Looking at ‘Life’ and ‘Work’ Beyond Balance: The Four Burners Theory

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Looking at ‘Life’ and ‘Work’ Beyond Balance: The Four Burners Theory

Looking at ‘Life’ and ‘Work’ Beyond Balance The Four Burners Theory

That work life balance is overrated and is actually a fallacy is a trending discussion today. Now, think about the great debate of all times in a new perspective – that of the Four Burners Theory.

Imagine your life to be a four-burner stove – one each for your family, friends, work, and health. As per the theory, 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. 

There, so you can’t have it all – despite what time management experts, motivation gurus, and self-empowering techniques say. Or can you? Could there be a way out to maneuver away from life’s inevitable tradeoffs as stated by the Four Burners Theory and still be successful? The downside of work life balance, as James Clear puts it, doesn’t have to be that bad – there is a way you can maximize your time on each of the burners to at least avoid total cutting one or two off. Here’s how to go about it:

#1 Outsource burners that are flickering or faltering: If your family feels neglected coz you spend a major part of your time working, outsource personal tasks such as planning a family dinner/vacation, buying gifts for loved ones, finding a baby-sitter for kids so spouse can have some ‘me’ time, etc. to a virtual assistant. The advantage – perfecting the art of delegation helps you keep the burner running without spending too much time on it. And whatever little family time you do get, you can spend it straightaway on connecting meaningfully with loved ones – without the burden of planning, scheduling, budgeting, etc.

#2 Maximize potential on each of the burners: This one can’t be done without consequences but you got to weigh your options here – can adding just an hour more of work make you significantly more productive? Can sacrificing just an hour of sleep to become a morning person and get some exercise make you much healthier? Could spending just a little bit more time with kids make them feel loved and secure? Ask yourself such pertinent questions to maximize your potential without trading-off too much in any one aspect.

#3 Switch on your burners seasonally – not all at the same time: Remember the old adage that goes ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’? Clearly, one needs to make sacrifices if mastery is the desired outcome in any of the burners. Wanting all-around excellence in all the burners all the time could be like asking for too much, as Chris Guillebeau explains. So, a good way would be to focus on one burner for extended periods of time so you can truly master that aspect of life, before moving on to others. For instance, cut off from friends for two-three months (explain your absence beforehand) when you have a critical project deadline or exam coming up in order to truly focus on work. When that is done, take an extended trip/vacation with friends to rejuvenate ties and pick up from where you left.

#4 Know your central burner: This one has the potential to control all your other burners y regulating the flow of gas. To take the analogy to life, it would mean that you can control three burners when your sense of purpose in the one central burner is clearly defined.

So which burners do you plan to cut off or do you need a new stove altogether? Whatever be the case, remember that every choice has a cost and one that is far from monetary.

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