The Duality of my Colour Coding System

Okay. Before I go ahead and publish a general overview of my modified Cornell note-taking system (A.K.A. my proudest innovative creation), I think there’s one critical thing that needs to be established.

The colour coding system.

In any note-taking system, the colour coding system forms the backbone. In my case, my colour coding system is both simple, aesthetic (I stick to blues and pinks, as a rule, because I like those colours), quick to use, and can adapt to my handwritten notes as well as my typed notes (hence its “duality”).

I keep my colour coding system on two sticky notes in my bullet journal. One is for my highlighter colours and one for my pen colours.

This way, if I ever make modifications (which occasionally, I do), I can update the sticky notes. If I forget what my latest additions were, I can always refer to the sticky notes.

NOTE: I try to correspond colours for different categories of information to keep my notes as logical as possible. For example, blue highlighter is definitions I need to memorize and turquoise is formulas or dates to memorize. Similar type of information means similar colours. When I look back at my notes, I look for blue hues if I’m memorizing.

To keep it organized, I also don’t double up by having a category have both a highlighter colour AND a pen colour. Over time, I’ve developed this system to make logical sense so that the categories represented by pen colours are specifically things I’d want to write by hand, and the categories for highlighters are things I might want to emphasize or make stand out later (not necessarily the moment I am writing or typing my notes). This way, in both my handouts and my handwritten notes, definitions are black text highlighted in blue.

Highlighting Hierarchy

I have a hierarchy for the highlighting system. Sometimes things might fall under multiple categories. For example, if something is “important” but it is also a “formula”, I will highlight it in the “formula” colour not the “important colour”, as determined by my “hierarchy”.

The hierarchy is the circled numbers on the right.

Handwritten Notes

For handwritten notes, my colours have rather general meanings. Later, I will go in and highlight to identify specific elements of the notes like definitions and important information.

NOTE: I mentioned earlier that, for example, definitions doesn’t have both a pen colour AND a highlighting colour. HOWEVER, I often like to write definitions in capital letters in black pen and then highlight in blue to make them stand out even more. Plus, if I determine something isn’t a definition after all but it was still a key concept, I’ve still got it in capital letters so it’s still “important”.

Typed Notes

I have my own Microsoft Word template that has pre-set Styles, fonts and colours. Although I don’t colour font pink or red like my “pen” colour system suggests for handwritten notes, I do have a preset shortcut that makes font a light blue, and I use it for things that I want to stand out in my notes. Generally, though, I just type them up in an organized way and then highlight. My pen system is mainly meant for typed notes, which can’t be organized and thus need some immediate organization by colour. (HOPEFULLY that makes sense. :-P)


Occasionally, I get printed handouts from my teachers, and it helps a lot with absorbing information if I highlight them as I read. Then, when studying off of them I can easily just read what’s important and not have to read the whole handout again.

Sticky Notes

I also use sticky notes a lot in my notes, and although lately I don’t exactly stick to a specific colour system for these, I do have a general colour coding system for them, too.

However, since I often run out and also not all sticky note colours are available in all sizes, it’s impractical to ALWAYS expect certain information to be on specific sticky note colours.

You’ll see that the sticky note colours correspond somewhat to my pens and highlighting colours.

Check out my post on my general note-taking system (I’ll update with a link here once it’s published) to see how this colour coding system gets put into effect!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s