The Ultimate Guide to Color-Coding Your Planner

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One of the best things I ever did to get my life organized was getting a planner. I write down everything: to-do lists, due dates for bills, blog details, appointments, etc. I used to joke that if it doesn’t get written down, it won’t happen. It’s much less of a joke now, and more total truth. I have loved getting everything in order. I get so much more accomplished every day. Now, I’m taking that organization to a whole new level, and I’m going to share it with you: planner color coding!

Color-coding your planner can take your organizational skills to a whole new level! Check out these great tips to get started, plus which pens are the best!

It might sound a little over the top at first, but for me it’s a perfect solution to seeing how my day needs to go. At one glance I can see my priorities jump out at me, who needs to be where, and when it all needs to happen.

Supplies You’ll Need for Color-Coding Your Planner

You don’t need any fancy supplies or printables that use up all of your expensive printer ink. All you need is your planner and a few pretty pens! It doesn’t need to be a fancy planner (if it is that’s fantasic!), but you do need great pens. I love using my Happy Planner, and you can see why I love it so much in this post.

The pens you use should have vibrant ink that make your appointments stand out to you and catch your eye. As long as I can remember, I have been a total pen lover, and the Pilot G2 pens have always been my favorite. I love their wide variety of ink colors, which is perfect for color-coding your planner! There are even have metallic inks, and I totally need to find those! They write so smoothly, and they’ve been proven to last longer than any other gel pen.

These amazing pens also come in four different point sizes, because everyone has their own preferences. I love the .7, so while I was grabbing this set of gorgeous fashion barrels for me, I found a package of the .5 for Hubs as a surprise.

Color-coding your planner can take your organizational skills to a whole new level! Check out these great tips to get started, plus which pens are the best!

How to Color-Code Your Planner

Color coding your planner is simple to do. Look at everything you write in your planner, and break it up into categories. You could have as many categories as you want. You can keep it simple with just home, work, and personal, or morning, afternoon, evening. You could add in more details like family, meal planning, etc. Don’t think you have enough to categorize? Here are a few idea starters:

  • For bloggers: social media, post editing, link parties, promotions, payments, blog categories, etc.
  • For educators/homeschoolers: different subjects, tests, regular homework, due dates, class periods, extracurricular activities, etc.
  • For moms: each family member, kids, spouse, housework, meal planning, kid activities, bill due dates, etc.
  • For those getting fit: water tracking, workouts, food log, cheat meals, daily habits, daily activities (like steps), etc.

Now that you’ve got your categories sorted out, here comes the really fun part! Pick a different colored pen for each category. Make a key that shows you which color is assigned the categories and keep that handy. Maybe it goes in the middle of your week as an insert (a sticky note would work well) or gets taped to your desk. You probably won’t need it for too long, once you get in the groove of color-coding your planner you won’t think twice about which color goes with the categories.

What Color-Coding Your Planner Looks Like

Here is what an average week looks like. I can schedule my workouts in the morning before the kids get up (purple), and get in a little blogging work (turquoise). I plan a little morning activity to do with my son (blue). I know what needs done round the house (dark green) and when a bill is due (red). Meals are planned in maroon, and my daily habits are also in purple (my personal color). I can see when Hubs is working. We even have family activities planned for the weekend (light green).

Color-coding your planner can take your organizational skills to a whole new level! Check out these great tips to get started, plus which pens are the best!

Since everyone uses a different style planner, this is what a similar week looks like using a regular horizontal planner. 

Color-coding your planner can take your organizational skills to a whole new level! Check out these great tips to get started, plus which pens are the best!

Bonus tip: When I write things in my planner, I add a box next to the item so that I can check it off and know that it got done. To me, scratching things out looks messy, and gives things a chaotic look. I also use black ink to check off everything. I love a little color contrast!

If you don’t have that many different ink colors, run out to Walmart to grab some Pilot G2s! I can’t seem to make it through the store without running through the craft section and the office supplies every time I go. You can find the G2 pens at the front of the store in the back-to school section (that’s where I found the pens for Hubs), and back in the office supplies (where I found those oh-so-pretty fashion barrels).

Color-coding your planner can help you reach your goals!

