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Why You Need to Color-Code Your Calendar

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Color Code Your Calendar

A while back we published an article on How to Use Your Calendar. It’s since become one of our more popular pieces, and we’ve have different readers write in to ask – well, what’s next? What else can I do to make my calendar better, more granular… more Asian Efficient?

You asked and we’re delivering. Here’s how you take your calendar to the next level – with colors!

I recently had the opportunity to help a couple of different friends update their calendar and schedule setups. All of them used the same two default calendars that you typically get in most applications – one for Work, and one for Personal.

My initial reaction to them was WHY!!!

Schedule management software and calendar apps let us have a virtually unlimited number of calendars and you can color-code them in any shade of red, green or turquoise that you can think of. Separating out our calendars and using color-coding gives us an easy way to filter what it is we have going on during any given day, week or month – it’s a form of data isolation.

Here’s how you do it.

1. Work out what your calendars will be


Work Out Your Calendars

In productivity-consultant-speak we call this “schedule segmentation”, but it’s just a fancy way of saying that it’s time to decide how you want to break up your singular Work and Personal calendars into more granular classifications.

A tried-and-tested classic approach is to break them up along the lines of areas of life. It would look something like this:

  • Health. These are your medical appointments, gym time and maybe eating times too.
  • Wealth. These are your bank appointments, time scheduled to balance your checkbook or check, and maybe even your work times.
  • Relationships. This calendar is for scheduling social events and family time. Great to block off time to spend with your significant other or kids.
  • Intellect. Time for reading and learning.
  • Play. Downtime and holidays.
  • Life Management. I like to think of this as “things necessary to survive”, like eating or my weekly review. It can also cover miscellaneous single actions that come up now and then.

If you’re a fan of time tracking, you’ll recognize this alternative setup which lets you more accurately schedule in chunks of time in line with your time tracking categories:

  • Social. These are your social events – lunches, dinners, parties, get-togethers.
  • Life Management. I like to put food and eating under here, as well as any miscellaneous ongoing things like reviews or planning out my week.
  • Neutral. These are things that you have to do that aren’t necessarily good or bad. Travel time or laundry comes to mind.
  • Personal Projects. Self-explanatory. Includes reading and learning.
  • Work. Self-explanatory.
  • Excess. Things that you really shouldn’t have to do but have been made to because of bad circumstances. Excessive travel time or unnecessary meetings fall into this category.

Keep in mind also, that you can get granular within each category. For example, for “Work”, you can break down that particular calendar into multiple calendars – by department, by project, or by business requirement. As an example, at Asian Efficiency, we have 1 shared calendar that covers all company-wide events that involve everyone. Everyone also retains their own personal work calendar, which is attached their Google Apps account (but that’s for another article).

2. Set up your new calendars

Set Up New Calendars

The second step in color-coding and segmenting your calendars is simply to set up the segmentation.

In most cases this is a matter of simply selecting File > New Calendar. If you are Apple user I suggest keeping all your calendar (except maybe work/exchange calendars) on iCloud. This way they will sync over to your phone or tablet, which is very handy.

When you’re done and you have some events in, your calendar may looks something like this:

Segmented Calendar Example

Yes, these are my calendars.

This lets me very clearly visualize how my days and weeks break down in terms of activity and allocation of time.

Notice that you can also import other calendars like the built-in Birthdays calendar, a Facebook event/birthday calendar, a TripIt travel calendar, Google/Exchange calendars for work or subscription calendars for public holidays and events too.

What To Do Next

If you haven’t read it already, have a look at our article on How to Use Your Calendar and 7 Tips for Using Your Calendar More Productively.

And for more scheduling tips and advice, check out the Asian Efficiency Primer and our Premium Newsletters.

If you want more articles and tips like these, let us know where we can send them to:

How Productive Are You?

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Posted by Stefan Nilsson  | December 3, 2013 at 11:50AM | Reply

Interesting to see your calendar. I always find it interesting to see how other people schedule their day. Have you seen any major improvement by stretching once a week? I’m looking to become a bit more flexible (currently stiff like every other soccer player) but I’m not really sure how often you need to do it to see improvement.

Posted by Aaron Lynn  | December 3, 2013 at 5:34PM

I actually stretch every other day now. Check out Becoming a Supple Leopard – great book on improving mobility that goes beyond just stretching.

Posted by Jasmine W. Davis  | November 18, 2016 at 2:27PM | Reply

I realize this is an old post, but I just tried this out, and I am loving it so far! I was afraid of having too many calendars because I thought it would look cluttered!

Posted by Heather Fraizer  | May 6, 2017 at 8:40PM | Reply

I’m a corporate trainer and use color to indicate my level of preparation for upcoming training sessions — so at a glance I can tell where I need to focus on energy. Red means I haven’t done any prep, yellow is I’ve handed off some information to our assistant, and green means I’m good to go. Coming from a lean background I prefer color to give me indication of status or next step.

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