My Journey with 101 Things in 1001 Days

I’m just 1 person who likes to do things.  Back in 2007, I became aware of something called the 101 Things in 1001 Days challenge when an online friend of mine drew up a list and took it on. The basic idea was to come up with 101 things you wanted to do and try to do them in just 1001 days. That might seem overwhelming, but it averages out to about 3 things a month, which is less than 1 a week. There are many “one thing a week” challenges or even “one thing a day” challenges out there, and those are fantastic, but not sustainable for me in the long term. And, unlike new year’s resolutions, there was more of an emphasis on specific things to do and more time to do some of the larger things.  Doing 101 things in 1001 days, I soon found, was not only the right pace for me but also highly beneficial.

There are things in the back of my mind that I’ve been meaning to do but put off for various reasons. Maybe shinier thing present themselves instead. Maybe I’m just too busy to focus on how to accomplish a thing. Maybe I’m feeling overwhelmed or lazy or distracted. I’ve mentioned before about how much I love making lists, so putting together a list of things I want to get done was a fun exercise. And making it a personal challenge meant I increased my drive and interest in actually getting these things done. The things, now explicitly written out, were suddenly real. And I suddenly had a deadline for them. Now, when I found myself with some free time during a day, I could look at my list and pick out something from it that I could make some progress toward or even complete. And because there are 101 things on the list, I could choose something that was a good match for my mood and the block of time with which I had to work.

At some point, the 101 Things in 1001 Days challenge was rebranded and can now be found at In addition to the original 101 things in 1001 days, members of that site can also find a number of other time-based challenges that might be right for them. Dreaming big and building a long bucket list is enjoyable, but these are challenges aimed at sustaining motivation and helping you turn goals into accomplishments. 

My 101 Things in 1001 Days Lists

Excited by the concept of getting lots of things done, my first list of 101 things was overly ambitious. I divided my list into categories that represented different aspects of my life (self-improvement, home, health and fitness, etc.). I also created a blog (themed around Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat). When I created the list, I was sure I would get every item done. In reality, I only got 50 things done, which is technically less than half. There were things on my list I wish I had phrased better. There were things on my list that belonged in different categories. And there were things on my list that, realistically, I was probably never going to actually do.

It was a great learning experience, and I enjoyed the format of the challenge so much that when my first list finished on March 10, 2010, I immediately began working on my second list on March 11, 2010. I had more success with that list, finishing 67 items from it by the end of the day on December 6, 2012. A third of that list consisted of choosing a new project each month and completing it by the end of the month. Some months I did that better than others, but it was a nice way to give myself some open-ended goals that allowed me to focus on new hobbies or interests I picked up during the 1001 days. 

My third round of 101 Things in 1001 Days was when I started getting especially serious. I developed new ways of tracking my progress, including creating my own merit badge workbook. Doing merit badges was always my favorite things about scouts, and I view this challenge as an extension of that. I created a stamp to use when marking things completed, as well.  I was also more aware of balancing fun things on my list with important adulting things. From December 7, 2012 through September 4, 2015 I got a lot done, but I allowed myself a grace period until the end of September to get just a little bit more done. I ended up completing a grand total of 86 things this way, which blew my previous record of 67 out of the water. 

Beating 86 things was going to be tough, I knew, but my goal when starting my fourth list was to do just that. I considered each item on my list carefully and even had some friends give me recommendations about what to cut or change, as my original list was closer to 150 items. Once again, I listed things that covered different parts of my life, different interests I had. I listed things I needed to get done and wanted to get done. And I worked hard on my list, setting a goal of 3 things a month and trying hard to stick to that or make up for any times I might have fallen short. I allowed myself a grace period of just 8 days after completing the list to wrap up as much as I could. At the end, I managed an unbelievable 90 things! 

Could I beat that for list 5? I was excited to find out! And the answer turned out to be: absolutely not.  The COVID-19 pandemic derailed my progress on many fronts. I was no longer able to visit some of the places I’d hoped to go. Losing my job meant I could no longer afford to do some of the things on the list that would have cost money. Events at which I was hoping to volunteer were cancelled. And my overall motivation and anxiety took turns sending me on various roller coasters of feels during more than a year of the duration of my list. I wrote a section of my list to celebrate my fifth round (write 5 stories just for fun, read 5 books from this list or that, watch 5 Disney movies I somehow missed, etc.), and I am glad I managed to get most of those done. Dedicated to making this the best list yet, I got such a roaring head start on it that even with the pandemic, I’m most likely going to come out with 80 things accomplished. I plan on giving myself a bit of a grace period, so I might do a little better than that.

I definitely won’t beat my record of 90 things, but I’m absolutely okay with that. I have some valid excuses, sure, but more importantly, there had to be a round when I just didn’t do as well as the round before it. For me, that’s going to be round 5. I’m learning to be okay with not living up to my original expectations. I’m okay with not being perfect. I’m still proud of doing better on it than I did during rounds 1, 2, and 3. Even with all the challenges of 2020, I managed to stick to my goals and do many of the things that I wanted to do. 

I’m proud of myself and everything I’ve managed to accomplish, not just this round but since I began this in 2007. More than just the number of things I’ve accomplished, many of which I never would have completed if I hadn’t made them a challenge to myself, is all of the amazing experiences I’ve had: books I read, places I visited, trips I took with friends, shows I enjoyed. I jumped in a bouncy castle for the first time. I played Pooh Sticks with three great friends on my birthday.  I watched every single classic Doctor Who episode in existence. I rode on carousels and Ferris wheels. I wrote my past and future selves letters. I visited historic sites, theaters, concerts, gardens, memorials, parks, museums, and more.  I already have my next list started and can’t wait to enjoy doing some new things! 

Have you ever tried the 101 Things in 1001 Days or Day Zero Project challenge?

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