We all know what a bucket list is, right? It’s a list of things we want to experience or accomplish before we kick the bucket (or, uh, die).
Whether you’ve ever consciously sat down and thought about it, you probably have at least a couple of items on your bucket list. Maybe you want to eat gelato in Italy, buy a house, write a book, have a child, or swim with dolphins.
These sorts of dreams and goals give us something to aim for in life. A bucket list sows seeds of hope, curiosity, and anticipation—three big ingredients in happiness. It can help you:
- Focus and plan
- Push or discipline yourself to achieve a goal
- Remind you that life is short and should be savored
- Face down fears or stretch towards joy
Basically, your bucket list will help make life more, and help you make more of life.
So, you ready to start making your bucket list? Grab a blank piece of paper or download the free interactive spreadsheet below I designed to walk you through this process. (And if you’ve already got a bucket list started, find it and follow along with this process anyway. It never hurts to revisit and refresh our bucket list.)
Step 1: Make a dream-list
When we brainstorm we take everything in our heads and we get it down on paper, right? So take 10 minutes and do this…
Open up the excel spreadsheet freebie you just downloaded (or grab a blank piece of paper) and write down everything you think you might want on your bucket list.
Remove all limits. Don’t filter or second-guess yourself, don’t edit for feasibility, just write it down!
Ready, set, go…
Step 2: Dig deeper
You’ll get a lot of cool stuff down on paper during those first ten minutes of “dreamstorming” but you shouldn’t stop there.
Your bucket list will be even more valuable if you spend some more time reflecting and thinking, so take 10 more minutes and answer these questions (on page two of your excel spreadsheet if you’re working with the freebie):
- If you knew you would die in one year, what would you make sure you experienced or accomplished in that time?
- What have you always wanted to do or experience but have not done yet?
- What do you really want to see in person (places you particularly want to go, performers you would love to see, etc?)
- What would you do with yourself if you had no constraints on your time and plenty of money?
- What would you really love to achieve or accomplish? After you write down the answers that first come to mind around this question, think specifically about:
- Relationships (significant other, family, friends, community)
- Health (fitness, sports)
- Professional (career, work, & finances)
- Personal development (personal improvement, education, spiritual)
- Hobbies (creativity, entertainment, adventure)
- Belongings (things you’d like to own)
- Other experiences
Step 3: Make your bucket list
Now it’s time to make your official bucket list! Woo hoo!!
Move to page 3 of your spreadsheet or grab a new piece of paper. Then look at your initial brainstorming list and your answers to the questions in step 2.
Using these, select items to add to your bucket list.
Be a bit more selective as you do this. Before you write something down on your bucket list, ask yourself if this is something that really belongs there.
For example, I wrote down “see the Coliseum” on my brainstorming list. When I think about it, however, it’s not something I’m all that passionate about. I wouldn’t turn down a free ticket to Rome, sure, but I’m really much more interested in another item I wrote down on my brainstorming list: “Spend three weeks traveling through Italy exploring their food, wine, and gelato in small towns.” So in the end, I left Coliseum off my bucket list and wrote down the item related to three weeks of chasing pizza, pasta, ice cream, and wine through the countryside (YUM!).
It’s your bucket list, so you can do whatever you want here, but my advice is to be specific and a bit selective at this stage. Your bucket list is a working, living document, so you can always add stuff later (in fact, you should!). But start by focusing on the stuff that you really want to achieve or that makes you most excited.
Step 4: Organize your bucket list
Now that you have a bucket list full of things that you want to do or experience in life, it’s time to prioritize and organize. Start here…
- After you’ve made your bucket list, look it over. Then put a star beside your three most important. These are the ones you really, really want to accomplish. If you could only pick three things to achieve from your bucket list, these would be the ones.
- Now look over your list again. Then put your items into one of three categories:
- Fairly easy or inexpensive to do
- Some advance planning or money required
- Significant money or planning required
If these categories don’t really work for you, make up new ones! The point here is to organize them in a way that will help you plan as you look forward to next month, next year, etc.
- Finally, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. Where are you going to start? What are your priorities?
- Start by writing down five to ten of your bucket list goals you’d like to start or achieve in the next year. Make sure at least one of these priorities is related to one of your top-three goals and a couple of them are things you can complete and finish this year.
- Then think about the next three months. What are some things you’d like to do that will help you get there?
- Then think about THIS month. What are some things you’d like to do?
If this way of organizing your bucket list doesn’t work for you, figure out what does. The point is to figure out a way to take your whole long (maybe overwhelming) bucket list and organize it in ways that inspire and assist you in actually doing the things on the list. Then make sure you then transfer your action items into your daily planner, your calendar, your to-do list or however you keep track of whatever you need to do in life.
Seeing other people’s bucket lists and how they’re organizing them can help this all come together better. So here’s how I might break it down. We currently live in Port Vila, Vanuatu, so I’ve got all the tropical island action I could want at the moment. Some of my other bucket list goals are:
- Write another novel
- Take Mike and the kids to Africa (where I lived as a teenager) and go on safari
- Get fit(ter) (regain some reasonable level of core & back strength after having two babies in quick succession)
- Have a make-our-own pasta party (we have a pasta maker we got for our wedding nine years ago that we haven’t used yet!!)
- Own a spice rack for fresh ground spices
My 3-month and 1-month lists related to these goals might look like this:
Things to do in the next three months:
- Set up a separate Africa savings account and decide how to start regularly saving for safari (because we won’t do that for several more years until the kids are older, but if we start saving now, the money will be there for that purpose when we want it)
- Have the pasta party
- Sketch out a 2-page synopsis of a novel I might want to write
- Commit to working out three times a week, at least
- Set a date and decide on invites for the pasta-party
- Start day-dreaming about possible novel plots and ideas.
- Buy myself a spice rack online
There you have it—a bucket list, and a plan for action.
Revisit this every three months to plan out new goals, tick things off, and add to your list. A good bucket list will continue to grow over time, just like you, and you can use it in so many different ways to help you understand yourself, prioritize, set goals, and shape the sort of life you want to be living.
Happy planning, doing, and adventuring. And now, I’m off to find our pasta maker, look up recipes for butter sage sauce, and figure out where I can even buy fresh sage where I live here in Vanuatu. After that, I guess I should do some exercise. Catch you back here soon.
Leave a comment and share some of the items on YOUR bucket list
And if you want more fun activities like this, check out…