Color-Code Your Life to Success

Dec 05, 2008

Do you often feel that you have a million things you must do, a thousand things you’d like to do and no time to do any of them? The feeling of having too much on our plate can rob us of the precious energy we rely on. Time management is an essential key to success for any busy wellness professional. Let’s face it--there is only so much time in a day. Many years ago a mentor named Wayne Cotton taught me a color-coding system that changed the way I approach my days, weeks, months and years. I have found this system invaluable when it comes to getting a lot accomplished in a little time. With a new year coming up, now is a great time to refine your approach to parceling time.

Add Some Color to Your Life
The system uses a color-coded calendar called the Annual Roadmap™. Four colors represent different components of our lives, all of which require designated time if we want to be balanced, healthy and successful. By adhering to these colors you will achieve

  • more designated time for strategic planning to work on your business, not in your business;
  • more rest time to replenish your energy, vitality and passion;
  • more organizational time so you can think clearly, work productively and be efficient; and
  • more money because the time you spend in your business will have a higher value and you will not burn out.

The first step is to color-code your Annual Roadmap calendar using the four colors: blue, red, green and yellow. By color-coding your calendar, you are allocating your time. This exercise, completed with color highlighters, is designed to clarify which days are for strategic planning (Blue Sky), which are for education and administrative details (Red Tape), which are for revenue production (Green Machine) and which are personal days off (Mellow Yellow).

Blue Sky. Blue Sky time is essential because it allows us to strategize and plan our business and also our life outside of work. This planning should occur in a quiet, peaceful location. I love going to the mountains to write and get my Blue Sky time, as that is where I find solitude and serenity. Aim for a minimum of 2 designated days of Blue Sky time every 3 months. While I like my 2 days to be consecutive, they don’t need to be. As the saying goes, “Plan the work and then work the plan” because if you “fail to plan, plan to fail.”

Red Tape. This is the time you spend organizing your life; for example, filing papers, putting your desk in order, dealing with administrative details, marketing, etc. Although it is important to maintain daily organization, designating a few hours each week specifically for Red Tape tasks is imperative. If this component is not a strong point of yours, hire someone to help you with filing, decluttering your life, marketing your business and doing administrative chores. Hiring a personal assistant, virtual assistant or receptionist can go a long way toward helping you achieve better organization. My motto is “Do what you do best and hire the rest.” When you do that, your personal energy will go up and you will be free to focus your time on your strengths.

Green Machine. This is when you are actually making money. For many trainers, this is the most natural, comfortable way to spend time--bringing in revenue. Green Machine time is when you are in session, doing a speaking engagement, presenting, etc. The challenge for many trainers and fitness professionals is that they spend so much time in Green Machine that they neglect the other key components of an organized calendar. This imbalance eventually robs you of time freedom.

Mellow Yellow. This is time off from work. If you are feeling overworked and overstressed, you need a break. Mellow Yellow time is rest time. It could be vacation time, time away from work or just relaxation time at home. You are not working on or in your business, you are not strategizing and you are not organizing. You are relaxing. What a concept! Wayne Cotton coached me to start with my mellow time when designing my Annual Roadmap. It is actually fun to see and plan for my time off for the year. While my mentor encourages me to take more time off than I currently do, it is great to see that yellow-coded “carrot” dangling in front of my face and knowing that my time off is approaching. Wayne’s philosophy is that if you have ample Mellow Yellow and Blue Sky days built into your calendar, your Green Machine will greatly prosper. I agree with that. I also believe your relationships, energy and life will all be more harmonious.

Plan for Balance by Balancing Your Plan
When I got started, I was enthusiastic and passionate about everything I did. I still am, yet now I realize I must fuel and protect my energy, passion and desire to help others. If I don’t plan my life with these color codes, I find myself muddled in mediocrity with my “to do” list growing and I’m stuck too much of the time in Green Machine, with my long-term projects stagnating.

Now is the perfect time to plan the rest of your year. Get out some colored markers and start coloring. It is amazing how your calendar will come to life and create clarity for you. Like popcorn, your results will start popping. You will get things accomplished, you’ll have more energy and focus, and the results will speak for themselves.

A last word: be careful you don’t mix up all the colors on the same days, all the time. It is human nature to take care of Red Tape items and do some Mellow Yellow on Green Machine days. However, as Wayne Cotton told me, “If you mix up the colors too often, you get brown. And brown ain’t good.”

Editor’s Note: This color-coded system was developed by Wayne Cotton, the author’s mentor and friend, who operates Cotton Systems ( Although Wayne deals with entrepreneurs in the financial management and insurance services, his system can be applied to any occupation or industry. On his website click on "Success Calendars" to see an example of an actual Annual Roadmap. The trademarked information in this article was used with permission.

Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, was the 2004 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and the 2005 ACE Personal Trainer of the Year.

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