How Colour Can Help You Get the Right Things Done

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I’m a big fan of comics, particularly the Green Lantern series of books. In recent years, there have been additional Lantern Corps added to the mix, all of which use different colours in the spectrum as identifiers. Green is still my favourite, as it symbolizes will. With will as my ally, I can conquer fear (symbolized in the comics by the colour yellow).

But I look beyond the comics when it comes to using colour in my life to help me be more productive.

Visuals have long played a role in fuelling my creativity and overall effectiveness and efficiency. Red has never been a colour that I’ve used in much of my surroundings, and that’s a good thing because a study conducted by the University of Rochester has shown that it can actually play a negative role in achievement.

“…when people saw even a flash of red before being tested, they associated the colour with mistakes and failures. In turn, they do poorly on the test.”

It’s no wonder that I’m not drawn to using red on paper. In fact, I’ll remove it from apps I use that are designed to help me move things forward just because it causes that sense of messing things up. Instead, I’ll use yellow to help me out on things that are especially urgent, because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t get them done. After all, yellow is the colour of fear.

When I capture tasks on paper — which I do more often than digitally — I use a four-colour multipen. Here’s what each colour represents:

  • Green: Things that are associated with professional work or development. A lot of these tasks are “heavy lifting” items, and they will require greater deal of will to make sure that they’re done right…and not just done.
  • Orange: Things I capture using this colour involve a more personal — or deeper — connection. So it’s no surprise that I generally write family-oriented or personal tasks down in this colour. (Orange has been proven to enhance concentration and focus, so using it has proven to be a really prosperous choice.)
  • Blue: I use blue for the items that don’t fit into any of the above. Since blue is perhaps the most commonly used in colour, using it for this purpose seems like a natural fit. It doesn’t stand out like the others do, but it isn’t exactly hidden either.
  • Black: This colour is used during the processing of my captured items. Nothing gets written down in black, but strikethroughs, arrows, and contexts do. Black signifies an “end” for me, so by using it I know that I have finished what was needed to be finished during the capturing and processing phase of my task management workflow.

I also have an analog calendar where the use of colour also factors prominently. I’ll use the same colours (green, orange, and blue) to mark events, appointments, and other date-specific activities so that there is a universality throughout my workflow.

These are the colours that work for me. Everyone else will have their own colours. While studies may have shown one thing, they may mean something else to you altogether. Some of you may actually need to use the colour red in order to really move things forward. The bottom line is if you’re trying to read a simple system to help you move things forward and get the right things done, the use of colour is one of the easiest tactics to employ.

Besides, everyone needs a little bit more colour in their life…right?

Photo credit: CDWaldi via SXC.HU

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