The Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Your Bucket List

At the age of 26, Ted thought he had it all.

But little did he know his world was about to get shocked to the core. He had just grown and sold a company for a boatload of cash. Bought his family houses, a fleet of cars, and was traveling the world. Things seemed like they couldn’t get better…

Until one fateful day, he not only had a very close brush with death, but he spent a harrowing 35 minutes waiting for it.

He was 30,000 feet up, and his plane was going down. And as the minutes ticked by, and as he prepared for a crash landing, he realized he would die unhappy:

“As you are praying and thinking, none of the things that you had were the things that you were going to miss. It was not like “Oh, if I only bought that third car.” So, you just go through this and think “I just have so much more to do…”

After luckily making it out alive, one of the first things Ted Leonsis did was create his, now famous, “101 things to do before you die.”

It was years later that I found myself asking the same questions Ted was forced to ask himself as he propelled back to earth. Mainly, what makes a good life, and what does that look like for me? I’m not sure what it was, but I came to the realization that although we may be breathing, it does not mean we are actually living.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with their song still in them.”

Henry David Thoreau

The status quo is fundamentally unremarkable; therefore, we need to live awry… I know you agree, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. And writing your bucket list is pretty much the number one way to do this because it shifts your life in a couple of profound ways:

First, it holds you alone accountable. It’s your list, and yours alone. Anything and everything you add is something you are choosing to accomplish someday, regardless of anyone else.

Second, it creates a blueprint for an intentional life. You may have heard me beat the drum on “living an intentional life” before, and that’s because there’s no other way to LIVE. Creating a bucket list puts you in the driver’s seat of your short life.

And that’s my hope for you with this guide…

That you will dig deep, find out what makes you happy, build out a killer bucket list around those things, and work towards accomplishing them. I promise you that doing this WILL drastically change your life and that you’ll never look back.

But First, before we dive in, let’s go over a few helpful things that will ensure your list doesn’t fall by the wayside.

It’s not all about travel.

I get it… You’re a travel junkie just like me. So, it’s going to be hard not to fill your entire list with far-off places and experiences you’ve always daydreamed of. But it’s not all about travel.

As you’ll soon see, we’ve broken things based on main categories like family, learning, health, etc. So, don’t forget that just because you can’t be traveling year ’round it doesn’t mean you still can’t be hammering out some awesome bucket list items.

It’s a living document.

Things change… and that’s good. So, your bucket list will have to follow suit.

For example, I used to have ‘bike through India for 4 months’ as a bucket list goal. But considering that it would be a bit tough with two little kids, I will either toss it, alter it, or keep it for later knowing it might not happen. And I’m fine with that. When life changes, change your bucket list. This is absolutely cool, as long as you’re still actively doing it!

Mix in the small with the big.

Similar to it not being all about travel, it doesn’t all have to be wildly large goals. So, consider adding smaller items—things you’ve always wanted to do but just haven’t gotten around to yet.

Maybe it’s planting a tree, learning to sew, paying for the person’s coffee behind you in line at the cafe, or running the pool table.

The same goes for adding things you want to do in your hometown or nearby because it’ll keep you progressing… And this will keep you activated with your list, while you simultaneously work towards the big ones (and it’s so much fun crossing off an item, even if it’s a small one!).

Be specific.

In order to actually check off your goals, they need to be specific. For example, “lose weight” is a good goal, but it’s not nearly specific enough to add to your list. And that’s because you have no idea when you’ve got there.

Instead, “drop to XXlbs” is perfect (if the weight is your goal, it might be body fat %, etc.) and you’ll know exactly when you can cross it off.

Do it for YOU.

This list is about you. So, don’t add items based on whether other people will think they’re cool.

Here’s the litmus test: Would you still do it if you couldn’t tell another soul? Do you really want to climb Everest? Do you really want to skydive? Do you really want to read Infinite Jest? If so, add ‘em! If not, skip them and add items that get YOU jacked up, whether anyone else on earth knows about it or not.

Add items you’ve already done.

If you have already accomplished stuff you would have added to your bucket list, then toss them into the mix with a big fat checkmark beside it!

What’s cool about this list is that over time it’s a great way to reminisce about the things you’ve done, the experiences you’ve had… all of which will have had a big part in shaping who you ended up being as a human (and I’d bet a better one with a list than not).

Be accountable.

To really spark a fire under your tush, find accountability. Inside our Life Listr app, we have a step in the creation of a new goal that allows you to share that goal with friends or family over Facebook or Twitter.

