How to Design A Bullet Journal As an Agenda

A bullet journal, a blank notebook filled with dotted paper, is just another notebook that you may buy when you are bored in a stationary store and want to add to an already overwhelming collection of paisley and polka-dotted (but not bullet) notebooks you swear you will use, but instead hoard in your desk drawer. What makes a bullet journal different, however, is that you can design every page in an aesthetically pleasing way with the helpful guiding dots that make these journals less daunting than blank notebooks. 

Over the past years, bullet journals have acquired particular popularity among Millenials and Gen Z’ers who decorate their bullet journal with colorful felt-tip pens, absurdly specific stickers for every occasion, and miniature watercolor designs. But in all honesty, this is what a notebook looks like at its most, while in daily life you can tailor a bullet journal to be the world’s most malleable agenda book. 

When I was a first-year at Conn, I was overwhelmed by what kind of agenda book to use for my assignments and meeting––a pretty absurd thing to stress about upon reflection. No agenda book had enough space for my homework and so many had unnecessary lines and boxes to write motivational quotes which I never knew how to fill. Instead, my cousin recommended purchasing a blank notebook where you can write your thoughts and notes without any restraints. And so began my love affair with all journals which I can design myself. 

Enter: the bullet journal. I will admit that I drew inspiration from Claudia Sulewski’s journaling tips, as well as Katy Bellote @hellokaty who is the Journal Queen herself. I recommend looking into how these two talented women and influencers design their notebooks, but if you are looking for college-agenda-specific tips for organizing a bullet journal, here are my top five tips.

  1. 1.  Begin with a simple calendar

    In my past agenda books, I dove right into daily to-do lists with absolutely no preface. This year, I decided to give into those pre-made agenda books I usually detest and have a mini-calendar at the beginning. However, I made the boxes for each month relatively small so that the entire year of 2020-2021 only took up two pages in my journal. I find this to be just enough space to write in holidays, birthdays, and even throw in some splashy stickers that I may or may not have found in the back of my drawer circa 2008 #vintage. A big pro for this calendar is that you can write in big events, or mark off vacation time. If you want, you could also have a second calendar with larger boxes so that within each month, you can have mini boxes for each day. It all depends on what visuals you need to feel like you have your life together.

  2. 2.  Give yourself enough space on the day to day


    This, as mentioned above, is my biggest pet peeve. I divide each page into two blocks with each block assigned to a single day; this allows enough space for heavier work days or those wild socially distant Saturday nights we are all having during COVID. I enjoy writing down assignments with a check box next to each so I can check off the task when I have completed it––a fake sense of validation that goes right to my head.

  3. 3. Designate between tasks and meetings

    This is a hack I have only begun following this semester. For each day, I also have a column off to the right or left side with sections so I can write out my class schedule, meetings, and socially distant gatherings with friends. I have found that this addition to my agenda book helps to see when would be the best time in your schedule to sign up for your COVID test.

  4. 4. Leave a page for random notes and doodles

    If you thought half a page was enough space for me, you were wrong. For each week, I also leave one blank page titled “Weekly Notes” where I can jot down any future meeting dates and times, as well as notes from meetings that I want to remember. I find that having this extra page (whether I end up using it or not, and in the latter case I save that page for the following week until the page is filled), removes the fear of running out of space.

  5. 5. Pick a theme or scheme, but follow loosely

    Don’t get me wrong, while my bullet journal primarily functions as an agenda book, that doesn’t mean I don’t take time to embellish its pages with stickers. I also try to stick to a color scheme of a blue pen and pink highlighter, although in all honesty I just like coloring in letters with a second color. I find that following a general color scheme or overarching theme helps make writing out your weekly schedule a creative process, rather than a stressful experience. After all, the point of a bullet journal is to have a place to dump your thoughts and navigate stress and anxiety through pen and paper.

What type of agenda book do you use to write out your weekly schedule?