

Have fun exploring how you can mix and match the colors to organization and have a great holiday!


Pilot Mini G2

I got hooked on the Pilot Mini G2 pens by someone on these fora -- I'll search them out and rant at them later.

Anyway, one thing I found I like about them is that they are fine-point and write a nicer, smaller line than other, medium-point gel pens.

Just my $0.02
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)