Getting Sh*t Done | Burn Charts


So we've already talked about time diaries, concept maps, and to do lists. Now I want to talk burn charts.

I first heard the term "burn chart" while listening to a writing podcast called #amwriting. It's awesome, so if you're any kind of writer -- academic, fiction, non-fiction, poet, whatever -- you should give it a listen. KJ Dell'Antonia, one of the two co-hosts (the other is Jess Lahey), is an avid burn charter. And apparently I am too, even though I never used that term to describe what I do.

So what is a burn chart?

A burn chart is the calendarized version of your really detailed to do lists. You reverse engineer your timing according to a real, anticipated, or self-created due date.

And why do you care?

Your burn chart is the last ingredient in the planning process that takes your to do list from wildly, dangerously, and painfully unhelpful to ongoing, self-propelling, and automatically reminding.


Okay. Let's do this.

Notice the number "3" in the lower right hand corner. This means that this project, the LASA paper, is #3 on the list this year in terms of when we're starting. Review the project list post here.

Whoa! This looks different than it did in the last post about to do lists.

First, we noted when the project needed to be done (from our first project list).

Marie and I annotated it in three waves:

  1. We bracketed tasks that we planned on "bundling" -- planning that the lot of them would be done together, by the same person, in the same X week period.

  2. Then we noted how long we thought each task (or bundle of tasks) would take.

  3. And then, using the approximated periods of time assigned to each task, we reverse engineered when each task, or set of tasks, would need to be done.

Once we did that for every project on our project list (for which we already made those exhaustive, comprehensive to do lists), it was time to move off paper and onto the interwebz.

Our shared Google calendar for February 2018


Marie and I set up a shared Google calendar where we input all our deadlines -- big ones and little ones, hers and mine -- and enabled reminders.

Automation is the future.

Work smarter, not harder!

I hope the "Getting Sh*t Done" series has been helpful! I've got more ideas on tap, and if you have any you'd like to share, you can catch me at any of the links below!