We have a limited amount of energy to invest in new habits, so how do we know which habits to try to form? I know two complementary strategies.

  1. Look for bottlenecks (in the Theory of Constraints sense) because they represent urgent problems to solve, then look for a habit that will “fix” the bottleneck.

  2. Follow your energy, meaning form the habits that you feel ready to form, even if they aren’t exactly solutions to current bottlenecks.

I consider each of these practical, but for different reasons. Chasing bottlenecks means optimizing your energy to form habits that you believe will deliver the most value into our life. Following your energy means optimizing your energy to form habits that you believe you are most likely to actually do/least likely to resist. Following your energy will allow you to make progress with less stress, saving energy that allows you to work more easily towards alleviating bottlenecks, so I recommend doing some of each at the same time. If following your energy leads you to work on a bottleneck, then so much the better!

Try This At Home

So, this might lead you to a simple two-part exercise:

  • identify one bottleneck and look around for a potential solution to it
  • think about habits you want to form until something pops into your mind that you feel like you want to start doing today, even if you can’t relate it to a bottleneck in your life

In both cases, it might help just to find a quiet place to think, such as sitting in the bath, standing in the shower, taking a walk, or meditating. Do something that lets your mind run freely.


J. B. Rainsberger, “Change Your Life One Habit At a Time”. Once you’ve chosen a new habit, this article helps you form it.

Eli Goldratt and others, The Goal. An introduction to the power of the Theory of Constraints. I generally use bottlenecks to help identify problems “worth solving”.

Vicki Robin and others, Your Money or Your Life. Once I recognized “my attitudes towards and knowledge about money” as a bottleneck, this book really helped me learn what I needed to learn. I continue to use what I learned from this book today.