You don’t have to go as far as posting it for everyone on your social feed to see (although that’s not a bad idea), but the premise behind it is important: get someone to hold you accountable (or join you in that goal) so you don’t let it slip.

Let’s Get Started… It’s now time for the real fun stuff – writing your bucket list!

Follow these steps to create a bucket list of your very own.

Step 1: Give It A Name

For more than any other reason, it’s just fun to name your list. If you remember, Ted Leonsis named his “101 things to do before you die,” which is a classic title (although I’d change to “… before I die.”) but also has a definitive number, which you might not want to do.

Some other ideas are:

  • My Life List
  • 101 Things To Do While Alive (if you want to give it a number)
  • My Dream List
  • My Life’s Aspiration List
  • My Lifetime Goals
  • Things to Achieve in My Lifetime
  • My Life’s To Dos
  • My Life’s Bucket List
  • Things to Conquer
  • [YOUR NAME]’s How To Live Guide
  • The Life Plan
  • My Life Blueprint In XXX Goals (if you want to give it a number)
  • My Life’s Must Dos
  • My Livin’ Right Blueprint

…and on and on. You get the point. Play around with your favorites on the next page and, remember, all of this can be changed so don’t overthink it.

Step 2: Brain Dump!

We’ll get into fine-tuning and categorizing your bucket list shortly but, for now, just start tossing your BIG ideas down on paper or, of course, inside Life Listr).

Don’t even think twice about them—about the money involved, the difficulty, or the criticism—just get ‘em down! We’ll walk you through plenty more ways to top up your list, but this step is about brain-dumping the big ones, the ones that you’ve always wanted, the ones that you always think about. Go for it.

Step 3: Pick Your Categories

Now that you’ve unloaded the big ones, let’s pick your categories.

Here’s our recommended list:

  • Travel
  • Adventure & Experience
  • Health/Fitness
  • Learn (Skills/Knowledge)
  • Do Good (Charity)
  • Own
  • Random
  • Work (Career/Business)
  • Eat/Drink
  • Family & Friends
  • Finances

If any categories don’t fit your list, toss or ignore them.

Step 4: Categorize Your Brain Dump

Now take your initial brain dump list and place each item in its most-fitting category. You’ll probably see that some overlap, and that’s totally fine. In fact, many will overlap in some regard. So just choose the most fitting category and plug them in. As you can see, your list is beginning to take shape!

  • Travel
  • Adventure & Experience
  • Health/Fitness
  • Learn (Skills/Knowledge)
  • Do Good (Charity)
  • Own
  • Random
  • Work (Career/Business)
  • Eat/Drink
  • Family & Friends
  • Finances

Step 5: Brainstorm Time!

Before we load you up with more ideas than you can handle (don’t skip ahead! This is important!)… I want you to first brainstorm more ideas on your own because doing this will ensure that your list is as true to you as possible, without you having to over-think all your goals later and decide.

So think about these questions and add items to your list.

  • What’s something you’ve said “Oh, I could NEVER do that” but have secretly dreamed of doing?
  • What’s the wildest thing you can think of that would give you massive bragging rights? (and only add things that you’d still do if no one could ever know)
  • What major life changes would you like to make one day?
  • In the last year, have you done anything that seems bucket list worthy? Add it and use it to think of similar things that might also be bucket list worthy for you.
  • Think of your hobbies… are there any big goals related to them that you’d like to accomplish one day?
  • If you were to die tomorrow, what would you wish you could do before it happens?
  • What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?
  • What have you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
  • Any countries, places or locations you want to visit?
  • What have you always dreamed of laying your eyes on?
  • What family dreams do you want to have? What about with friends?
  • What experiences do you want to have/feel?
  • Any work or business goals you’ve always had?
  • What activities or skills have you always wanted to learn?
  • Any fitness goals you want to achieve?
  • What about your finances—any big goals you have?
  • Look again into each of your categories… are there any goals you can think of that fit? Take any ideas you’ve derived from these questions and add them.

Those questions will certainly put the hamster wheel in high gear. Now, let’s take it deeper… See, you probably already have a sweet list of cool things to do, have, and experience. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with you the #1 way, I know of to dig deeper and find out what would give your life the greatest meaning it could. Here’s the deal…

If I offered you a crystal ball to peer into your future, to find out exactly how your life would be laid out, would you take it? We don’t have that. We have something better because what follows puts you in the driver’s seat before it’s too late and all in hindsight. But it’s going to take some kahunas because you’re going to have to face your own death… 

Introducing, The Obituary Exercise. It comes from our friend Roz Savage’s technique on getting more of what YOU want out of life while you still can.

