Burner List - Manage Your Time with A Piece of Paper

Can you imagine that you can manage your time with a piece of paper, instead of a complicated app? Yes, you can.

One of these methodologies is called burner list, which is introduced in the bestseller Make Time . The author uses a single paper to manage his time, with an ultimate goal: keeping focus.

In brief, a piece of paper can be divided into four areas (see the demo below):

  1. The upper left is for the most important project;
  2. The upper right is for the second most important project;
  3. The lower left is the note area for the most important project;
  4. And the lower right is for misc items;

2 and 4 can be blank is there is no less important projects.

According to this setting, we can

  1. Only focus on up to two prioritized projects at a certain period of time (you can define the time range by yourself, for example, one day).
  2. Fold the paper vertically when we use it. Therefore, we can concentrate on the top priority or the other items at one time.

Take my day as an example

I have planned my today’s project with a burner list:

  1. The top priority is writing: an English post (this one) and a Chinese post, and I need prepare topics for the coming days;
  2. The second priority is team planning: I will set up a Basecamp account, and call my teammates;
  3. The misc tasks include surveying indie hacker website, learn online marketing and review my calendar setup.

I aim to finish all items in Writing and Team Planing by the end of today, but for now, I can focus on the left side of this burner list.


  1. With a single piece of paper, we can manage our time effectively;
  2. The ultimate goal of this methodology is keeping focus;
  3. We build a template on Notion, so you can import to use;
  4. We are building a tool based on burner list, so please stay tuned.


The “Burner List”—My simple, paper-based system for focused to-dos