Pen and notebook with the words "Bucket List" written on it followed by 3 numbered lines
Bucket Lists

How to Make a Bucket List

Text "How to Make a Bucket List" above a photo of a gold pen on a white marble-covered journal next to a laptop

I’m sure you hear folks talking about their “bucket list” quite often. It’s become a more popular way to talk about goals and aspirations, especially regarding travel. But perhaps the thought of a bucket list feels really intimidating to you. For some, thinking of putting pen to paper and working on actualizing your dreams can be daunting. And while you’ll often hear me say, “It’s easy, just two steps!”, for some that is an oversimplification of the process.

Whether you dream of visiting all 7 continents or you want to see all 50 American states, there is never going to be a perfect time to start your list. There is no “right” time beyond the moment you decide you want to do it. And if the “how” is getting in your way? Well, here are some steps you can follow. 

5 Easy Steps to Create a Bucket List:
Applying the 5 Ws (and 1 H) to Creating Your List

Step 1: Name Your Bucket List

The Who

Now, this is a step that can be super easy to check off the list. For instance, my bucket list is just named “Beth’s Bucket List”. Straightforward, I know. Perhaps a bit on the nose. For some, though, the phrase “bucket list” feels too connected to death and that can feel intimidating, upsetting or even paralyzing.

Call your list whatever you want! The whole point is to have an easy step and place to start so you can tackle this list and get to tackling your goals.

Ideas for Name:

  • Wish List
  • Dream List 
  • Adventure List
  • Goals I Want to Achieve
  • Lifetime Experiences
  • My Life To Do List
  • Lifetime Goals
  • Dream It, Achieve It

As you can see, the sky’s the limit. Start with your title and you are already done with step 1 of how to make your bucket list.

Step 2: Figure Out Where You Want to Store Your Bucket List

The Where

For some folks, their bucket list might live in their mind. And for those folks, more power to you. For me? I’m a bit more of a “tangible” person who likes to see reminders and see things in black and white. 

This list is a summary of everything you want to accomplish in your life so you’ll want to determine the best place to not only store it but to also interact and engage with it. Remember, this list will be a living, breathing and fluid thing that evolves as you evolve.

And, also, the data is there to remind us that folks who document their goals are generally more likely to accomplish them.

There is no right choice here, so pick what makes sense for you. A journal is a fine option, for those who want to write their goals down and really feel the weight of checking them off one by one.

Digital is also an option, whether that is a list you keep in the notebook of your phone, a GoogleDoc or a website or App. Unfortunately, there really isn’t that one definitive app, website or way of storing your list. The choice is really up to you.

If the “where” of it all feels overwhelming, just pick an easy option (like a small journal or a GoogleDoc) and start there. You can always move your list if you feel compelled to do so.

Step 3: Determine the Length of Your Bucket List

The How (Many)

It’s really important to determine the length of this list and how in-depth you want to get prior to just hitting the ground running with ideas. Now, this isn’t about limiting what you want to accomplish at all. Instead, this is about making sure you’re thinking about what is achievable, as well as not overwhelming yourself with the breadth of options the world has to offer.

By starting off with a shorter, more focused list, you’ll see that these goals are meant to be crushed and then you’ll also start to really narrow in on your focus and what truly matters to you.

In the end, there is no right length for your list. I recommend starting somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 goals of differing difficulty and complexity. Not every goal has to be this massive achievement, either. You want to pick a variety of goals that can be achieved over short and long lengths of time so you can start checking things off the list and feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride.

Additionally, setting deadlines is totally fine (although some folks say your lifetime is the most definitive deadline), but also try to be as realistic as possible. The goal of a bucket list is to focus on your goals and priorities and then feel that amazing sense of fulfillment and accomplishment when you achieve these dreams.  

If your list becomes a bit harder to manage, you can organize your goals into mini-lists that are more consumable. For instance, a 40 By 40 List or Summer Goals.

Step 4: Organize and Prioritize Your Goals

The Why

Before you start typing or writing away at that list of 25+ goals, make sure you are centering on the why of it all. This list is 100% about you. This has nothing to do with your neighbors or those influencers you follow on IG or your friends. Or me. This is all about what you want. What brings you joy?

Stop and really ask yourself some questions so you can focus this list and focus on yourself.

  • Think about life in categories, and then start to really determine what you find the most valuable. Travel, education, the arts, charity, family, sports, etc.
  • Play your own game of twenty questions about the categories that mean the most to you. Don’t let fear be a motivator here. Let opportunity guide you. Really dig deep into the why of it all.
  • Figure out if some goals are better accomplished together. At times, having a partner in crime to really bounce ideas off of can get those creative juices flowing. For instance, I have a Family Bucket List that mirrors my own goals but is so much more fun because we’re doing it together. 
  • Don’t be afraid to get inspired. Look at other people’s boards and see if that helps you decide what you really want to accomplish. Again, it’s not about their goals. It’s about honing in on what matters to you.
  • If you are still not sure, ask your loved ones what they think your goals should be. You’d be surprised how often people create goals for others in their minds based on the person they think they are. Now, these might not all be 100% perfect, but they can assist with inspiration.
  • If you still aren’t sure, then ask yourself this question, “If I only had 1 month left to live, what would I regret not accomplishing?” I know, that’s heavy. But it will also allow you to focus on what truly matters. All of a sudden, the superfluous will melt away and the important will remain.

In the end, the most important thing to remember is that this list is for you, by you, about you. Your happiness is key.

Step 5: Create Your Bucket List

The What and When

Now comes the fun part. You’ve done all of that groundwork. You know what your list is called, where you want to store it, how focused you want it to be, and why you want to make this list. Well, let’s put this list together!

Jot down those ideas.

Again, no right or wrong way. As long as you are true to what is meaningful to you, your list will be perfect.

Some folks recommend that you avoid daily chores and typical “honey-do” kind of things. Not every list item needs to be earth shattering or groundbreaking. Don’t let anyone limit what you list. You can use this list as a goals list. You can use it for accountability, too. Whatever you decide, just make sure you are focusing on the most important questions: Does it have value (to me) and does it bring me joy?

I personally recommend that you dream big, though. Fear will often limit what we think we can personally accomplish. Doubt will creep in and tell us that we can’t dream that big. Don’t let fear limit your dreams. Instead, be realistic about time. If this is a goal that will take a long time, then acknowledge that and understand the time commitment it involves. 

And the unofficial Step 6: Start Checking Those Boxes

The Want

If you are ready and you want to crush this list, start checking off those boxes. Once you’ve completed this self-discovery process of really determining what you want to accomplish in this lifetime, the fun can truly begin. 

These goals and dreams are yours. They are your opportunity to fill your life with the experiences that speak to your soul. The aim of lists like this is to try and live a life of no regrets. But don’t let this list become a prison of its own making. Use it for its purpose – an opportunity to really help determine what you value in life and what you want to prioritize.

In a world as vast as ours where the possibilities truly seem endless, this bucket list will help be a guiding star so you can make whatever progress you want to make. And remember, don’t get so fixated on the monumental list items that you forget to celebrate the incremental. Sometimes we’re so hyper-fixated on the biggest goal, that end goal, that we won’t celebrate along the way. All of those incremental successes and accomplishments along the way are just as important and can be just as fulfilling. They are the building blocks of monumental success. So celebrate! Don’t stop celebrating.

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