We all have dreams and “things to do before I die”. Those are things like:
- Climb a really really high mountain
- Run a marathon
- Bungeejump from a bridge
- Do a world trip
Or more things like:
- Start a business
- Launch a blog
- Write a book
And if you are like me 5 years ago, these things are just in your head. Every year you shake your head in disbelief because another year has past and there was so much going on that you didn’t even think of tackling any of these hypothetical bucket list items. I mean, when on earth should you have squeezed that in anyway? But if year after year passes, when do you then accomplish the “things to do before you die”?
Trust me, there is a better way! Here is the ultimate step-by-step guide to slaying your bucket list like boss:
Step 1: Actually create a bucket list
Sounds obvious? Yeah, kind of. But have you actually written down your bucket list? See…
Here is how to create a bucket list: First, go to a place where you feel inspired. Take piece of paper, your Evernote or whatever and write down every single thing you ever wanted to do. You can also cheat a little and look at other people’s bucket lists (e.g. here and here). Try to include even little bucket list items like “get a short hair cut” or “go skinny dipping”.
Step 2: Categorize
Then, try to categorize by topic — sports related (run a marathon), professional goals (write a book), travel (see Halong Bay) and learning (learn to dance Tango) + any other categories that make sense for your personally. A good way to keep track of your items within your categories is to use a tool like Trello:
Within the topic based categories, categorize even further or rather rate by resources needed (mostly time and money usually). There will be items that you could do immediately like “go skinny dipping” and there are others that require preparation and thus resources like “start my own business”.
Step 3: Make it an actual goal!
Writing your bucket list alone is usually not sufficient to actually go out and do it. If you are really serious about this, you need to set real goals!
When setting your goals, think about the following two aspects: HOW to choose them and HOW to set them.
How to choose goals:
There is really only one question you should ask yourself when it comes to choosing goals: Is this really what I want?
Be honest with yourself or you will set yourself up for failure right from the start.
Use these two questions to get clarity:
- Is this goal aligned with my priorities?
Example: Setting a financial saving goal while your actual priorities are travelling the world, going out with friends and investing in your career might not be feasible.
- How will it make me feel when I achieve that goal?
Are there other ways to achieve that feeling? Example: You want to lose weight because you think it will get you into a romantic relationship. However, you are not really overweight and the actual issue is your self-worth.
How to set goals:
Choosing the right goal is only half of the equation, setting them the right way is the other half. You can use the S.M.A.R.T. technique to set your goals:
S.M.A.R.T stands for:
> Specific: “I want to be rich” is NOT specific. “I want to earn 100K over the next 12 months by offering consulting services” IS. Think about the WHAT, the HOW, the WHERE and the WHEN of your goal!
> Measurable: Find a way to measure the progress on your goal. Want to lose weight? Track your weight loss every week! Want to start your own business? Think of concrete milestones you can track to make this goal come true.
> Attainable and Relevant: Is achieving this goal realistic and possible? Losing 50kgs in one month might not be attainable, but losing 5kgs in a month seems reasonable. Also, do you really care about this goal? Is it relevant for you? You won’t be motivated to achieve a goal that is not a priority in your life (we already discussed this above)!
> Timely: Set a deadline and make a timeline. What do you want to achieve until when? What are the milestones along the way?
Step 4: Create habits that help you tick the bucket list items off
If you have read my blog for longer, you know I am an absolute advocate for habit creation. I believe successful habits are at the core of every achievement. Thus, I also strongly believe that habits can help you tick off your bucket list goals. Sounds counter intuitive because bucketlist items are once in a lifetime experiences? Maybe.
But what if you can get into the habit of actually doing once in a lifetime experiences?
Exactly — this is where it gets exciting!
So, what’s the concept behind it?
For low-resource bucket list items:
Why not schedule a day every week or every month to tick off a spontaneous low-resource bucket list item? For example, every second Saturday you could look at your bucket list and choose a random item from the low-resource list and just go and do it. Put it in the calendar, set yourself a reminder on your phone and get used to getting out of your comfort zone every second Saturday. And if there is any low-resource items that require more planning, why not use the second Saturday instead to plan your bucketl ist item, e.g. book your plane ticket to Amsterdam or concert tickets for your favorite band.
For high-resource bucket list items:
Creating powerful habits is even more important when it comes to high-resource items, e.g. running a marathon or doing a world trip. Why? Because whether you will tick the item off or not is not only depending on the day you are actually doing it but also on the days, weeks and months before that event. In order to run a marathon, you need to train. A lot. In order to travel around the world for a year you need to save up AND have time. This requires planning and even more consistency. Think of the habits you need to create to make your bucket list item come true! Do you need to run three times a week for a year? Do you need to save 250€ a month and thus get into the habit of spending less?
See where I am getting at…?
To help you stick to your habits, I have compiled a few tips:
- Do the habit at the same day and time every week, e.g. run 10km every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning
- Schedule your habits into your calendar and treat them like a work meeting
- Set a reminder on your phone so you don’t forget about it
- Learn what works and adapt. If you thought you could save up 500€/month for your road trip but you realize it’s actually not feasible — don’t give up, instead adapt your habit! Maybe extend the saving period and cut down the monthly savings to 250€. Experiment and adapt to find what works for you and once you do — stick to it!
- Use tools that help you stick to your habits, e.g. create a monthly automated transfers from your salary account to your savings account or find a partner for your marathon plan that holds you accountable. Identify what works for you and implement systems to enforce it!
Even though bucket lists are about once-in-a-lifetime experiences, in order to achieve them, you need to make it a habit: For smaller bucket list experiences like going to a concert or doing a road trip, get in to the habit of doing these things regularly, e.g. every weekend. And for bigger bucket list items that require preparation like training, saving money or planning — build powerful habits around these preparation tasks e.g. blocking one evening per week for it.
Now, go out and slay your bucket list!!
Liz Huber is a Mindset & Productivity Coach and Founder of refinedlife.io. With her books, courses, and 1-on-1 work, she helps entrepreneurs overcome overwhelm, lack of focus, fear, and self-doubt. As a result, her clients are able to confidently achieve their goals by prioritizing what is truly important and streamlining everything else.