How Colorful is Your Calendar?

Apr 19, 2024

Perhaps you did a Spring Calendar Sweep and your appointments and events are looking tight – in line with priorities, time built in to prepare, some buffer zones – but my question is: how does your calendar make you FEEL? You may think this is kind of a funny question coming from me, but I was recently on the phone with a very talented human, and we got to speaking about calendars (as one does).

She described how she uses calendar color-coding to think about how much joy (or on the flip side, dread) various calendar entries bring her. You know, pink for fun personal stuff, brown for I-Hate-Doing-This, and so on. And so of course, I got curious and asked a lot more questions of her and she of me. She also described a calendar feeling of those things you THINK are “brown” activities, but actually end up being joyful in the end. And, the more we spoke, the more I loved thinking about colorful calendars this way (I recently self-analyzed my colors, since I love fashion, and turns out I’m a Warm Spring, but I digress).

There are, of course, tons of ways one COULD use color within their calendars. It can be a great way to see key facts about your calendar at a glance. The flip side is that there is a world where color-coding your calendar can be a teeeensy bit of a procrastination situation…spending too much time getting our tools looking pretty and perfect can be fun, but doesn’t always move our priorities forward. That said, here are some key ways I have observed that teachers and leaders use color to enhance their calendars.

  • Priority Level: This is a nice easy one. Things aligned to goals and priorities get a different color than standard work. This lets you glance to make sure you are remaining focused on the right things and the minutiae is not sucking your day away. You can choose bright or bold colors for priorities and grey-scale for the rest. This enables you to use your digital calendar (or highlighters if you are paper-based) to scan that the majority of your time is going on what matters.
  • Solo versus Collaborative Time: For someone with a meeting-heavy schedule, it can be helpful to scan to make sure you have enough individual work and think time built in. Your meetings could all be one color (or sub-divided by priority, if you wanted to get fancy), and your independent work time could go into another color – or even signify if you needed to work in another physical space. Speaking of. . .
  • Physical Location: Lots of our participants move around during the day, and that can indicate what kind of work gets done where. For example, you may have work that requires two screens in your quiet office versus calls or administrative tasks that can be done on the subway or during a commute (if you wish, I’m also a fan of zoning out), or one of my personal favorites – things I can do on the sidelines of volleyball and soccer practice and games. Speaking of sports practice and games…
  • Color Coding By Human: You may have a lot of members of your team, or people you coach, or try to strike a balance of your personal commitments and your professional events. Color-coding by human may help you see that you are spending time with those that align with your current priorities. We have a team member who has a color for each of her children! And I’m NOT saying some people are more important than others, but more that if you are deeply focused on a fundraising priority, you may want to see more color dedicated to external meetings.
  • Cognitive Lift: This tends to be where my own brain goes. Designing Together Courses – this is a big lift – and often done collaboratively with my team, so both the private work doing this and the meeting time is yellow (why yellow, I’m not quite sure). Email answering time is a lower lift, so it is an end-of-the-day orange thing. Exercise and moving my body is green.

And, if you are in a leadership position and are fortunate enough to have an assistant that supports your calendar, please be sure to clue in or co-develop the color-system with them. I’m sure there are many other ways to consider color-coding your calendar. Tell me, are you into it? What are the ways you find it useful to code your calendar?