Now that you’re all super-organized, you’re that much closer to getting your goals! Yes, organization totally helps you grab those achievements! And speaking of goals, check out this great advice from Shonda Rhimes:

All fired up and ready to get even more organized? Grab this coupon and go get some more Pilot G2 pens! How will you be color-coding your planner? Tell me below in the comments!

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About Samantha

I am a SAHM to three kids and a menagerie of pets. I love coffee, books, crafts, wine, cooking, and more coffee. Seriously, I couldn't function without coffee. Read more about me!


  1. I love color coding, it really keeps everything on point & organized! Great post! 🙂

  2. Those pens are so cute! And a color-coded planner is definitely awesome. Way better than just one random color that you pick up whenever you find any pen. Guilty lol
    Julie S. @ Fab Working Mom Life recently posted…Breastfeeding Moms Share their Tips #NBM16 #WBW2016My Profile

  3. I love colored pens and highlighters. They’re so awesome! I recently got an Apple Watch, so I’ve switched to a digital planner/to-do list. I kind of miss my paper planner, but this is working out well too.

    • I’m all about as many pretty colored pens I can find! The apple watch sounds exciting, though! My husband has one and I’m a little jealous. 🙂

  4. Now I must get these pens. They are cool

  5. Lovely! I am lucky if I remember to look at my iphone calander!
    linda spiker recently posted…Strawberry and Watermelon Salad with Mint and FetaMy Profile

    • Thanks, Linda! I guess it’s easy for me because I stay at home with the kids and my planner stays open on my desk in plain sight all the time.

  6. This is so wonderful! I love color coded planner! I can change my planner to this type. thanks much!

  7. Planners & colour coding speak right to my OCD heart! Not only do I have way too many planners & notebooks than one person will ever need, I also have a massive stash of coloured pens, markers, highlights, etc. I LOVE colour coding everything! Thanks for this awesome post 🙂

  8. I needed this! Going to try it this weekend!

  9. Great idea! I have considered color-coding before, but have never actually done it.
    Kristin Cook recently posted…August Self-Control (Goals)My Profile

  10. Love this! I so need to sit my butt down and get organized!

  11. Oh my goodness I always say, “if I don’t write it down, I will forget, and it won’t happen” but it’s so true! Love your tips here, I’m a college student and color coding really comes in handy!

    • At least I’m not the only one that can’t remember to do anything unless I write it down! Hopefully this helps you next semester!

  12. What a great idea!! I’m just now trying to get organized and this will really help me! Organization is not my strong suit, lol. I’m starting a new business and I really need to be organized to be successful so I really appreciate this tip! 🙂

    • Congrats on the new business! My best advice is to get the prettiest planner you can find, and that will make you want to use it and get organized! Good luck!

  13. I am totally using this for this upcoming fall semester in college! I seriously was in need of an organized way to organize my life! Thank you!

  14. Great post! Color coding is a great way to stay organized, and using lots of color helps to stimulate creativity as well!

  15. A post at the right time for me lol… Aside from working from home we also have a small homestead (chickens etc.) and we homeschool… So it gets a bit hectic here, for me at least trying to remember everything and actually get things done lol…

    I like old school planners, I’ve tried digital but end up not looking at them after I set them up. This color coding system is really great and is going to really help me.

    Since we are scheduling for the new school yr I can implement this system in a new schedule book… Thanks so much for sharing this technique.

    • I love it when things work out with good timing! That has happened to me a few times when I find a post in a share thread. It sounds like you’ve got a full plate, so hopefully this will help you juggle things! 🙂

  16. I absolutely love color coding my planner! It makes me feel like everything’s way more organized, plus it just makes me happier when my planner is super colorful!


  17. I love how it looks! I need to get more organized–my planner is a royal mess with scribbles everywhere! Thanks for the great tips!

  18. I have colour coded since before I got my first planner when it was just a list on a whiteboard.
    It is essential for me.
    I also use sticky note flags to colour code with the regular items that repeat on them, I did a blog post on these a while ago.
    This is a great article for those wanting to start colour coding.

    • Thanks so much, Raelene! I love the sticky notes idea! I use that in the blogging section of my planner. Each of my blogging categories has its own ink and sticky note color.

  19. I have a Happy Planner as well! I love it. I also color code my calendar, makes it pretty and easier to use.

    • It’s seriously the best planner I’ve ever used! I’m always happy to meet a fellow happy planner! Thanks, Lisa!

