Monday, February 17, 2014

Colouring: Not Just for Pre-Schoolers!

Colour Psychology can tell us a lot about what colour to paint the office, depending upon what emotions and behaviours we want to drive. Savvy retail spaces use colour as a strategic design element to enhance the customer experience.  Most of us know a little about this and likely have intuitively used some colour psychology when selecting the paint colours for the walls in our home.  Granted, we may have consciously simply selected the colour we 'liked', but we know that our subconscious choice was based more upon how the colour made us feel than simply on how it looked.

However, few of us strategically use colour in our day-to-day business processes... but we should!  If you
are anything like other business leaders, you likely find yourself in numerous meetings each week, if not each day.  In order to keep ourselves on track we typically will take notes during each meeting, to ensure we have a record and reference of what information was shared, what actions were agreed upon etc.   Unfortunately though, we rarely go back and read through our notes and, when we do, we are overwhelmed by the volume of information and give up on making sense of it.

Research into mind-mapping though is now also indicating that we should be using colour to 'code' the notes we are taking.  It seems that not only does using colour improve our recall time but it can also save us reviewing time and serve to form some connections between ideas we might have missed otherwise.

Here's the basic premise...

  • If you are using mind-mapping techniques as your preferred note-taking style, then using different colours to separate the various 'branches' of your map will help stimulate the creative side of your brain, which helps to create a stronger visual recall of the contents.  
  • Using colour with any form of note-taking helps you to stay focused on more boring topics - longer. Adding that dash of colour serves to liven notes up, instantly making them more memorable and interesting.  Easier to find and review later.
  • Many who use colour during note-taking assign specific meanings to various colours.  For instance, Black for general information, Blue for client's comments, Red for immediate action items and Green for new ideas.
  • Lawyers have used colour-coding for their notes forever, learning the technique early-on in law school.  Rather than writing with different coloured pens, they will use highlighting to capture key information: Red for holdings of a case, Green for general law, Yellow for Facts, and so on.  This allows them to see the ways that their cases are structured and significantly enhances their recall of the case information.  Note though that you must be selective in your highlighting... colouring everything fails to offer any kind of distinction or time saving.  
I have long used colours when creating my mind maps and also use different coloured pens in my Desk-Journal - a book that I keep on my desk to jot down all of the bits and pieces of information that cross my desk (and my mind) each day.  Quotes I resonate with, small clips of information, book recommendations, fun facts, key insights, questions I want to address later... all get recorded in the journal, which I flip through periodically. All the thoughts are located in one place, avoiding them getting lost (which used to happen when I always wrote them on sticky notes!) and the journal itself serves as a great reference and motivational tool. The picture on this blog is a photo taken of one of my journal pages.

Regardless of how you intend to use them, you might want to consider adding a little colour to your life and to your notes!  Another skill learned in Kindergarten that serves you well in business.


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