Using an Anti-Bucket List to Clear Space in Your Head

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, 2016

I am recalling a flight to DC a few years ago. (Remember when we complained about the airlines? I even miss the airport.) So on this flight to DC, my older daughter and I got the idea from somewhere to write an “anti-bucket list.” This is the opposite of the ever popular bucket list, in which we are supposed to catalog all of the things we want to do in the this life and then not do any of them.

So we thought, what if we write down all of the things that we are sure we will never do, to get them out of the way? I fear we made a bit of a scene when we got laughing too hard. Here are a few things that we added to the list:

  • Take up smoking
  • Buy a motorcycle
  • Learn how to ski
  • Get a law degree
  • Climb a mountain
  • Walk across a suspension bridge made of rope (this one is just mine)
  • Jump out of an airplane (daughter #1 has reserved her options on this one but as she is soon to be a mother I am fairly confident on this)
  • Scuba dive through underwater caves
  • Anything to do with caves, really.
Fitzpatrick/Kean family members on the Bridge without VeryKate and & daughter #2 who were watching sheep

I’ve been thinking lately about all of the planning that needs to be done to keep our local governments on track, rebuilt, and thriving again after the pandemic. Like many of you, I am overwhelmed by the effort to simply get through the day given the financial crisis impacting our budgets, the difficult and meaningful work of examining our structures through an equity lens, and meeting constantly about COVID testing and vaccinations (rinse, repeat). We need more head space to think clearly.

I often turn to one of my favorite authors and motivational speakers, Mel Robbins, for simple and practical ways to confront problems. In her YouTube video “How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed Right Now” Robbins asserts that being overwhelmed is nothing more than having a full brain. Her solution for clearing space is a “brain dump.” She suggests that we write down our to-do lists, worries, plans, ideas, etc. Doing this every morning can help us prioritize tasks and plan our days. More importantly for me, I find that if a task or idea is written down in a place where I know I can find it (fellow notebook lovers, you know who you are), then I can let it go for a while and concentrate on what needs to be done immediately.

I wonder if creating an anti-bucket list for local government will help? Even if it just makes me laugh it is worth it. Here is a sample of things I have committed not to do:

  • Embezzle
  • Yell
  • Click on a link in an email from a foreign country
  • Approve only the highest bidder
  • Fall asleep during a cable TV license hearing
  • Go back to wearing stockings
  • Run for political office
  • “Fight City Hall”
  • Pull a fire alarm.

Practicing the daily brain dump and laughing about a work-related anti-bucket list got me thinking about the sheer magnitude of what we are trying to accomplish. I now resolve to do nothing new until FY22. That’s catchy enough to be our mantra for the winter and spring! Are you with me?

Here is the aforementioned sheep. You’re welcome.

How about you? What would be the first thing you put on your anti-bucket list? Do you have any strategies for clearing space for thoughtful work? Let’s practice – notebook(s) in hand.

9 thoughts on “Using an Anti-Bucket List to Clear Space in Your Head

  1. Kate – I love this! I have an anti-bucket list item: “Do not confirm you are muted when on a Zoom meeting” (did I say that right?! You know what I mean!)

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  2. HI Kate

    I continue to love your blog.

    I owned a motorcycle
    I have climbed over 125 mountains
    I love suspension bridges Did several in New Zealand
    I Jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet
    I use to Scuba dive
    Love caves

    My anti list – Meetings and the rest of the list is to long
    Happy New year

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  3. I totally expected to see “never wear a slip again.” I feel like we out ourselves as women growing up in the 70’s & 80’s by owning one!

    The bridge at Mizen Head in West Cork is on my bucket list, eating seaweed is extremely anti however!

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  4. Kate – I recognize that bridge and gladly “anti-bucket” listed it. Our driver tried really hard to get us to try.
    Two of my long-held anti-bucket list items are karaoke (I have actually several back-up plans in place to make sure that doesn’t happen) and bungee jumping off of anything. Thanks for your blog – I really enjoy it.

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  5. For most of your non-work list, I concur, but I skied back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and while I can’t say I’ve climbed a real mountain, I know I’ve climbed a few of the New England type back in the day. As for the work list, I do yell, but it is primal scream therapy, never at someone. Let someone else lose their cool. “Fight City Hall” – I do that all the time. And while I don’t expect to run for office here in Providence, even after retirement (there are just the fifteen Ward Councilors plus the mayor (I guess there are State Representatives, etc.)), I do hope to be involved in civil affairs for a number of years after retirement.

    But yes, I’ve become old enough not to need any thrills. Let me put in the time to learn how to play a guitar instead.

    For work – playing the short game, lying, slouching (although I have to keep reminding myself) at a meeting, failing to provide “Murphy” with the proper amounts and types of sacrifices – this looks more like a list of “trying” than absolutely not doing. My guess is that there are sufficient things that I don’t even think about doing so I never do think about doing them (or something like that).

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  6. I am glad you won’t fall asleep on live TV. However, I implore you to caveat your “Pull a Fire Alarm” with the following “…unless there is a fire.” Sincerely, Someone who Works in the Same Building.

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