10 Tips for Creating a Useful Bucket List

Every one has a list of things they want to do before they die.  Whether it is written down or not, there is something  in this world that you would like to do, but have yet to experience/accomplish.  Writing out a “bucket list” is the first step you can make towards accomplishing some of these goals.  However, this can be a harder list to write than you might expect.  If you use the following tips, you should be able to not only write a meaningful list, but actually accomplish it as well.  For reference, here is the beginning of my list.  Mine still has a ways to go.

1) Don’t try to write it all at once. This isn’t an easy list to write.  You may get to 20 or 30 things, and start drawing a blank.  Don’t get discouraged, just take some time off before you come back to it.  This is an evolving process.  It may take you weeks or months to actually finish a complete list.  Many people will never have a completed list, because it will constantly be added to.  So just think of it as a working document.  Whenever you think of something, write it down and add it.

2) Think outside the box. Some of the most interesting things on your list are going to end up being some of the most random.  The ones that set you apart from everyone else.  For me, a big one is #27: Golf at Augusta National Golf Club.  It is the most difficult course to get on in the world, and many view it as a mecca of the sport.  I want to play.  It certainly isn’t easy, but hey, I have a lifetime to fulfil these goals!

3) Target different areas of your life. Usually when people start their lists, the vast majority of the first things they write down are things related to travel.  I want to go here, and here etc.  This is great, I know a very large portion of my list is devoted to this.  But try and expand in to other aspects of your life.  Hobbies, finances, careers, relationships, activities, these are all great things to consider when building out a lifetime list.  Rather than I want to go to Buenos Aries, break it into two items.  I want to learn to Tango, and Tango dance in Argentina.  Having a purpose for the locations you want to travel to can make your trip that much more fulfilling when you actually accomplish it.

4) Read other people’s lists. Maybe you have hit a road block and you need some ideas, check out what other people are wanting to do.  You may not add their specific goals to your list, but I bet you will at least get some ideas.  There are dozens of sites out there about lists people have created.  The most popular is 43things.  Another one that I really like is Project 183.  A guy sets out to accomplish 183 random tasks by the time he is 30.  This is a great example of a list that does things a little bit differently.

5) Make some easier to achieve than others. If all of your goals are difficult to accomplish (expensive, time consuming, un-realistic) your list isn’t going to be very effective.  You will quickly get discouraged and not make the progress you should be.  So make some easy!  As you start checking things of your list, you will be surprised how much momentum you can gain, making it easier to accomplish some of the ones that require more effort.

6) Include something you can do TODAY.  In order for you to be successful you have to get rid of the “someday” mindset.  Where it is always “Someday I am going to do ________” or “Someday I am going to go _________”.  Life is short, better get started.  So pick something easy.  Maybe it is taking a dance class, maybe it is writing a letter to someone you admire.  There are plenty of things you can do right now that you have always said you wanted to do, but just never made the time to start.  Well now is that time.

7) Post it publicly. If you are being held publicly accountable, you are going to be much more likely to actually do it.  Point in case: this blog.  The blog was started to 1) Fulfill one of the items on my list and 2) Hold me accountable for the rest of the list.

8) Set goals. Without goals the list doesn’t work.  If you don’t set a timeline or don’t start taking action, you never will.  So create a goal of accomplishing 5 things a year (depending on your list).  Maybe you want to do everything by the time you are 40?  Come up with a realistic plan for how you are going to do it, and stick to it.

9) Use both broad and targeted goals. So you want to see the Eiffel Tower, go to NYC, great, add them to the list.  Those are very targeted items.  Also include some things that aren’t as well defined.  For instance #38 on my list is “Do Something Newsworthy”.   I have no idea what that will be, or what qualifies.  But at some point I am going to be able to check that one off.  This leaves the door open for the unexpected and adventure.  You could wake up one morning having no idea that you are going to be able to cross something off the list that day.  And when you do, its a pretty cool feeling.

10) Have fun! The whole idea of this is to start making steps to do the things you want to do with your life.  So don’t stress about it, this is all about you and your life.  Every one is going to use their list differently, so if you are finding it hard to accomplish a particular goal, work on something else!  You have plenty of time.

If you enjoyed this article please let me know about it!  You can comment below or subscribe for updates here.

Original Photo can be found here.

ChristiaanH June 10, 2009 at 11:02 am

I’m going to start with this list right away and see how I can post it publicly. My blog seems a nice place to put this as my blog is about lifestyle design and personal development. Seems the best place to put it.

Thanks for the nice tips

Heath June 11, 2009 at 4:13 am

Great tips Sean. Agree with them all.

Having a mix of easily measurable and less well defined goals is important, from what I have experienced.


Colin Wright June 12, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Really solid advice here, Sean. I’ve been meaning to make a list like this for a while, but haven’t felt like I was prepared. After reading this, though, I think I’ll go ahead and start and let it develop organically. Thanks!

Sean June 12, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Thanks Colin, I appreciate it! Taking some of those tips, and then just letting it happen over time is a great way to do it. Don’t try and force it all out in one sitting, that didn’t work out well for me haha

Josh Moore June 12, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Good advice here.

If I had to add something it would be a little something I learned in an entrepreneurship degree class. Essentially, any goals you set for yourself should be a positive light (as opposed to negative).

Rather than saying “I want to have friendships without argument” you would say “I will ensure that all the relationships in my life are harmonious”. Being positive about goals improves your chances of succeeding.

Keep up the great work.

Sean June 15, 2009 at 7:42 am

Great point Josh. The more positive your goals initially are, the more positive your thoughts are going to be when it comes time to actually do it. Thanks for the input!

Ed Cabellon June 30, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Great site Sean and I loved this article. You’ve inspired me to start my own list. Your #27 is my #1 🙂 Be well!

Sean June 30, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Thanks for the comment Ed! And if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you check out my post entitled My Quest to Play Golf at Augusta National!

Sloane Berrent August 9, 2009 at 10:18 am

I love bucket lists – I’m so happy to have found your site. Mine is similar in that I’m trying to put all of the pieces together. Keep up the awesome posts!

Sean August 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

Sloane, I am happy you find my site too! I have also been reading the Causemopolitan and am really enjoying your writing!

Cody McKibben June 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

LOVE these bucket lists, and I’ve read a ton of them in order to create my own FINALLY! But it was you Sean who lit the fire under my ass to finally put it together, and love your advice for making one… so wanted to share my attempt at an ambitious list of awesome life goals with everyone here: http://www.thrillingheroics.com/my-bucket-list-awesome-life-goals

Matthew Hooper June 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

Writing a list like this is starting to become a more and more popular thing to do. I have seen a few other blogs where people have done the same thing. I have been inspired by this and I have been working on a list over the last couple of months. I will be posting to my blog within the next couple of weeks at my site.

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