Have you noticed how colours are used to draw your attention to things? That colours can alter your mood, they can invoke feelings and thoughts. They have power.
So how can you use that power to your advantage? Here’s a scenario…
Ever felt like all those tasks just keep piling up? They sit in the corner of your mind, they grow and they grow, into the elephant that seems too big to move. The dreaded “To-Do List”!
We all get to that point where we feel like we have so much to do that we don’t even know where to start. So, I guess you sit down right? You get a piece of paper, you write the title on the top, and you list all the things you have to do – you clear the elephant from your mind and break it down. But then the list just sits there. You promise yourself you’ll get to it, it feels better that it’s written down, but it’s still there.
Does that sound like you? Yeah me too. Well I have a suggestion… don’t write it all down and don’t feel like you need to do it!
Writing a list of things to do is a strong tool, both professionally and personally. It helps you keep track of tasks to action, and keep a log of what you’ve done, but most importantly it should make you feel good.
Hhmm sounds suspicious right? Well this is where colours and being kind to yourself come in.
Let’s start with colours.
Now I can’t stress this enough, stay away from red! Red is a passionate and angry colour, it’s proven to invoke strong emotion, and it’s associated with guilt and anxiety. Never use a red, opt for a pink highlighter instead. If something is really urgent give it a time or a bullet point and only highlight that in pink! Don’t colour the whole task, the little timestamp or bullet point will attract your attention. But without the negative feelings. Trust me, it’ll make a difference.
Now here’s the main bit. Try to only use 2 colours for your to do list. And I strongly recommend this. Green and Yellow are now your best friends. Stock up, they’ll go quick!
When you’ve got your to-do list (more on this below) you’ve set yourself some goals. Take the first one, and once you’ve done it grab your green highlighter. Highlight the whole task. Sit back and appreciate that streak of green. How does that make you feel? Happy, accomplished, chuffed, proud of yourself? Give yourself a pat on the back. One down. Who cares how many left, you’re one down and it’s so green and fresh!
Green is such a positive colour, it’s meant to make you feel good. It’s the colour of fresh grass and new life. It’s makes you feel like you’ve done something right. And feeling like that every time you complete a task? Sign me up!
What about yellow? That’s a happy colour, the colour of sunshine and a new day. It’s associated with laughter and smiling. Ok, well that’s great, but how is your to-do list going to make you laugh? Erm, it’s not exactly.
So, yellow, that’s your tomorrow colour. Just because you’ve got things leftover doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. Highlighting them in yellow will make it seem like it’s a good thing that you’re leaving it until tomorrow. It avoids you feeling unsuccessful about your day. It basically hugs you and says, “It’s OK”.
If you’re at the end of your time and you’ve got things leftover, just take a moment to highlight them yellow. Even the motion of highlighting a task on your list will make you feel more positive. And the yellow will make you feel better about it. The idea is that at the end of your day you have a whole list of green and yellow. It looks bright, it’s not intimidating, and it looks complete – even if it isn’t.
So that’s simple right? You have a colour plan and it’s fairly simple. But being kind to yourself isn’t. Make it easy for yourself, don’t set yourself up for failure from the beginning.
When writing down your to-do list, only put a handful of tasks on there, I try to keep it to 6-7 a day, but you can start at 1 or 2 and work your way up. The less you set yourself the less daunting it becomes. Break that elephant down and turn the mountain back into a molehill. Sometimes it helps to have a master to-do list and use that to frame your little ones. But your focus should be streamlined and specific.
Be kind, there’s only one of you, and not putting pressure on yourself is one of the kindest things you can do.
Focusing on a few tasks at a time will help you work through them without your mind wandering back to the full elephant.
Now you’ve got a small specific list, you’re working through it, and highlighting in the bright happy colours. You’ve made progress. Now keep those completed lists, at least in the short term. And when you’ve had a day of Netflix-ing and chilled out or full of meetings and phone calls, have a look at the previous days’ lists, be happy with what you’ve achieved, be proud of yourself. You deserve that day off.
Colours have such power and effect on our mentality that simple changes can make a huge impact on day to day.
And combining that with an organisational aspect to align your thinking in a more structured way can become a strong tool for anyone.
It’s not something that happens overnight though, habits take practice and dedication, but it’s an easy one to get into and will have a massive impact.