The 4 burner theory is something that has stuck in my head for a few years now. It reminds me of scientific proof; primarily the fact that 100% scientific proof of anything is impossible. We are never 100% sure that the theory of gravity is proved, but no one has disproven it yet. And that’s how it goes with the 4 burners. It’s as close to a scientific law for modern time management as anything else. I haven’t been able to disprove it yet.
Ok, so what is it?
Here’s how James Clear explains it’s to me.
Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.
The first burner represents your family.
The second burner is your friends.
The third burner is your health.
The fourth burner is your work.
The Four Burners Theory says 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.”
Cut off two!!
So if someone wants to be uber successful with their family, then they need to abandon all workouts and friends, providing they want to keep their job to keep the paycheck coming in, and excel at that job.
That seems harsh. So most people just keep all 4 burners going and they suck at all of them.
And I’m here to tell you that’s ok.
I’m here to tell you, this is why you feel like you’re struggling. This is why other people are struggling.
And that’s ok.
In fact, remember a few days where we set out the idea that happiness = reality – expectations. If your expectations are that you’ll crush all 4 activities today (and this isn’t helped by the “reality” of people faking their success on Instagram), if you’re expectations are high. You won’t be happy.
It is what it is. You have a typical day where you get the kids off to a nice school, go to work, come home, squeeze in a workout, and try to make a healthy dinner. There, you’ve fired all 4 burners ups. So accept it. Accept that a few workouts will be missed, a few dinners will suck. Cut yourself some slack, because the 4-burner law of this universe means that’s the best that can be done.