The Burner List
A simple-as-hell to-do list designed to force you to prioritize. Intentionally limited - and therefore focused.
Here’s how to make one:
One sheet of blank paper (printer paper is perfect)
Make two tall columns You can fold the paper, draw a line down the middle, or just eyeball it. Precision is unimportant. What is important is the metaphor you’ve just created: Left = front burner. Right = back burner
Put your most important project on the front burner You are allowed to have one and only one project on the front burner. Not two, not three — just one. In the top left-hand corner, write the name of your most important project and underline it. Then list the to-dos for your top project — any task you can do in the next few days to move it forward
Leave some counter space Leave the rest of the first column empty. The blank space gives you room to add more tasks for the top project, but, just as important, extra visual space makes it easier to focus on the important stuff
Put your second most important project on the back burner In the top of the right-hand column, write the name of your second most important project and underline it, then write related to-dos underneath.
Make a kitchen sink Finally, about halfway down the right-hand column, list any miscellaneous tasks that you need to do but don’t fit with project 1 or project 2. It doesn’t matter if they’re part of project 3 or 4, they just get chucked into the kitchen sink with everything else. Yes, this goes counter to all organizational and productivity advice — but by constraining the space and attention you give to other stuff, you’ll help yourself spend your time well.
Now get cooking.
Imagine there was a chef standing to the left of your page. He’ll naturally focus most of his attention on the front burner. He’s aware of the back burner, and sometimes he stirs a pot or flips a pancake back there, but the front burner is where the action is.