It’s true – great minds think alike! As many of you know, I’ve been working on the concept of “curating your life,” the idea that instead of thinking about balance as if we’re circus acrobats, we need to think about our lives as if we’re museum curators. What’s my exhibit about? What goes in and what gets excluded? Is it time to update my exhibit? My book on this topic, cleverly titled Curating Your Life, will be coming out in April 2020.

So I was fascinated to read a recent post by James Clear, “The Four Burners Theory: The Downside of Work-Life Balance.” His theory proposes that your life is a stove with four burners: family, friends, health, and work. So far so good – most of us would agree with that. But here’s the kicker – the theory also says that to be outstanding you have to turn off one burner, and to become really great you have to turn off two. 

Yikes! Eliminating family, friends, health, or work from my life sounds very grim to me. Clear goes on to suggest four ways to get around that problem:

  1. Combine burners – for example, get a job that requires a lot of physical effort so you get your exercise while you’re working
  2. Outsource burners – for example, pay an assistant to schedule your meetings and keep track of your calendar so you don’t have to spend your energy on that
  3. Embrace constraints – for example, accept that your energy vanishes after 5:00 p.m. and figure out how much you can get done before you hit that limit
  4. Break your life into seasons – for example, take a job that requires little travel when your kids are young, and then hit the road when they’re older and require less of your energy   

I think Clear’s ideas are great – in part because they’re a lot like mine. Curating Your Life is about recognizing limits and focusing on the activities that are most important and meaningful in your life right now. Clear and I both talk about delegation as a big part of managing your energy for peak productivity. My book has a whole chapter on “Re-curating,” or redesigning your life’s exhibit as the years go by.

I even use the stove-top image, although mine is somewhat different. I don’t think the problem is that people are trying to “cook” on all four burners. I think we’re trying to cook seventeen pots on a four-burner stove. Anyone who has tried this knows what happens – the food doesn’t get cooked properly and you end up with a big mess on the floor. So if you’re going to add another pot to your stove, you have to figure out what you’re going to take off. Again – recognize and work within real-life constraints. 

It’s great that many of us in the leadership space are working on this problem – how to help our clients lead lives of productivity and joy. It’s a tough challenge – but it’s doable, and it’s worth it! 

If you’d like to know more about how to curate your life contact us at  

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