Monday, August 25, 2008

Color Coding vs. Using Color

Creative, visual, sparkly people love to use lots of color when organizing. (like colorful paper trays)
And there are lots of people who recommend color coding methods to stay organized.
The two are not the same thing.
Using color is not the same as color coding.

Color coding is making color significant and giving it meaning.
It is usually done in order to separate parts of your life and make the sections easily identifiable at a glance.
For instance: my home files are purple and my business files are orange. Or if using desk trays: green for to-do, blue for to file, white for in-box, etc.

Using color is when you add a dose of color to make a boring situation less boring. Or even to make it exciting! Weeeeee, colored paper trays!

I love using color and patterned products to jazz things up.

And I don't recommend doing much color coding for most of my clients and I'll tell you why.
I think it is just more difficult to keep up.
Maintenance is usually a challenge for right brainers (and many moooooorrrre).
When you color code, you then have to keep a stockpile of those colored things around and store them.
It means having a stack of colored files in all your colors so you have some when you need a new one.
It means colored pens for the calendar (withing reach).
It may mean colored towels, colored notebooks, and on and on.
No problem for the organized lefties.
For us righties - you gotta be kidding.
Does color coding work for many? Sure. I'm not saying it doesn't work. It's just more work.

My mother had an organizer (she has actually had 9 now, including me) and this organizer had her compartmentalize her office and do special labels for the files to color code them. Now she is chronically disorganized with paper. So organizing them in a complicated way is, well, too complicated. She had to hunt down those special labels every time she wanted to make a new file. Looking for the labels was enough to make me stop and say hmmmmm. Didn't the oranizer know upkeep is not her stong suit? Eventually the color coding was abandoned. She still has remnants of that original system, but now she just writes on the files as is (or gets her organizer to).
See a video on how to color code here

To all the Righties who are not the best at maintenance, filing, putting away, complicated systems - my best advice is this: Keep it simple. If a process sounds like it takes more than one step or two easy ones, think twice about it.
Take the lid off the hamper
Use open topped bins
Keep you most used files in open carts or crates so you don't even have to open a drawer.


Debbie T said...

I do color code folders and it works for me. BUT I don't worry about color labels on them or color of pen. The color of the folder is enough for me to see at a glance what is up in my file drawer or desk!

NAPO GA said...
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Allison Spitzer Carter said...

The colored pen situation is often with the calendar. Some highly organized people suggest that moms color code their children's activities on the calendar using different pens. This works well as long as the pens are handy. But in my house, every pen walks away (on it's own two feet) and so I stick to good ol' pencil.

Jeri Dansky said...

Allison, what a great post!

Personally, I use very little color coding (although my client file are lavender) - but I do use color!

And, like you, I find that color coding is too much work for too little benefit for many of my clients - but that doesn't mean that don't want to use color.

David said...

My stuff is a riot of color, but I came to the same conclusion as you some time ago: the upkeep for actual color-coding is fatal to the actual effort to stay organized. Nowadays, I still have tons of color, but the only "coding" I try to keep up is "red = URGENT."