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how to create a bucket list

How to Make a Bucket List: 5 Easy Steps

When it comes to adventurers, travelers, dreamers, or anyone with a sense of wanderlust, bucket lists are a common theme. Whether written out of a desire to improve yourself or your mental health or simply as a formal way to share what you want to do with your life, bucket lists are fabulous tools for making it happen.

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What Is a Bucket List?

A bucket list is a collection of things you want to do or accomplish before your time on earth is up. Bucket lists are often associated with getting to a certain age or a terminal illness, but this doesn't have to be the case. The purpose is to reflect on what is important and what you want to do with your limited time available. It's as meaningful for young adults as it is for retirees, and your bucket list might evolve over time.

How to Make a Bucket List Journal in 5 Steps

Bucket lists aren't just a fun exercise--a group from Stanford Medical has researched them as part of the Letters Project. The project was designed to find ways for adults to easily communicate what matters most to them, creating a document that is easy to share with their loved ones and healthcare providers.

Their efforts have led them to understand the importance of bucket lists as an approachable way for everyone to make goals and put their dreams down on paper. They have a bucket list toolkit you can download, including a detailed template and a ten-step plan.

If you're looking for more inspiration, we highly recommend visiting the Sanford site and learning more. However, most of us are ready to start listing things! So, here's a condensed five-step method of how to make a bucket list.

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Step 1. Self Reflection and Brainstorming

At this point, you probably fall into one of two groups--either you're already chopping at the bit, with ideas and dreams ready to put down on paper, or you don't know where to start.

Where ever you fall, start by coming up with a dedicated place to organize the process. For example, a dedicated leather journal for your bucket list is a good idea. Or, perhaps, a section in your existing bullet or fitness journal would be easier for you. Another simple option is to create a dedicated Word document you occasionally update–the choice is yours.

Then start with a good brainstorming session. What came to mind first? What have you always wanted to do that you haven't had the time for? What do you want to do but don't have the money for? At this phase, everything is worth putting down on paper.

Some people include fantasies that will never happen, while others prefer concrete goals. For example, piloting a starship faster than the speed of light probably isn't going to happen, but it's a killer bucket list goal.

Stuff like that is fun, but the best goals are realistic, everyday life ones. Split them between short term goals and long term ideas. Of course, everyone's list is a little different, whether just young adults versus older folks or entirely different cultural traditions and backgrounds. So as you go forward, just remember that there aren't any right or wrong answers, and continue to dream big.

Step 2. Organize Your Unique Bucket List Ideas

According to Sanford researchers, bucket list goals made by most people fall into these six categories. But you don't have to limit yourself to these. They just provide some structure to get you thinking.

  • Desire to travel, i.e., see the Great Barrier Reef or every National Park
  • Personal goals, i.e., write a book or buy a sports car
  • Achieve a life milestone, i.e., get married
  • Spend more time with family or friends
  • Financial well being, i.e., be debt free
  • Daring activities, i.e., skydiving or skinny dipping

With those in mind, some new ideas for your bucket list have probably already popped into your mind. Here are a few of our favorites if you still need to find ideas.

  • Learn to fly a plane
  • See the northern lights
  • Ride in a hot air balloon
  • Step foot on all seven continents
  • Ride a mechanical bull
  • Take up a new sport
  • Learn a new language
  • Try horseback riding
  • Celebrate Mardi Gras in New Orleans
how to make a bucket list

Step 3. Trim It Down and Set a Time Frame

Now you have listed many ideas, some easily achievable in the near future and others you'll need to plan and work on to accomplish.

Start trimming your list and organizing it further into categories. Put some dates on it. For example, you might organize a list like "50 Things to Do By Age 50" or "Ten Things To Do Before The Next Decade."

Precisely how you divvy up the tasks is up to you because every life list looks different. But remember that it's your list and that some of the tasks may involve your loved ones, and some may be things you want or need to do on your own.

Step 4. Share Your Bucket List Goals

Making a list is fun, but doing the list is more fun. But like all life goals, adding accountability is key to ensuring your bucket list happens. To this end, you should share your list with your best friend or a family member.

Talking about the list is good for your mental health, and it's a great conversation topic over dinner. But it also means that you can rally support from a close friend who will help keep you accountable and may even help you get some boxes checked off your list.

Step 5. Start Checking Things Off and Keep It Updated

Now you have the list, and the time has come to start doing all the things on it! It's important to check a few things off each year to keep you motivated.

Of course, as life goes on and you fill up your bucket with new experiences and see more of the world, you'll inevitably have more things you want to add to the list. And that's ok! Moving forward, simply keep updating your life plan. It's an ongoing process.

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Final Words

So, there you have it! A bucket list doesn't have to be formal. The most important part is to fill your life with experiences and accomplishments that make you happy. Share your goals with friends, and never stop having fun.

Bucket List Ideas FAQs

How many things should be on a bucket list?

Everyone's bucket list is different, so there's no right or wrong answer to how many things should be on it. It is advisable to have a mix of short-term and long-term goals, along with a mix of easy accomplishments and big projects. You want a list that you can regularly check things off of, not one of pure fantasy.

What is number 1 on most people's bucket list?

According to researchers from Stanford using an online survey, more than half of all bucket list items involve a desire to travel, accomplish a personal goal, or achieve some specific milestone.

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