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Tips For Using Colored Pens & Markers To Stay Organized

If one of your resolutions for next year is to get a little more organized, it might be time to start investing in a some colored ink. Those extra hues can be invaluable in helping to keep all the little gears of your life meshing together effectively.

To-do lists

We all make lists of the tasks we have to accomplish to serve as reminders of what's been done and what still needs to be done. But organizing those to-do lists by color can help reduce what may seem like an impossible amount of work into manageable chunks.

When I make a list, I use dark purple for those urgent chores that are already overdue. Red ink for those that have to be completed after that. Black for mundane tasks that need to be worked in between the important stuff. and blue for the ones I can get around to whenever. If it's a task that involves the making of or spending of money, green, obviously.

When I look at the list, my eye doesn't see the whole thing – just the purples and reds. That helps me to mentally prioritize those chores and to make the list seem shorter than it really is. I'm not panicking over everything that has to be done, just focusing on those urgent tasks. As long as those get completed, the rest of the list seems like minor details.


They always end up packed: appointments, meetings, errands, deadlines, on and on. So much so that eventually, you get to the point that it all kind of blurs into one jumble of numbers and notes. When that happens, it's easy to overlook an important item until the last minute when you actually had weeks of advance notice.

Again, colors can help. An important meeting noted in a bright hue like fuschia will jump out at you every time you glance at the calendar, making sure it's always fresh in your mind. Using one color for recurring items, like green for bill due dates, make them easy to pick out amidst the clutter. Minor events noted in pencil will show you which ones can be rescheduled if plans change.

Reminder notes

It's easy to get so caught up in a project that you mentally close out everything else and end up forgetting all the other little chores that you need to do. Happens to me all the time.

That's when it helps to post little reminder notes to yourself in places where they are obvious, like your computer monitor, on the inside of the front door or on the fridge. These visual pauses interrupt your busy mind long enough to remind you that there is something else that needs your attention.

Rather than buying a bunch of different colored sticky notes for this purpose, you can just use different inks. I use bright red for things I keep forgetting to do, like take out the trash. A note in bold black sitting in front of my keyboard is for a phone call that must be made at a certain time. Green is for anything related to the pets.

Because of the color-coding, it's usually not necessary to stop and read the note because just seeing it is enough to remind me of what I have to do.


If you are one of those people who uses one journal for everything, then it can become filled with a variety of not necessarily related information: Personal musings, creative ideas, facts and events to remember. Written in one color of ink, they can all blend together and be difficult to distinguish when you want to find something.

However, if you use different colors of ink for each type of note, it's easy to divide your journaling into mini-sections. You could use, say, violet for your personal thoughts, burgundy for brainstorming your novel, black for information you need for later. Or, you could take it a step further and use different shades to represent your moods. Looking back years from now, you could tell how you were feeling at that point in your life just by the hue of the ink.


I'm a freezer. Soup, chili, chicken breasts, veggie mixes, whatever. Wrap it, box it, mark it, freeze it. Everything goes into cold storage in neat little stacks for later use.

I started out using a black wax pencil to label everything, but that got tiresome because I still had to paw through the stacks, reading labels to find what I wanted. Then, I switched to colored Sharpies, and it all got a lot easier.

Yellow is chicken, green is veggies, brown is chili, red is spaghetti sauce, black is beef, purple is pork, orange is soup and so on. Just draw a big dot in permanent ink, give it a few seconds to dry and set before it goes in the freezer, and easy peasy organization. Now, I can tell at a glance exactly what I have in the freezer and where it is.

Same applies to any organizing task – from shoe boxes in the closet to bins of nuts and bolts in the garage. Color code them with a permanent marker, and you'll save yourself a pain-in-the-butt search every time you need to grab a particular item.

So there you go, a few ideas to get you started. If any of you have your own tips for color-coding your life, chime in. We'd love to hear them.

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