Question: I understand that the premise of getting things done is to make decisions on things when they show up, rather then when they blow up. Using this methodology allows you to make decisions and get things done far earlier than waiting to make a decision. But isn’t there some benefit in waiting for the last minute? Suppose I identified that I needed new tires. If I used the GTD method, there is no doubt that I would get my tires earlier, but how would I know that if I had waited, I wouldn’t have, for example, found a coupon and gotten a better deal? If I make decisions when things show up, how can I be confident that those decisions wouldn’t be better had I waited for a few days or weeks?
Answer from Coach James Stevenson: I agree that there are times when acting quickly might not be the best course of action. Your example of buying tires now instead of waiting for the Sunday paper or looking online for sales and coupons could cause me to spend more money than necessary (NOT the optimum outcome!). In reality there are many times in life when acting quickly would not serve us well.
Having said that, the Processing step within the GTD methodology is about deciding what needs to be done as opposed to actually doing it (unless it falls in the “2-minute rule”). It is the difference between Defining versus Doing. (See the article that I wrote for GTD Connect on that subject.) In keeping with the example of needing new tires, your Next Action may very well be “research great deals on new tires for my car.” For me, that Next Action would land on my @Computer list since I would be searching online for those deals. In other words, my true Next Action is not buying new tires, but finding the best deal on a new set of tires. Interestingly, once I found a great deal on new tires, my new next action would still not be “buy new tires,” but it would be scheduling time on my calendar to take my car to the shop for new tires…but that’s just me!
I hope you see that GTD encourages you to do the executive thinking up front and get clear on the very next thing you would actually do. And, as you point out, it isn’t always to jump in to action.
Bottom line is that your thinking is right on target.
James Stevenson presents GTD seminars and does one-on-one coaching for the David Allen Company.