How to Make a Deployment Bucket List

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Type the phrase “what to do during deployment” into Google and tons of interesting ideas pop up. There are lists of self-improvement ideas, advice on what to expect, and things to do to stay busy. It’s no wonder that many military spouses make a deployment bucket list.

Some spouses don’t make an actual list, as much as they assign things to be done after their service member is gone. We have all come across a task in the weeks leading up to deployment that put off until ‘after he leaves’.

For me, it started as scrapbooking. Every time I thought about getting out my scrapbook stuff, I would think, “Heff will be gone soon. You better spend this time with him.” That mentality quickly spread to nagging chores that I wanted to put off. “Oh, that closet needs to be cleaned out. It can wait till after he leaves. Start a diet? Nah, better wait till he’s gone, so I can make all his favorite things now.”

Pretty soon, I had a whole inventory of things to do while he was deployed. So, true to my obsessive-list-making nature, I wrote them down. However, this was a depressing list of nagging chores and dieting. To make my list more fun and actually give me something to look forward to, I created a Deployment Bucket List

Deployment Bucket List: a list of 100 things to do while your spouse is deployed
(I printed off our list & hung it on the wall.)

Why You Should Make a Deployment Bucket List

1. To Make Time Go By Faster

We all know that time flies by when we’re busy, but let us get even a little bit bored and time will slow to a crawl. During deployment, time is already moving at a much slower pace. (I’m pretty sure that is a scientific fact!) So, it’s useful to find things to do to make the time go by faster.

2. It Keeps You Motivated

Essentially, a bucket list is a list of goals. Modern psychology tells us that goal-setting is a great motivator for most people and we tend to be especially motivated if the goal has a deadline attached. 

I found my deployment bucket list to be hugely motivating, especially since I was doing it so publicly (via Facebook and Instagram). 

My Bucket List: Guided Prompt Journal For Keeping Track of Your Adventures | 100 EntriesMy Bucket List: Guided Prompt Journal For Keeping Track of Your Adventures | 100 EntriesMy Bucket List: Guided Prompt Journal For Keeping Track of Your Adventures | 100 EntriesThe Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small (Bucket Lists)The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small (Bucket Lists)The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small (Bucket Lists)


3. To Make New Memories

I ended up doing things that I might not have done without my husband, simply because it was ‘on my list’. Some things that started out as just ‘checking off’ an item on the list became a fun and memorable way for the kids and I to spend the day together. 

For example, I lived in Northwest Florida for 20 years but never visited Mobile to see the USS Alabama. I had the mindset that it would always be there and I would eventually go and see it. 

However, because I made ‘spend the day in Mobile‘ a bucket list item, I felt obligated to finally make the time to go. We had a lot of fun and my kids still talk about the battle ship months later!

4. Marking Things Off of a List Feels Good

There is something so satisfying about completing a task and marking it off a list. And a bucket list is no exception. This sense of accomplishment has been proven to boost happiness (and during deployment, you need all the happiness you can get).

How to Make a Deployment Bucket List

It seems that this would be the easiest part. You just write down all the things you want to do while your service member is gone.

Easy, right?

Nope! That wasn’t the case for me. I wanted 100 items on my deployment bucket list. And thinking of 100 things that I could reasonably do in one year was easier said than done. It took me a couple of weeks and a lot of Google and Pinterest searching to make this list.

Here’s the process I used to write my deployment bucket list:

The Amazing Bucket List Book & Planner - Travel Journal - Grey FabricThe Amazing Bucket List Book & Planner – Travel Journal – Grey FabricThe Amazing Bucket List Book & Planner - Travel Journal - Grey FabricMy Bucket List Journal - Living the DreamMy Bucket List Journal – Living the DreamMy Bucket List Journal - Living the Dream


1. Write Down the Things You Are Sure About

The first step to writing the Deployment Bucket List is to write down the things that you know FOR SURE that you want (or need) to do. This means that mental inventory of things you’ve been putting off ‘until he’s gone’.

These are the ideas that are already floating around in your head. Also, write down the things that you already like to do.

  • Love to read? Read at least one book each month he’s gone.
  • Have you been meaning to lose weight? Add it to the list.
  • Love to cook? Make it a point to try some new recipes.
  • Need to clean out the garage or organize family photos? This is the year!

For me, this step added about 30 items to my list. Which meant that I still had 70 more slots to fill!

(I made this savings tracker to help us reach our goal of saving money!)

2. Add Some Long-Term Goals

Some of the items on your bucket list should take more than one day to complete. After all, there are several months until your service member’s return. This is the perfect time to tackle those big projects. Dedicating time to these difficult and time-consuming things will strengthen your resolve. Plus, the feeling of accomplishment when you complete these tasks will {almost} be worth the time spent apart.

  • Do a Bible study
  • Train for a race
  • Learn a new language
  • Write a novel
The Bible study I did as part of my deployment bucket list.
(I loved this Bible study from the Good Morning Girls!)

3. Add Short-Term Items That You Can Complete in a Day/Weekend

There should also be many items on your bucket list that you can complete in one day or weekend. Nothing is better than having a small project or trip to fill the time. It’s an affordable boredom buster that can get you out of that deployment funk.

(#51 on the list was ‘bake pumpkin rolls’!)

4. Add Items to Develop Personal Growth

You should always strive to be the best version of yourself. Now that your significant other is away for a while, there’s more time to devote to your personal growth. Although it’s difficult to put personal growth into measurable/actionable words, it can be done.

  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Meditate 10 minutes each day
  • Read 3 self-help books

5. Add Items That Benefit Others

I feel that this is an important aspect of any bucket list since the nature of bucket lists tends to be a bit narcissistic. Giving to others not only helps them, but it will also boost your happiness.

  • Volunteer 4 hours each week
  • Do 12 random acts of kindness
  • Throw someone a party
  • Send your service member a care package (or 12!)
Deployment Bucket List: Buy gifts for Christmas angel.
(We adopted a “Christmas Angel” from a local organization.)

6. Include Items that Improve Your Health/Fitness

Maybe you need to lose a substantial amount of weight or maybe you’re already fit as a fiddle. Either way, there are many ways to increase your health. This could be the year that you take the initiative to make your health a top priority.

  • Run 365 miles this year
  • Try a new fitness class
  • Master 1 difficult yoga pose
  • Join a gym

7. Give Yourself Some ‘Freebie’ Items

If you are trying to complete 100 items in 1 year, that means that you are going to have to check off roughly 2 items each week. Trust me when I say that this is no easy task! I suggest giving yourself some ‘freebie’ items. These are items that you probably already do or plan to do regardless of where your service member is. For me, some of my freebies were holiday traditions.

(We made Christmas ornaments!)

Other freebie items were small luxuries that I splurge on from time to time.

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Get a pedicure
  • Buy a new outfit
  • Go to the beach

I hope this tutorial helps you to make a deployment bucket list of your own! It’s a great way to make the time go by faster during those long and lonely deployments.