How to Create a Bucket List for the New Year

Happy senior couple celebrating New Year eve together.

As one year draws to a close and another begins, people often shift their attention to setting goals and making resolutions. While January may start with the best of intentions, most of us have difficulty sticking to our plan. Experts say that happens for a variety of reasons, ranging from trying to make too many changes at once to not having a good system in place for holding yourself accountable.

Whatever the reason, of the 41% of the general population who make resolutions, only 9% to 12% stick with them. So, if you find yourself feeling bad every January when your willpower fades, it’s clear you aren’t alone. This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, one alternative to consider is creating a bucket list.

What is a bucket list? For retirees, it can be an especially meaningful way to live with greater purpose in 2024. Here’s what a bucket list is and how it works.

Understanding the Bucket List

Creating a bucket list is a project that helps a person think through their unaccomplished dreams and develop a path for achieving them. And it’s not limited to what you’d like to do over just one year. This is a list of what you’d like to complete during the rest of your life.

Putting your hopes on paper can be a great start in determining what is really important and what might not actually be. The following tips might be useful in getting your bucket list started:

  • Block out some quiet time

Many of us spend so much of our lives juggling busy work and family obligations that there’s little time left for introspection. As the years go by, however, not making time for your personal dreams can take a toll on your mental well-being. That’s why this first step is so important.

Reflect back on what you liked to do as a child and teen. The hopes you had for how you would live your adult life. The hobbies and interests you had to put on the back burner when your time was stretched so thin. Jot down those ideas as they come to you. Don’t worry about the format for now—just focus on the ideas.

  • Go back through your musings

Once you’ve reconnected with things that once intrigued you or activities you used to enjoy, decide which ones matter most. Don’t sell yourself short on this. Remember, completing everything on a bucket list usually takes years. Instead of dropping things from your plan, make them a lower priority. By prioritizing what is most important, you will have an easier time figuring out what to do when.

While there is no one format that works best, people often find it helpful to break items down into short-term and long-term lists. If you’ve prioritized the elements in your plan, that should be much easier to do.

  • Build in accountability

As is true of most things that require us to step outside our comfort zone, another factor to consider is how to build in accountability. Do you have a loved one who might want to join you in this project? You and your bucket buddy can hold each other accountable.

For those people who might not like the idea of sharing their dreams with someone else, another option is to give yourself deadlines to work toward each item on your list. Then write it on your calendar to check in with yourself every week to evaluate your progress.

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