How To Colour Code Your Planner To Stay Organised

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This year at university has been very busy. As it turns out I don’t cope well with a heavy course load. I’ve been looking for new methods to help me stay organised. Along with buying an academic planner, I’ve started using colour coding to help me keep my planner organised. So today I’m here to share how you can colour code your planner to help you organise your life. 

Everyone buys planners to help them stay organised. But just having a planner won’t organise your life. Colour coding is one way you can bring order to that chaos. Of course, this isn’t the only way you could organise your planner. But as a visual person, this works well for me. 

In this post, I’m going to share some ways you can colour code your planner. Along with how I use colour coding to organise my course work. I also have some recommendations for the best markers and highlighters you could use if you want to get started with colour coding. 

How To Colour Code Your Planner To Stay Organised

What to colour code?

When you start colour coding your planner, one of the first things you have to decide is what you’re going to colour code. How you go about this may be different depending on how you need to get organised and the sorts of tasks need completing. One of the advantages of colour coding is that it makes it much easier to see how tasks are grouped in your planner. 

The way you use colour coding may change depending on what you are trying to organise. You may want to colour code your life by category. So have colours for things like work, health, and finance. 

Or you may decide you want to colour code your planner based on different projects you’re working on. This could be work-related projects or anything you need doing around your home. This could change depending on what you do. If you’re a freelancer or a student you may decide you want to use colour coding to organise those specific parts of your life. 

As a blogger, you could use colour coding to manage the different aspects of running a blog. So you could have categories like research, writing, and social media. If you were a student you could have different colours based on the classes or modules you were taking. This could change depending on if you were at school or university. 

If you have lots of different tasks to be completed you might decide to colour code by urgency. This way it’s easy to see the most important tasks which need to be completed each day. 

Of course, these are all just some examples of how you could colour code in your planner. The exact way you use colour coding will depend on your needs and how you need to organise your life. 

Lots To Keep Track Of

One of the things I find difficult at university is when I have lots of projects on the go at the same time. I could have 3 or 4 different projects which all need to be worked on in the same week because they all have the same hand in date. It can be hard making sure I spend the same amount of time on each project. 

If you have lots of different projects on the go you could consider using different planners to organise different parts of your life. So you may have one planner for work or university, and then another to organise your home life. This will cut down on the number of tasks in one planner, making them easier to keep organised. 

When you do start colour coding I would recommend you use a limited number of colours. The best way to do this is by looking at your categories and associating a colour to your most important ones. 

I only use 4 colours in my planner. Three of those colours are associated with specific projects. The fourth colour is to highlight any important general events. I will also use this colour if I want to add headlines or any other elements into my planner. 

You don’t want to use too many colours because it will become overwhelming when you look at it in your planner. Realistically you don’t want a planner that is nice to look at just for the sake of it. But having a planner that is organised will, in turn, help you stay organised with all the tasks you need to complete. 

How I Colour Code

I thought I would share how I use colour coding in my planner. I use it mainly to keep all of my coursework organised. Last semester I had 4 projects over two modules. Rather than organising my colours based on the project, I had a specific colour for each tutor. 

I already had a set of 3 colours I liked for colour coding so this way it saved me from having to add an extra colour. Every task I added to my planner was colour coded based on the project it was for. This was important because I might have to do the same task for multiple projects. For example, if I was doing research. 

Colour coding made it easy for me to see which project was associated with that task. I am a visual person so having that colour meant seeing the actual task wasn’t quite as important. If I saw red I knew I was working on a marketing project. Blue meant I was doing a fine art project. 

These same colours also followed over to the sketchbooks associated with that project. I use highlighters in my sketchbook to mark any important information. It wasn’t really necessary for me to do this. It was quite obvious which sketchbook I was working in. But I like the consistency of using the same colour for one project no matter what planner, sketchbook or notebook I’m currently working in. 

What To Use For Colour Coding?

There are several different tools you could use to colour code in your planner. What you choose will be up to your preferences and budget. I thought I would mention some of the tools I’ve used in the past. 

Tombow Marker Pens

If you want a good selection of colours to use in your planner, the Tombow marker pens are a great choice. These are fibre tipped marker pens, with a fine point and brush nib. I’ve used these pens a lot over the last few years. They work well with most types of paper and don’t smear if you are using them with gel pens. 

The Tombow Markers can be found on Amazon as well as in art shops such as Paperchase or Cass Art. If you like having lots of bright colours in your planner these pens are a great choice. 

Zebra Mildliners

The Zebra Mildliners are my favourite type of pen to use when colour coding my planner. I love these pens. They are advertised as highlighters but work similarly to marker pens. The Mildliners come in a range of different colours. And you have two types of pen to choose from depending on which nibs you prefer. I like using a chisel tipped pen in my planner. But you could also by the Mildliner brush pen if you think you would get more use out of it. 

The Mildliners are slightly harder to come across. Currently, the best place to find Mildliners is on Amazon. But over the last few months, they have become easier to find in stationery shops such as Paperchase. 

