Colour is not just for kids. Colour can play a strong and effective role in organising your time, tasks and environment.
We are socially conditioned to see some colours as meaningful. In particular, red for danger, amber for caution and green for go. This traffic light system can be used to great effect in planning and organising tasks. It’s a standardised way to indicate issues in reports and to clearly signpost progress. Often shortened to RAG (Red, Amber, Green) it can give information at a glance and is widely understood.
You can apply the traffic light approach to your desk environment and keep three trays, or files, on your desk. Coloured Red, Amber and Green you can store the information for each category in these locations and instantly see what’s urgent. A colourful variation on the old In, Pending and Out trays. The colours impart a sense of urgency that was absent from the standard issue grey plastic trays with tiny little labels.
If you need to quickly note down a task or To Do item you can use Post-Its. Stick them on the relevant folder and you have everything together in one place. You could also use coloured Post-Its to denote urgency if you find this helpful.
Time and Task Management
When in the early stages of planning a complex project, use different coloured Post-Its on a wall planner or large piece of paper pinned to the wall. You can colour code by task, by team responsibilities, primary and secondary taskings or whatever you need to simplify your plan and make it feel more manageable. The Post-Its can be moved around at will, allowing you to create a plan quickly and easily and to alter it as needed until it works effectively. You can then transfer the plan to its final format, using the colour code to make the plan simple and clear for everyone to follow.
Colour coding is absolutely perfect for very busy diaries. Common events can be designated a particular colour. I put my meetings in one colour if they are waiting to be confirmed but use a different colour for meetings which are confirmed.
If you have multiple clients you can use a different colour for each client. As many of us use the diary on our phone and check it on the run, this can be hugely helpful.
Outlook provides little icons for your diary entries so you can mark them with common activities such as food, travel, meeting etc in addition to the colour options. Helpful whilst you are getting used to the new colour code system.
It can be tempting to go overboard with the colours. However, too many colours will lead to confusion over which colour means what. You are aiming for a few, easily recalled colours, not a diary that resembles an explosion in a paint factory.
In a hard copy diary you can still use a colour code system. Use a different colour pen for client work, meetings or To Do list items. Use highlighters to denote the most important task of the day, or write the top three tasks in red.
Gmail’s star system is incredibly useful for quickly identifying emails that need a more considered response. I use a variant of the RAG system for my Gmail diary; RAY, Red, Amber, Yellow, because once it is green it belongs in a file not in the InBox so that’s exactly where it gets put.
If you tend to review emails whilst on the move you can star the ones that you can’t deal with on the move and by colour coding them you can see at a glance which ones you need to tackle first when you get back to your desk. Naturally you can use whatever colour you want to denote urgency and Gmail also provides a small range of coloured icons in the same section as the stars and some people prefer to use these.
If you share an InBox, you can agree a colour code system to allocate responsibility. The person who picks up the Email colours it “their” colour and it is clear at a glance who is handling that particular task. A universal colour for “completed” is useful in some situations but ideally completed items should be filed in one of the folders you’ve set up for the purpose so that items can be found again quickly.
I hope you find the method works well for you. I love colour coding and use it a lot with my clients, particularly the diary element which a lot of clients find really helpful. If’ you’d like to find out more about the range of different ways in which I can help to streamline your workload and get that pesky admin under control, get in touch and let’s have a chat.