Color coding: It’s pretty and functional! Photo courtesy of juhansonin. Licensed under CC BY-2.0.Perhaps one of the most important skills you will learn while you’re in college is organization. Organization is your friend. It helps you make sure you get all of your homework done for your classes on time. It makes sure that you don’t miss meetings for your clubs. It makes sure that history exam doesn’t sneak up on you while you’re busy writing your paper on the importance of olives in the diet and economy of the Ancient Greeks.

Everyone has their own way of keeping organized. Personally, I’m a big fan of lists. There’s something quite satisfying of crossing off item after item and knowing that I’ve actually done something productive that day. Whatever your method of organization though, it can always be improved through a little systematic integration of color coding. Some of you may think that color coding is a little over the top. It’s for those girls who have way too much time on their hands and coordinate their outfits to match their shoes and purses and the color of their nails. However, color coding is possibly one of the most invaluable tools I’ve come across at college, and after the cut, I’ll tell you how to use it in every day life at school.

Folders and Notebooks

Most simply, it’s really easy to color coordinate your folders and notebooks for each of your individual classes. Now, some of you might take notes on your computer, which pretty much eliminates physical notebooks for that class. (Some of you might want to make your own notebooks though.) However, for classes in which professors forbid the use of laptops in classes or in which you find it easier to take notes in a notebook, it’s nice to have a different color for each notebook so you can simply see the color of the notebook and grab it for the day.

Additionally, I find it very useful to have a folder for each of my classes. I use them to keep various handouts, project instructions, and assignments and the syllabus so they’re easy to whip out in class or while I’m preparing for that class in my room. Each of these folders is a different color which corresponds to the color of their respective notebooks. Even if this seems to be a little silly, it makes it a lot easier when I’m rushing to pack my bag in the morning to get to class. Red folder, red notebook, blue folder, blue notebook, and I’m out the door.


I live by my calendar. I use the super old school Microsoft Outlook 2003 as my version of a calendar. Are there better calendars I could use? Probably. But I’m used to this one, so I’m just going to show you how I use color coordinating in my calendar experience so that hopefully you’ll be able to transfer some of those tips into your own calendar usage.

As with my folders and notebooks, I have a color designated to each of my classes. Green is my Greek religion class, blue is my media law class, purple is my European history class, etc, etc. When I have a quiz, presentation, or a piece of homework due, I create a new event on my calendar and mark it with the appropriate, corresponding color of whichever class it’s for. In addition to individual class colors, I also have a color set aside for other important happenings (like job interviews, meetings with advisors, or a due date for a form) so that these things don’t get lost in the bustle of homework. I’ve also designated a color for major tests and papers so that I can look at a month at a time and see how I need to plan in order to fit in time to work on this major project.

In order to keep track of what I have to do each day, I create a separate event, title it “Homework,” and leave it uncolored. Within the event details, I make a list of each piece of homework I have to do for that evening. After I finish every item on the list, I then fill this “Homework” event with another color that I’ve reserved for “Item Completed.” In the picture of my calendar, you can tell that color is olive green. This system of checking things off my list through colors helps me figure out what I have already done and what I still need to do so that I can be organized and continue to be productive.


Email is another aspect of your college life that you can make more organized through color coding. Gmail is fabulous with this. If you don’t know this already, you can make filters and labels in Gmail which help you figure out which emails belong to which part of your life. This semester, I made a label for each of my classes, each with their own color. Additionally, I’ve created filters that put emails from each of my classes’ professors into their respective color coordinated label. I know. It’s awesome. When I see an email with an orange label on it, I know immediately which professor it’s from. If I get an email from members of a group project, I can also just drop the correct class label onto it. Color coding labeling in emails makes it easy to find emails of a certain class instead of wading through different emails for different classes.

Do you use color coding to help organize your life? What ways do you color code to help yourself stay organized?