Coloured Pencils

Before I moved onto Mildliners, coloured pencils were my go-to way of colour coding my planner. One of the things I liked about coloured pencils was that depending on the brand, there was a huge range of colours to choose from. I also really liked that I could buy pencils individually from my local art shop. 

But you don’t get much choice when it comes to line thickness. This can be a problem if you want a thicker stroke using something like a chisel tipped marker. But if you’re getting started with colour coding pencils can be a great choice. I loved using Derwent Coloursoft pencils because they came in a huge range of colours. The lead is also quite hard which gives a fine line and means you won’t be constantly resharpening the pencil. 

Planner Stickers

I’m not sure if you would call this colour coding. But I have used planner stickers in the past. You can buy icon and functional stickers in specific colours. This could be a really easy way to colour code certain tasks in your planner. A while ago I bought Instagram stickers in a range of different colours. This made it easy for me to see on a weekly spread which days I wanted to post to Instagram. 

In the past, I have also ordered custom stickers from Etsy. These were headings rather than specific colours. But those custom stickers related to college. This made it easy for me to see when I was starting and finishing projects.

The specific type and colour of stickers you can get will just on which shop you buy your stickers from. Etsy has a huge range of sellers making planner stickers. I can’t recommend a specific Etsy shop because the prices will change depending on where the seller is shipping from and to. I would recommend you have a good look around Etsy and figure out the best colour coding system that works for you. 

Sticky Notes

I love using sticky notes in my planner. But I am very particular about the type of sticky notes I like to use. You might be surprised by this but I don’t use any special kinds of sticky note. My favourite is a set of blue sticky notes which I got from the shop at my university. I love using these to write down important tasks. The colour makes the tasks stand out against the rest of the planner page. 

You can pretty much find sticky notes everywhere. Post-it notes are probably the most well-known brand of sticky notes. But you can go into any good stationery shop and find sticky notes. If you want to get fancy you could look at Aliexpress or Wish for sticky notes with a more interesting design. 

Washi Tape

I love using washi tape as decoration in my planner. But it can also be a great way to colour code as well. If you do decide to use washi to colour code I would recommend buying plain tapes rather than patterned. MT makes some great plain washi tapes. I love using neon pink tape in my bullet journal. 

You also have some choice when it comes to the thickness of your washi tape. Most washi comes in one standard thickness. But you can buy some super-thin tapes, this can be a great way to divide your planner into sections. 

Washi can be found in places like Cass Art or Paperchase. But just make sure you are buying true washi tape rather than some of the alternatives which are more like sellotape. MT is one of the main washi brands and is most easily found on Amazon. 

What colours to use?

This might seem very obvious. When you are picking colours to use for colour coding your planner, you should pick colours you like. You’re going to be looking at them a lot so there is no point using a colour you hate. 

If you can’t figure out a colour scheme you like you could do something similar to me. I use red, yellow, blue, and grey. Its a very simple colour scheme but I like how it looks. It also meant I didn’t need to spend ages finding colours I like. Remember your colour scheme will be limited depending on what markers or highlighters you use. 

When it comes to choosing a colour scheme you should be picking colours which stand out well from each other. You don’t want to choose a colour scheme with very similar colours. This makes it harder to see your colour coding at a glance. You don’t want to spend so much time figuring out which shade of blue you used that it stops you from getting anything done. 

How to start colour coding your planner?

The first thing you probably want to do when you start colour coding is create some sort of key. This makes it easy to see which colour is associated with which project. My memory is terrible so I have all sorts of problems remembering what colour I should be using when I’m planning out tasks in my planner. 

As well as using colour coding, you should be grouping all your tasks related to the same project. This makes it easier to look at on the page and its easier to find related tasks. I use a vertical planner layout and start a task category with a headline and its specific colour. Under than I write down any related tasks I want to do on that specific day. 

This makes it nicer to look at. But it will also organise your planner slightly. You don’t want to become so focused on making your planner look nice that you don’t get anything done. But having a neat planner will make it easier for you to keep your tasks organised. 

Another thing I have found handy is using the same colour coding scheme in my bullet journal as well as my planner. If you have so many tasks that they won’t all fit on a weekly spread you could note down the most important tasks for the day. Then create a long to-do list as a bullet journal entry. This could be in a separate notebook or just on lined pages within the planner. Keeping the same colour coding scheme means everything is linked and it’s easy to see how your tasks relate to each category or project. 

The most important thing when it comes to colour coding is to be consistent. Make sure your colour scheme stays the same. Though it may have to change if you finish one project and start on another. The most important thing is to figure out a colour coding system which works for you and stick with it. 


I hope that gave you some ideas on how you can colour code in your planner. I’ve been using colour coding for my university work and I’ve found it has helped me stay organised in my planner. Not an easy feat considering the amount of coursework I had over last semester. 

Of course, the exact way you use colour coding will depend on your needs. But the advantage of this system is you can customise and figure out what works for you. You don’t need to use any specific pens or markers, though I am partial to the Mildliners. The most important thing is you figure out a system which helps you stay organised. 

Do you use colour coding in your planner? Or are you going to start colour coding? Let me know in the comments. 

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