How to Use Colored Pens to Organize Absolutely Everything

If you've got an eye for color, using erasable colored pens for note-taking might just change your life. Here's how to use them to organize all the things!
Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #566

Today we’re going to explore several different ways to use erasable colored pens to make everything easier.

Pens! I just love pens! I have big pens, small pens, and pens of every rainbow color. As a left-handed person, pens have always been problematic. The ink smudges the side of my hand as I write. Then Zebra came out with their Sarasa pens with super-fast-drying ink. At long last, I could enjoy the benefits of vibrant colors, permanent lines, high contrast, and all the awesomeness that pens provide.

But I couldn’t erase. I could only scribble. And scribbling through writing makes my notes ugly. We can’t have that! It rained on my parade. It harshed my mellow. It ate my homework.

Having erasable pens in 30 colors has changed my entire relationship with writing. And it’s changed my workflows.

Until this year. This year, I learned about the most wonderful, amazing pens ever: the Pilot Frixion series (that's F-r-i-x-i-o-n). At this point, I have .35mm Frixion pens in 20 colors, and .5mm Frixion pens in 10 colors. 

These pens give the best of all worlds—they dry fast, they are available in enough colors to make my inner teenager giddy with delight, and they’re erasable. Completely.

Having erasable pens in 30 colors has changed my entire relationship with writing. And it’s changed my workflows. 

Color is quick!

Color is powerful. Your brain can find and recognize color very quickly. (If you're challenged with color blindness, you may have to change up your color schemes to accommodate that.)

To get more organized than you've ever been in your life, you just need to use color methodically, and in ways that help you streamline what you do.

Use color to separate sections of your notes

You probably take meeting notes for all your meetings in a single notebook—hopefully, with a table of contents at the front to help you find the notes for any given meeting. (If not, we covered that in episode 459, Get Even More Organized with a Table of Contents.)

As you glance through the notebook, you can quickly distinguish different meetings.

This is a great system for helping you always know where to find your meeting notes. Sometimes a given meeting doesn’t generate many notes, so you end up with multiple meetings on one page of your notebook. 

For every meeting, choose a different color pen for notes. Then, as you glance through the notebook, you can quickly distinguish different meetings. You can change the pen color randomly with every meeting, or assign specific pen colors to specific types of meetings. Green can be meetings with finance. Blue can be meetings with your direct reports, and so on.

Color code action items

Even though you change color for every meeting, every meeting still has one thing in common—action items. Every time an action item comes up, write it in the same color, no matter what meeting it comes up in. If you choose a color you don't use for meetings, the action item always stands out. I use blood red, for example.

When you write “Ashley will get the production schedule to the fabricators by Friday at 3 pm Pacific Time” in blood red ink, it really underscores the consequences of Ashley missing that deadline, doesn't it?

Color code decisions

And then there are decisions. Decisions get made in meetings. 

“Decided: we will abandon quality assurance entirely and let our users test how broken our product is. Just like most of Silicon Valley.” 

Write that decision in a consistent, distinctive color. Perhaps a royal purple. Then, during the class action lawsuit, you can quickly find just the decisions in your notes by scanning for purple text. Once you’ve found the decision, you can read the rest of that meeting’s minutes to know who, exactly, was the source of that spectacularly brilliant policy.

Color code projects

Instead of using random different colors for each block of notes, you can color code notes by project. Everything having to do with raising a zombie army can be written in black. Your plans to corner the world’s thread market (no more fashionable clothes—ever!) are in pink. And your Doomsday Device project gets written in glowing radium green.

When you want to review a project’s notes, it’s super simple to flip through your notebook and hone right in on the project you’re reviewing.

Circle if you forget to write in color

If you forget to color code something, you can always do it later. Just draw the appropriately colored circle around it and later, when you’re scanning, it will still jump right out. 

Of course, since you’re using erasable pens, you can erase text that’s in the wrong color and simply rewrite in the correct color. Your text stays neat and clean, with no scribbles, and your notes will be beautifully vivid, high contrast, and gloriously colorful!


I’m Stever Robbins. Follow GetItDoneGuy on Twitter and Facebook. If you lead an organization or a large movement, you think big, and you plan to change the world, I can help you organize your life to make bigger things possible without getting overwhelmed. Learn more at SteverRobbins.com. Don't forget to listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.