Click to Download The Obituary Exercise

I have no doubt that going through this exercise is a LIFE CHANGER. It was the beginning of Roz becoming an ocean rowing world record holder (multiple times) and even the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year!

Please take the time to go through this. Who knows where you’ll end up! And that’s the best part because this process may light up some repressed dreams—stuff that makes you truly you. After you go through the exercise, take what you’ve created and write them as goals.

Step 6: My Bucket List

Now that you’ve brainstormed, categorized, and piled up a slew of bucket-list-worthy ideas in this guide, it’s finally time to compile your master list.

Psst! Need some more inspiration? We got you covered with a list of Bucket List Travel Experiences here.

Step 7: Give It A Once-Over

Now that you’ve finished creating your list, go over it one last time and cut anything that isn’t truly compelling… that isn’t truly you.

And it’s okay to be tough with this because the goal is for you to accomplish your list, right? So anything that you’re not going to put in the work to do because you don’t want it bad enough, nix it. Then, what’s left will be the stuff you’re jacked up to get done!

Step 8: Get Specific

The last thing you’re going to do is go over your finalized list and make sure everything is specific enough like we discussed earlier.

So go over your list now and add the details that will allow you to KNOW you’ve done them, without a doubt. Now let’s get into the easy process for living your list.

Step 9: How To Actually Get It Done

Congrats on creating your very own bucket list! And if you thought that was fun, you’re in for a treat because dreaming is only the beginning of living a bucket-list worthy life… now you have to actually LIVE IT! And here’s how:

Phase 1: Create A Focus List 

The big problem with creating such a grandiose list as you’ve just done is that it’s hard to know where to start. Now all you need to do is pick 1-5 goals to focus on, and no more than that. Of course, this can be tough too. So let’s walk through a few ways to make it easier on ya…

First things first, pick one item you can do in the very near future. The reason is that it’ll get you off on the right track with a skip in your step because you’ll actually be accomplishing your bucket list and not just dreaming about it. (You can even use 2 fairly easy goals you can accomplish fairly soon if you’d like.) Another idea is to create mini-lists within your main list so have a smaller, more manageable group of goals to accomplish.

For example, you could create a seasonal mini-list, such as a “Spring 2020 Mini-List,” or a “#WinterGoals” list. Then, mark all the items you can accomplish during that season. Another example is to make a list for your current year (“Nailing Life In 2020”), or one based on your age (“40 Before 40”).

What’s good about these mini-lists is that they put a deadline on a group of goals, which will inevitably light a fire under your butt to get on with them!

And outside of mini-lists and adding an easier goal or two, you ideally want to add 2-3 tasks that need work, so you can continually be working towards them and crossing off the big life goals at the same time as some smaller ones. 

Phase 2: Plan Your Focus Goals

You know the goal, you know it’s a focus, now let’s set you up with the easiest way to eat an elephant (one bite at a time). For each of your Focus Goals, do the following:

Choose a realistic deadline:  It’s okay to be aggressive, but also be realistic.

Create your action steps plan: This is the meat of why you’ll live your list because you’ve created action steps and took action on them! Without doing this, you’ll be leaving it all up to luck and, most likely, time will zip by and you’ll realize you didn’t do nearly the amount of stuff you wanted.

For each goal have a spot for 3 action steps, a title, a due date, and a cost. Many tasks, like “research the smartest way to learn guitar,” won’t have a cost associated, so just leave it blank. But I suggest you do put a title and a due date for each. Then, I recommend you add that task to whichever ToDo List app you may use, or even just to your phone’s calendar, so you can be alerted of these deadlines so you stick to them (we also alert you of your deadlines in the LifeListr app if you’d like).

Phase 3: Get Started!

This new bucket list journey you’re on is exactly that: a journey. It’s not a sprint, it’s a way of life.

And your main priority in all of this is to simply keep progressing. That’s it! What will happen as you work on the action steps of your focus goals will be magical, and your life will never be the same. You’ll feel like you’re living with purpose and intention.

This will snowball into more adventure, more experiences, and an even stronger drive to live the width of your short life, not just the length of it. 

I applaud you for grabbing your life by the reigns. After you’ve hammered out a few items on your list, please share them with us over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email us. We LOVE to hear about and brag about our community members making incredible things happen in their lives!

Onwards and upwards, amigo.

P.S. If you want a dedicated place to keep your bucket list brainstorming, master list and focus goals – you’ll want to check out The Bucket List Blueprint!

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