Consume What You Can Do

I consider Tiago Forte to be one of the best, most effective thinkers in productivity today. A few years ago, he wrote a particularly good introduction to the Theory of Constraints. I quote:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

About a week in and I can see two problems with this approach:

  • I sometimes read actionable things by accident. So the ‘actionable, to-try’ pile keeps growing larger regardless of what I do.
  • I’m itching to try and expand the bottleneck, even though I know it’s not likely to work. For most techniques, I find you’ll have to focus on it quite a bit, and think about all the nuances before you get it to work.

The biggest win so far has been to have the ‘two experiments of the week’ sit at the top of my todo list, as a reminder.

The way to expand the bottleneck has a couple options

  1. increase your throughput in implementing actionable things
  2. delegate the other actionable things to others and have them report back

While the second option isn’t perfect, you can still glean some learnings from it.

Two experiments per week equates to 104 per year, provided no breaks. Realistically speaking lets say you commit to around 70 of those due to family, vacation, etc.

Allowing a group of people (aka CommonCog group) to perform and track their results allows larger amounts of experiments. 10 people x 2 experiments per week x 35 weeks = 700 experiments

Then there becomes a signal vs noise problem, but if there is a way to increase the quality of the “reports” it might not become an issue

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There may be some positive benefit to letting these pile up. Once you’ve amassed a list you’re no longer comfortable staring at, you can mine through them and try to:

  • Identify the “hot spots” in your current slate of interests and focus there
  • Extract the meta-skills that if experimented on and mastered, would check off multiple experiments (or even whole experimental areas) at once
  • Provide fodder to combine and recombine the experiments in novel ways that weren’t obvious in isolation

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t outrun your own curiosity, so instead learn to make it work for you more effectively


I like this idea a lot :wink:

This is a good point. I don’t see my list of ‘to-experiment’ ideas as a resource to mine for insight; perhaps I should. I’ll have to think about this.

In general, though, I have a handful of things I want to experiment with at any given time. So even though my ‘to-experiment’ list might be arbitrarily long, it’s usually pretty clear (given my work/life context) what’s most important to prioritise in a given week.

Still, both of these comments are really good. I’d not thought about them!