Santorini Greece

How To Complete 101 Things in 1001 Days (and change your life in the process)

Do you wish you could tackle all those things you’d like to do “someday”? I just completed 101 things in 1001 days, and, aside from having a blast and getting things done, I also changed my life by becoming more adventurous, confident, and social. I’ve seen many people make a list and then ignore it within two or three months. Here are nine tips for making and completing your own list of 101 things in 1001 days and changing your life in the process.

1. Identify your weaknesses and fears, and choose tasks to help you confront them

Let’s face it: we all have some weaknesses. Make a list of traits that you want to work on improving, and think of some concrete steps you can take. For example, I completed a task to not complain for a week. It was a bad habit I had fallen into. I read advice on how to manage it, and it took me several extra days of practice and starting over before I found my self-awareness increasing to the point where I could stop myself before the complaint slipped out. Once the challenge was over, I still had more control over my negativity. Some other weaknesses I addressed through my list: fear of doing things alone, fear of heights, being squeamish, being a homebody, and procrastinating. What are some things about yourself that you’d like to improve? Pepper your list with challenges that will help you.

2. Mix adventure in with the ordinary

101 things is a lot of things, so remember that every item on your list shouldn’t be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Think of at least a few “bucket list” adventures that you definitely want to accomplish within the next few years and start there. Have you wanted to try skydiving, take a dream vacation, or run with the bulls? Start with the adventurous items that you have never gotten around to doing, but that it’s realistic you could do in the next 2.75 years. Then add in less “thrilling” adventures that you have also always wanted to try. Finally, include some activities you haven’t tried or that you’ve already done and never manage to do again.

For example, some of my “bucket list” adventures included: go to Greece, take a trapeze class, and travel alone. Some of my less thrilling, but still delightful bits of excitement: go F1 racing, jump off a cliff, and learn to juggle. I had plenty of “ordinary” tasks that I had never gotten around to trying: make my own pasta, take a Zumba class, and try haggis. And then there were tasks I had loved doing years ago and wanted to do again: go strawberry picking, make fondue, and go tubing down a river with my kids.

3. Make it social

An unexpected benefit of working through my list was how much I had to come out of my shell and involve a wider set of people in my life. As an introvert, I usually avoid setting up social situations, but once people heard about my list, they were constantly asking me how it was going and expressing interest in doing some of the items with me. Whether it was riding a mechanical bull, making my own beer, or shooting a gun, it was so much fun to expand the circle of people in my life and include them in my tasks.

4. Break it down

For tasks that require skills you don’t have, it helps to break them down. For example, I can’t play the guitar, but playing the one song I learned 30 years ago was on my list. I broke the task down by first finding the music, then learning to read the notes, and then practicing some chords. I approached it in little 10-minute bites over the course of several weeks, and each day I made a little progress. The same was true of juggling. It seemed that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but by practicing for 10 minutes a day, every day, I started to see progress within only a week. For another task, I had to memorize a 131-line poem, so I carried a stanza at a time in my pocket and practiced it for a minute or two several times throughout the day.

5. Be flexible

If you’re making a list of things to do for fun and self-improvement, it’s important to be flexible. If there are factors that keep a certain task from being completed — as there probably will be — think about the idea behind it, and see if you can make a substitution that makes sense. For example, because of international travel, I was not able to give blood as I originally planned, so I substituted giving a gut sample to the American Gut Study. I also planned to paint my peeling garage doors (a chore I had neglected), but when they broke before I repainted them, I gave it a twist and tagged them with some graffiti instead. You are the judge, so set your own rules. There will be some gray areas about whether you’ve completed a task, but just be true to yourself and your goals. For example, one of my sons argued that listening to audiobooks during my commute didn’t count as reading the classics, but I thought it did; it met the goals I had set for myself. Another time, I had the opportunity to get a zombie makeover, which I counted as getting a makeover. Fun!

6. Explore your own location

You don’t need to travel the world for adventure; explore your own area for new things to do. I visited “Roadside America” attractions, “Road Food” restaurants, and museums right nearby that I had never been to before. I also made it to a local place that’s the site of the first cheeseburger, and I staged a showdown for the best pizza place in New Haven.

7. Stay on schedule

To stay on schedule, you will need to complete a task every 10 days. Sometimes you’ll get ahead, and sometimes you’ll fall behind, but if you keep that in mind it will help you to stay on track. I used a calendar to schedule in challenges that depended on a certain season, but other than that, I would look over my list on the weekends and see what I felt like tackling in the week ahead. Whether it was milking a cow or attending an art class, I always had something interesting on the horizon.

8. Keep yourself accountable

Write your list down and tell your friends about it. You can share it on Facebook or publish it at Day Zero. Maybe you’d like to start your own blog or tweet your updates? Making your list public will keep you motivated and accountable.

9. Research other lists

Day Zero is a great resource for ideas and inspiration. By exploring the ideas of others and including challenges that will stretch yourself, you will feel yourself growing and changing as you work through your list.

Start the new year by choosing 101 things that will allow you to stretch yourself, confront your fears, and have plenty of adventure with your family and friends.

Marcy Light blogs at (Don’t Be) Too Timid and Squeamish. She just finished her own list of 101 things in 1001 days, and she is looking for new challenges to try in the new year. If you make your own list, she would love to hear from you.