Why You Should Make a Bucket List

Last Updated Mar 11, 2011 1:14 PM EST

Since I write a lot about time management, people often ask me for tips on how to find an extra hour, or sometimes even an extra 15 minutes in their days.
I have tips, sure, but I always try to ask a bigger question: what are you saving that time for? One side effect of our modern belief that we're starved for time is that we seldom ask what we want to do with our hours.

But it's a fun, if challenging, question to ponder. One of the best approaches for figuring out what you'd like to be doing with your time is to make something called a List of 100 Dreams. I originally got this exercise from Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career coach who often works with people in transitions. The List of 100 Dreams is basically a bucket list of anything you might want to do or have in your life. It could include:
  • 10 places you'd like to visit
  • 10 financial goals you'd like to achieve
  • 10 restaurants you'd like to try
  • 10 career goals
  • Random fun things you'd like to do with your family, like going disco roller skating or ice fishing.
You can see a list I made in October of 2010 here. It's pretty hard to get all the way to 100, though if you find it easy, then call it the List of 1000 Dreams and keep going until you're not editing yourself at all.

Then -- this is the fun part -- go through and start knocking off a few that only take a few bucks or a few hours. For instance, when I made a List of 100 Dreams in early 2009, one item was to attend a performance of Bach's B-Minor Mass (it's my favorite work of music). I hunted around until I found a performance in the next few months, got tickets, and had that to look forward to. Researchers find that anticipating an experience gives us almost as much of a thrill as the actual event.

Why should you do this? I actually think it's a great productivity tool. As you start putting things into your life that bring you great joy, you'll naturally be more focused at work, because you'll have a compelling personal life that will make you want to leave the office on time. And when you list your professional goals in black and white, you spend more time on these important things at work -- and less time goofing off.

What would go on your List of 100 Dreams?

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Photo courtesy flickr user, donjd2

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