The Upgraded 4 Burner Theory

Upgraded 4 Burner Theory

A while back I read an excellent article by master blogger James Clear on what he called the 4-burner theory. Despite loving the overall concept, I rejected the idea of only having 4 burners. Partially I rejected the number 4 because I prefer odd numbers to even, partially because I just couldn’t quite get around the 4 generic burners and wanted to create my own unique burners. Mostly, I rejected the theory because I love to cook and dream of cooking on one of those bad-ass, huge, 6 burner Viking stoves. Since I’m unlikely to ever have a house big enough to warrant an industrial stove, at least I want one of those fancy cooktops with 4 burners and the grill-thingy in the middle. So, let’s imagine 5 total burners.

What is the point of the burner theory anyway, you ask? Each burner represents a priority in our life. Our top 5 priorities make up our lovely stove. The concept suggests that we can only have a few things on our metaphorical stove at one time, and certainly we can’t effectively work with all of our burners on high all the time. Everything burns when we try this. Therefore, not only do you need to narrow your priorities down to 4-6 items (whatever the size of your “stove”), but you also then need to identify which ones are on high in the front and what is simmering in the back.

Recently, if you have been paying attention to my blog, or lack thereof, it is clear that writing for my website went off the burners. Now part of this is caused by my difficulty with writing (I get anxious about it and then procrastinate), part of this is that my other priorities have been taking up time and energy, so the marketing pot has been off the stove entirely, waiting for a chance to get back on a burner.

Here’s how I think my burners should look: Front and center are My Business and Parenting and these are high heat priorities, needing lots of my time and attention. In the back coming along nicely on lower heat are Relationship and Friends/Family.  In the middle is my Health/Self-Care. When this combo is in play, I am feeling good, taking loving care of myself and my connections and actively working in my business and on being a good mom.

The problem comes in when there are additional requests for my attention. For example, my family was in town in January and February. It was fabulous to have them here, but something needed to move to the back burner when they moved up to the front burner. Thus, no blogs for a while, and I missed my volunteering days at my daughter’s school.  Add in a big project, like writing a book (stay tuned, I really, actually, have one that is soooo close!!!!!) and all of a sudden I need to stay home on Friday night to put time in on that project instead of relaxing with my honey. Get the tradeoffs that need to be made?  It is critical to be realistic with yourself not just about what your real priorities are, but also how you’re going to balance them over time.

Take a moment and identify your top priorities.  Do you have a 4, 5, or 6 burner stove? What is up front on high and what can be on simmer? Anything on the counter waiting for a chance at a burner? When do the burners change for you? How can you plan for this more, and get transparent with others about where your priorities are this month? Getting clear, making a plan to address your priorities and being real about how much you can actually attend to at one time makes all the difference in managing the competing priorities of life. Happy cooking!