Back in the day I used to be really, really bad at accomplishing my summer bucket lists. I remember when I was in middle school I had a summer “to-do” list scribbled into my journal that included having water balloon fights, reading certain books, and finishing whatever Nancy Drew computer game had come out that year (because I was a mega-nerd, and proud of it, thankyouverymuch).
But I didn’t really finish much on my list. I remember flipping back through my journal at the end of the summer to see what I’d accomplished and feeling disappointed that I hadn’t made time for most of the things I wanted to do.
There have been other times in life when I worried that this disappointment would be a theme and I would not achieve everything I wanted to do before it was too late. I was worried I’d settle down and have kids or get a super intense job and forget all about my life goals in the swing of a mundane daily routine.
So I’ve done some things about it.
Over the years I’ve gotten much better at making sure I have the experiences I want to have. This summer I’ve been breezin’ through my bucket list – in fact, I finished it off yesterday! And it’s all thanks to a few strategies I’d like to share today.
These action steps have been incredibly helpful to me in ensuring I accomplish my bucket list items, one goal at a time:
1. Break down larger goals into concrete action steps.
Sometimes my pie-in-the-sky dreams can seem pretty overwhelming because they are just so big. But once I break them down into bite-sized action steps, I see that they aren’t so scary at all. For example, one of my long-term bucket list goals is to learn Spanish fluently. I dissected this into phases: first I needed to take an intermediate Spanish class (I already have the basics down), then an advanced Spanish class, and finally spend some time in a Spanish-speaking country to solidify the language in my brain. Breaking this goal down helped me know where to go first on the road towards achieving this goal, and it also helped motivate me to get started since the goal didn’t seem so big and scary anymore.
2. Have a deadline for each goal, especially long-term goals.
My short-term bucket lists always have solid, fast-approaching deadlines. This helps me understand that I don’t have much time and I need to get started on crossing off items ASAP! The deadline for my long-term bucket list, which is essentially the end of my life, can feel really far away, and that’s less motivating because I start to feel I have endless time (assuming I die at an older age, of course!). I like to make closer deadlines for my long-term bucket list goals. For example, right now I have a hard deadline of my 30th birthday for my long-term bucket list goals. This creates a sense of urgency that pushes me towards reaching for them now, rather than pushing them off until later and never actually getting around to doing them.
3. Post goals in a visible place.
I hang my goals on my bedroom wall, right next to my desk. By doing this I am sure to always see my goals, and the visual aid reminds me that my bucket list is a priority in my life. Nobody else is going to keep me on track of reaching for my dreams – that’s solely my responsibility, and making my bucket list visible helps remind me that life shouldn’t be the same day-in and day-out. I have experiences I want to have, and I’d better get up and go have them!
4. When the going gets rough, find ways to keep the end in mind.
This one is somewhat related to strategy #3. When I was a student in undergrad, I knew I wanted to go to Columbia for graduate school. That meant I had to study a lot and try my best to get good grades, but whenever I found myself grinding away at the library I would eventually start to lose steam. To keep myself working towards the end goal, I started to draw small boxes at the tops of my home-made study guides, and inside the boxes I’d write “Columbia!” or another academic goal I had. Every time I would get distracted or bored of studying, I would look at the top of my page to find motivation. It doesn’t have to be a visual reminder (although this strategy really helped me) but finding a way to keep the end in mind is a crucial way to ensure you’ll keep putting the work in. It could be wearing a certain bracelet that triggers thoughts of your dreams, or repeating a motivating phrase to yourself when you’re tired and want to stop trying. Anything that helps give a push when you want to quit is immensely beneficial.
5. Keep goals in a constantly rotating queue.
Rather than trying to accomplish all my goals at one time, which would be impossible and probably discouraging, I like to tackle one or two at a time. I keep the others in a line-up so that the second I’m done achieving one item on my bucket list I can get on to the next one. This strategy helps me move things along, always going for the next thing rather than becoming complacent.
That’s all I got for now. What are some strategies you employ to get things done? I’m always looking for new ideas!