How to Improve Your Day with Color Coding

Color coded folders and filing for business or personal

Planning the right system is the first step to tackling any big project. One of the most tried-and-true methods we’re all familiar with is a system of color codes. However, many people approach color coding in very different ways. Some people use specific colors that relate to certain topics, like using the color green for projects that deal with finance. Other people only use a single color, like yellow, to highlight important sections as they appear.

But there are many different ways a color code system can be organized and applied. Color coding can definitely be useful for keeping track of multiple projects, executives and employees. But you can apply these same values for a color coding system at home, at school or anywhere else in your life. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind to create a color coding system that works best for you.

Coding colors with existing connections

Neon highlighters color coded in binder with plant
Color code on the fly with Hi-Liter® pens (23585)

What’s the first thing you think of when you see the color green? For some people, “green” means “go” but others might connect this color to money, envy, nature and more. Your personal color coding system should connect with the way you react to that color. Try out this test with our various shades of Hi-Liter pens to see how your brain processes each color and see if this route works for you.

Organizing with color theory

Bright neon colored organization with highlighters ultra tabs and file folders
Tag your planners with wide, neon Ultra Tabs® (74767)

If you have multiple projects or calendars that overlap, then keeping color theory in mind is a good way to visually represent when different categories mix together. For example, if the tasks for one executive is kept in a blue folder and the tasks for another are kept in a yellow one, then you can mark any projects where they interact with green note tabs. You can also use colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel, like red and orange or green and blue, to connect categories that are related to each other.

Color code charts

Color coding legend with dots and agenda notebook
Connect the dots with a desk style Hi-Liter® (24063) and removable color-coding labels (5474)

If you’re creating a system that will be used by multiple people then a color coding legend is essential to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Over time, this system will become second nature for the people in your office but these helpful guides will make it much easier. We even created a handy template so that you can customize a legend with your own names, projects and more. But you can also use this system for personal tasks like keeping track of household chores, organizing movie collections or marking your kids’ belongings.

Click here for the color coding legend template

Mix and match supplies

Neon highlighters with ultra tabs in a planner
Combine removable neon labels (6724) with neon mini Ultra Tabs (74762) and margin tabs (74767)

Different types of supplies are great for various categories and priorities. For example, a Hi-Liter should be used for things that are more permanent like the names of executives or departments and for drawing attention to important notes. However, removable labels and tabs are great for quick reminders or creating a temporary note. Handwrite-compatible labels like neon color coding labels are perfect for creating a fast, writable space whenever you need to leave a message. This is perfect for your planner but also great for keeping track of your kid’s lunches and leaving brief notes around the house.


Neon ultra tabs in planner
Give your planner a jolt of color with neon pink, green and orange tabs (74753)

Although careful planning and forethought is key to a good color coding system, aesthetics are still an important part of the process. Play around with various colors and sizes to create a unique look. It’s much easier to stay organized if the system you’re using is fun, colorful and makes you feel stylish. Efficiency is the goal but that doesn’t mean you can’t look good while you get there.

Also don’t be discouraged if the first system you try turns out to be too complicated or too simple. Everybody works differently and refining the process is essential to finding the approach that will fit into your workflow. If you need more products to expand your color coding supplies there are a variety of colors that can be ordered on custom-sized blank labels. You can also order labels with custom-printed colors through our WePrint printing service.

Products used in this article:

Purple, Blue, Pink, Green, Orange and Yellow

Pink, Green, Orange and Yellow

Pink, Green and Orange

Templates used in this article: