The Four Burners Theory

By: Joel Cochran

Have you heard of the Four Burners Theory?  Me neither until I came across an article written by James Clear who is the Author of Atomic Habits which has quickly become one of my favorite self help books of all time.  

The concept behind the Four Burners Theory is that like a stove top, there are four foundational burners that are represented as family, friends, work and health.  The theory states that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.”

When I initially read this theory my knee jerk reaction was, “watch me keep all 4 of those burners hot!”.  Then after sitting back for a second and realizing that I still had a full list of work task, family requests, friend texts and a workout to do; I submitted to the idea that there is only so much heat that I can produce in one day and this theory might have some validity.

As I read on, James highlighted 3 options that could be applied to the theory:

  1. Outsource Burners
  2. Embrace Constraints
  3. The Seasons of Life

Outsource Burners – The idea behind this is to outsource portions of your life so that it allows you to free up time for other parts.  Want to turn up the heat on your family burner but find yourself burning hot on your work? Delegating tasks at work would be the first and quickest way to apply this idea and free up time to turn up the heat on other burners.

Embrace Constraints – The idea behind this is to embrace that you have daily constraints and instead of asking for more time, figure out how to maximize your time more efficiently so that you can be more effective with the time that you do have.  Does your work burner need to be high because of a looming project but you don’t want to turn your health burner down to a simmer? Instead of turning off your health burner, find 10 mins in your morning to do 50 burpees as fast as you possibly can.  

The Seasons of Life – The idea behind this is break your life into seasons which will turn some burners up and others down.  When you are in your 20’s and early 30’s your work and health burners might be on full heat. A few years later that might change when you get married and start a family as your family burner might get all of the heat for a couple of years.  

After reading completely through this article I realized that regardless of what idea of this theory that you might find most beneficial, it really comes down to recognizing what burners are on, and which ones are off.  Or even worse, if you are trying to run all 4 burners at once.

Do you feel that you are having a hard time balancing your burners? Are things getting to hot?  Shoot me an email at [email protected] or send me text at 775-338-9966 and share your story with me!