  20. I’m a paper planner girl much as I would like to use my phone I never remember so I use my planner, colored pens and sticky notes..gotta have my sticky notes 🙂 Oh and I love those pens too…I think I have some of those in my stash..did I mention I love notebooks and pens?? Yep..that’s me 🙂

    • Yes! All the sticky notes!! It looks like I’m not the only one that gets lost in the office supply section of the store! 🙂

  21. AS a teacher I LOVe this. I’ve always struggled with choosing too many colors. Love the way you categorized them!
    xx, LO {}

    • Thank you so much, Lauren! I have a hard time with too many colors, too. It is possible to go overboard, but I guess it just takes a little practice with some trial and error to find what works best for you. 🙂

  22. I’ve needed this post for a LONG time 😉 Thank you for giving me the kick in the butt I needed!

  23. You are speaking my language!! I love colour coordinating my blog planner and my to-do list at work!! Who doesn’t love a bunch of coloured pens!? Awesome post!

    • Thanks so much, Cassandrea! I’m pretty sure I color code everything, so it’s really nice to hear that I’m no the only one!

  24. For a while I used an app called to-do prime which color coded. I’ve always been one to color code everything too.
    Kari recently posted…Ragu Homestyle Chicken Pasta ParmMy Profile

    • I haven’t seen that app before, but I’ll go look it up! Life is so much easier when it’s color coded. 🙂

  25. This is a great way to use one planner to cover all kinds of parts of our daily lives. Thank you for sharing this idea with us.
    Crystal Green recently posted…30 Back to School Quick And Easy Crockpot MealsMy Profile

  26. I love how you gave a list of ideas for things different people may like to include in their post! And I love how it turned out with the coloured pens , especially with planner #1 ?
    Tori @ TheMamaNurse recently posted…Top Munchkin Products to Help You During Summer Vacation & Giveaway!My Profile

  27. Ohh I love a good color coded planner! I feel more productive color coding than actually getting the tasks done sometimes!

  28. Colour coding is my sanity saver.
    I have a colour for each household member, finance, miscenlaneous, and for my adult children visiting.
    I also use thin strips of your basic coloured sticky notes with regular items written on them, a colour for each family member and a school term’s worth of strips so I don’t have to write each thing in over and over.
    Hubby is a shift worker and his shifts are often changed so I have sticky notes that match the colour pen I use for him and I write his shifts in black on them, that way I can just chuck out the sticky note if there is a change and don’t have to mess up my planner, I can also move the sticky note from my planner to my wallet so I have his roster with me when out and not able to take my planner. My wallet is a pocket sized filofax, which I love and is the best wallet I have ever had.
    Raelene recently posted…Funky Flair Inspiration Studio August MoodboardMy Profile

  29. I love the colored pen idea. I tried it once, but got frustrated because I couldn’t carry my colored pens with me everywhere. So if I made a dr. appt, I didn’t always have the appropriate pen color with me. What do you suggest?

    • There are a few options you could try. Use a pencil when you’re out and about, then when you get home to your pens, you can write over the pencil or erase and rewrite in ink. Or you could use whatever ink you have available, and then highlight with different colors to notate the color-coding system. I hope these ideas help!

    • I take the reminder card they give me and write it in when I get home. I then give my husband the card so he can write it down so he knows my appoints too.

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  31. I too love these pens! I tried to find the refills, but couldn’t. I ended up buying more of them. Thanks for your tips!

    • I’ve only seen refills for the black and blue inks in the stores, but I think I’ve seen the pink and purple refills on Amazon before. But at least the pens are so inexpensive that it’s not a huge deal to just replace the whole pen.

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  33. Omg you are like me in a blog only giving me wisdom!!! I use the exact same planners (I have a large one for personal life and small one for my school work stuff I have to do). And G2 Pilot pens are my must have pens I do not use any other!! My pen bag for school is strictly those and the cheap ones I give to my friends who forget their pen. Not even lying I love your planner!! Need to learn to color code like you did though!!! Love the tip!! Great taste!! In pen and Planner! ❤️

    • Thanks so much, Jordan!!! I am the same way about my pens – I carry cheap ones around so I don’t have to loan out and risk losing my good ones! 🙂 It’s so fun that we have the same taste in planners! Aren’t they just so pretty?

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