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Productivity Hack of the Week: Using Colors to Better Thy Self

December 15, 2015

A few years ago, neuro scientists took up the task of researching, in depth, the effects of melanopsin — a photoreceptor responsible for non-image forming roles of the eye, a.k.a, the experiences. And the outcomes of this study showed real bearings.

They found that melonopsin, while particularly sensitive to a whole range of light wavelengths, would reach its maximum absorption capability when exposed to blue light, having a wavelength somewhere within the 480-nanometers ballpark. And that in this condition the brain is susceptible to a richer experience of the environment.

Why the study so chose to highlight this bit about the blue light? Well, because blue light is one that is most commonly found around us, including our electronic devices, and has been known to affect our sleep-wake cycles as well as the state of mind associated with feeling productive.

The study then also established that color blue affects the brain positively in the morning hours while not so much when the sun goes down. This means, that, say you are exposure to blue light late in the day, it is highly likely that you will be missing out on your slumber for the night, sure to wake up grumpy and irritated. Why? Because blue enhances wakefulness and delays sleep during the night time. (This is one of the main reasons why it is advised that we do to use electronic devices at night). On the other hand, wear blue to work on a Monday morning and you are sure to kick off the week with better focus and improved feelings of productivity.

Different kinds of colors impact differently the way we experience our environment at all times.

And if you needed more proof, look no further than the works of Angela Wright, a world-renowned color scientist best known for framing the ‘color affects theory’. Wright has dedicated her life’s work studying colors and how colors and their relative intensities affect us, our worlds — both personal and professional — and what they speak of our personality, and our general disposition.

Frankly, you will notice that all color theories offer more than the “use red over green” kind of instruction, talking about the broader human context and the physical environments that can be improved using colors, trying to, thus, offer reliable universals and thumb rules.

How colors act upon human nature

Well, in a lot of different ways.

Theoretically speaking, the scientific field associated with color psychology has broadly established that all colors have distinctly different significance, varying far wide; depending on the social lens we use, be it the culture, our religion, social cults and so on.

In fact, it is not just the color that impacts our experience of a particular environment and actions thereof, but the intensity of the color too. For instance, bright colors, or colors with high saturation, are, conventionally, held to stimulate and awaken our senses while lighter tones, or colors with low saturation, are known for their soothing abilities. Look at the colors of the wall at a pizza shop versus the color of the wall of a fine dining restaurant. Both, while places of consumption of food, offer polar stimulations and, so, polar experiences.


Then there are studies which talk about the psychological effects of colors, i.e., which colors impact which part of our body.

Blue is the color of the mind, red is believed to be the color that effects the body, yellow for mood, and green for harmony.

Then there are tones and shades of primary colors that are said to invoke specific sentiments. Gray and beige tend to invoke feelings of gloom and boredom while pink and teal invoke excitement and brilliance. So, an office wall painted blue and green is likely to make an employee feel stimulated, and at ease with the environment, as against grays and beige that are more or else likely to tone down productivity.

color for productivity

Playing with colors to feel productive at work

The “red makes you aggressive, blue makes you calm” kind of instruction is all but useful. Like everything in this world, context matter.

Choose color combinations depending on the work you do and the position you are in.

If you are in the business of taking risky decisions, they say you must avoid loud colors that can distress. Soothing tones support stress better. Creative field, though, can use a splash of Technicolor wherever possible.

There are some common color tweaks that are easy for everyone to drill down. If your office walls are painted white, tune it up a notch by wearing blue or having blue items around you to feel alert. Keep a plant by your desk, if you are over worked or have a particularly stressful role since green encourages balance and harmony. Choose shades of red for energy and browns for power quotient. And if this doesn’t help, head on over to this article by Entrepreneur for more information on how you can manipulate your work environment and improve productivity with colors.

Productivity hack of the week: Color coding your folders

Now that everything around you is color feng shui-ed, take the theory to the weapon of the action itself: your gadgets. A really cool Mac trick is to color-code your folders. This really is helpful when you have to access a swarm of folders regularly and would prefer getting to the ones that need your immediate attention with little effort. It’s a simple color-coding trick to make certain folders ‘pop’ easy.

Just right-click the item and pick a color label from the options listed. You can even assign a label or a name to each color. For example, you can label red for all important files, green for completed work, and yellow for those in progress and so on and so forth.

color for productivity

For windows, you can use any of the many folder customization programs, such as Folderico and Folder Marker available on the internet. Make you sure you check for compatibility first.


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