Understanding the theory of constraints.

The theory of constraints views any system as being limited by a small number of constraints. This is easiest to imagine in a manufacturing process – there is typically one machine that limits the production capacity of the plant.

It is no different in our lives. 24 hours, for example, is a constraint that limits us. In fact, the smarter way to think about it might be to view 12 hours as the real constraint. It is hard to sustain 12 hour days over a lifetime even if you might work harder than that for certain periods. And, even then, we’re discussing quantity of work and not quality. So, a really smart way to think about it might be to think in terms of the 3-5 hours of productive time we have in a day. On the one hand, it can be less of a constraint if you can drive that number up. On the other, it is important that we begin by just being aware of that limiting constraint.

Once you understand your constraints, the theory of constraints recommends that you design your system around that constraint. So, in our daily lives, that would mean ensuring we free up bandwidth to ensure we get the most out of the productive hours. It would also mean we sleep well, eat healthy and exercise regularly so we’re consistently pushing up the quality of our thinking during those productive hours.

Understand constraints is critical to understanding reality. And, understanding reality is critical to doing great work.