Theory of constraints
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Theory of constraints

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Theory of constraints is a mental model that helps you take a critical look at your life, capture areas where you're not making as much progress as you'd like, identify bottlenecks and make a change to move closer to your goals.

🔖 Table of contents

💡 About the framework

The idea of this framework is to continuously identify bottlenecks that are hindering your progress in personal development or professional growth, increase the capacity where it's needed and continuously repeat the process to move closer to your goal.

✂️ How to use it?

1. Capture activities

Write down the activities - hobbies, projects, work tasks - where you feel stuck. We are often held back from achieving at the level we'd like. Try to think about the activities where you feel most frustration at the lack of progress - that stack of books on your nightstand, the yoga class you've been meaning to take but always find an excuse, the job hunt, the side project you've been postponing forever.

2. Assess your time, motivation and knowledge

Focus on one activity at a time, and identify each of the 3 underlying inputs for that activity:

  • Time you're putting in
  • Motivation you have to pursue that activity
  • Knowledge you have of how to move forward

Think about each input and describe where you are today - a table is a good way to capture your thoughts.

Theory of constraints analysis

ActivityTimeMotivationKnowledge

3. Reflect

Look at the table and reflect. Ask yourself the following questions - By doubling which of these inputs could I finally get myself to pursue this activity / hobby project? Increase that input first. For example, if time you're spending is an issue, give yourself a couple of days - weeks, depending on the activity and double down on increasing the amount of time. Give yourself a goal, and set a reminder to sit down again and assess if a change took place.

Then, if you find yourself stuck once after starting, repeat the process. Perhaps next time your motivation or knowledge gap will be the constraint.

🌊 Example

1. Capture activities

For this example, let's look at my goal of reading more. I constantly remind myself that I need to devote more mindspace to getting through my to-read list, but at the end of the month nothing seems to change.

2. Assess your time, motivation and knowledge

Theory of constraints analysis

ActivityTimeMotivationKnowledge
Reading books
1-2 hours weekly on average
Getting through my to-read list
I absolutely know the books I want to read

3. Reflect

Ask yourself - By doubling which of these inputs could I finally get myself to pursue this activity? Looking at my table, I definitely think the time and the motivation are both issues with how I'm approaching reading today:

  • Time - Instead of waiting to "find time", I can proactively make the time to read books. Perhaps I can also double the time - so I will aim to spend 2-4 hours per week reading. I will set 30-minute blockers in my calendar every day before sleep, and maybe some of those will stick.
  • Motivation - This is very vague, I think I am overwhelmed by the amount of books on my list and that feeling prevails the enjoyment of reading. Maybe I can archive my list, and for now just choose 1 book that I'm truly excited about
  • I will make these changes and set a reminder in 1 month to revisit this again.

📚 Additional reading resources