01/24/2014 08:46 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Color Coding Your Life: A Surprising Look at Balance

Similar to most of you, I have consistently found my personal and professional life becoming more and more hectic. I often tease that if it wasn't for managing my calendar and arranging and then re-arranging appointments, my job would be simple. 2014-01-19-colorcoding.png

So, I decided to actively master my passive challenge of keeping my calendar in order. Slowly I learned to do this thing called "syncing" devices to each other and displaying two calendars at the same time. But it wasn't until I discovered this little button marked "categories" that my life began to change. Probably most of you are aware of this button. However, for the three or four of you out there who are like me, a slow learner of anything with buttons and apps, let me enlighten you.

The category button allows you to assign a name to a color and then color code events on your calendar. I assigned the yellow color to my work at the hospital, purple to speaking engagements, orange to volunteer/board work and green to my private appointments. With still colors unassigned, I began to fill in personal commitments like my every Wednesday lunch and dating events with my husband in blue, events with my daughter pink, social activities with girlfriends dark green. I even added mint green to mark time that I carved out on the calendar to write, exercise or simply do things for myself.

As I sat back and looked at my rainbow calendar, I began to notice something very important. The calendar was a clear picture of where my life had lost balance. Too much of any one color or the absence of other colors was a visual reminder that I needed to maintain better control over where and when I added blocks of color.

The colorful calendar is my guide to setting limits. No, I can't do that task because I already have too much yellow or orange on the calendar. It forces me to block off time for myself, my friendships and my family. If the section is blocked off with mint green (my time), I simply can't put something orange or purple there.

Perhaps a silly strategy, but color coding my life has been a guide to keeping me balanced and mindful. I have even used this strategy with clients to identify and correct loss of focus. Keeping in mind that true balance doesn't really exist but establishing priorities and maintaining a commitment to them does. That is, balance does not mean equal to or the same, it simply refers to a feeling of contentment. For example, when we experience a fun and relaxing evening with friends on a Wednesday night we may actually feel motivated and productive on Thursday morning. Similarly, engaging in a productive meeting at work can leave us feeling good about ourselves and less bored, which is important given that boredom is a very stressful emotion.

Physiologically our brains crave and need different types of activities. When we engage in too much or too little of certain activities we habituate or become dull and immune to the emotions it creates. Maintaining a healthy variety of tasks, people, experiences and chores keeps our brains engaged and content.

In fact, visualizing goals and dreams has been shown to be a powerful strategy to success. Visualization and the power of attracting that which you can see has been made very popular through the use of vision boards. These boards are simply display boards filled with pictures, photos and inspirational saying that depict personal goals. If you can see it, you can achieve it.

Perhaps instead of making resolutions that typically fail in short order, we embrace a visual plan for the new year. Envision what you want, see your balance and push forward with better focus. Whether you use a vision board or you choose to color code your life, strive for the experience of balance and clarity.
Just as we are reminded to keep a healthy balance of colorful foods on our plate to optimize our health, perhaps our mental health requires a colorful calendar as well.