View Full Version : Making decisions
12-09-2003, 06:40 PM
What if your next action is a decision?
We recently remodeled our living room into a 'play' room or game room. We installed a pool table, stereo and a pub table for card games, etc. We also mounted a TV in the corner of the room. Now that all the decorating is done, the last item to 'close' this remodeling project is to decide whether or not to subscribe to cable tv service or not. To keep this brief, we can afford it and we have just never had it. We are now trying to decide of we should subscribe. Should I just toss this item on the someday maybe list and consider the remodeling project closed or should the next action be 'make a decision on cable service'?
All thoughts appreciated.
12-09-2003, 06:50 PM
One of the things that David Allen suggested in the seminar I went to is that "R&D" is actually a Next Action verb - so, your next action would be "R&D cable for the play room".
12-10-2003, 12:04 AM
Deciding something takes a split second. So it should not be a next action. If you have "decide" on the next action list, this probably means you are missing something: exact costs (set up costs, ...), a clear overview of pros and cons, other information, ... . So try to figure out what you are missing, then define your really next action.
12-10-2003, 11:13 PM
Let me take the example of the original poster.
He wants to decide if he will take cable or not.
What I said in my original post was: if he has all the relevant data (subscription rates, installation costs, non-financial criteria, ...) and he has analysed it, then deciding on yes or no cannot take long: I guess it will take less than two minutes and hence it cannot make it to the next action list!
For me, the decision is really the last babystep in the process described above. As I understand from your mail, for you gathering and analysing data is considered as being part of the decision taking.
Under your definition, I personally would not put "decide" on my next action list, but rather "collect data on ..." or "analyse data ...", but this will depend on the person, "size" of decision, etc...
I did not want to start the discussion if "decide" is eligible for action list use or not, but I wanted to indicate to the original poster that if you want to take a decision, but you are not able to do so immediately (that's why you put it on the next action list), there might be something else that is missing: data, analysis, a clear idea of the decisioncriteria you want to use, ...
Hope this helps.
12-11-2003, 02:36 AM
Decisions can sometimes be rather difficult to assess. When you are designing something that is completely new for you, it might turnout that no amount of research will yield satisfactory results ie. data alone cannot (always) make decisions for you.
Coz (as usual!) is making very observant remarks. "Decide" is a useful NA if "the Stuff" to be decided about is simple.
When you are doing something artistic or design-intensive a "create an effective decisionmaking process" might be an ongoing project for you...
We come back to DA's natural planning process... it is useful also in deciding about decisions...
At runway level this mulling over is too complicated. At 50000 ft. this type of process might be way too simple. Decisionmaking is at the very heart of all management and there is loads of management literature also concerning decisionmaking. I recommend heartily all of Peter Drucker's books.
I would assume that decisions are about trust. Do you trust your decisions to be wise?
12-11-2003, 07:26 AM
Whenever I am trying to make a similar decision, I try to live without the object or service for several months. Every so often during that period I try to judge if I REALLY need the item in question. If it is a “play” item, I try to judge if I would have bothered to use it, or if I would have had time to use it, or if using it would have made much of a difference in my life.
For example, I have got by for years without a mobile phone. I occasionally borrow one, but that might be for an hour or two twice a year. I have also felt no need for a Palm.
I have watched and waited to see if I really wanted to buy a DVD player. Our TV time is about an hour per evening, which usually goes on a sit-com for relaxation, or sometimes on part of a game. However, the promises a certain director is making about the DVD version of his epic trilogy might just tip us to invest, so that we can see a longer and better version of one of our favourite films (at the weekend!).
In GTD terms, I would say that you could possibly list your decision on “waiting for”, or even on your someday/maybe list, to see if, after a period of time, you really feel you have a need of, or time for, cable. I do this quite a lot, through using the someday/maybe list, and find that I regularly cross off one or two items, while the ones that stubbornly stay on the list really do mean something to me in the long term.
I'd say this item should go wherever it feels natural to you. I quite frequently have NA's in a certain project that evolve to the point that they become their own project, and require a separate entry on my list for me to see them the way I need to. Personally, I do put decisions on my NA list to remind myself that a decision must be made, and even though it may only take a second, for whatever reason I simply don't feel like making it right now (too tired, just don't feel like thinking about it, etc.). I realize this is a clear violation of the two-minute rule, but unless it's an urgent decision I've never done myself any harm by letting it sit on a list for a little while. I am curious about what is holding up this particular decision though, if you've researched costs and determined that it's not a problem.
12-11-2003, 09:38 AM
Could be lots of issues holding up a seemingly simple decision. For example, how to control small kids' access to lots of questionable programming? That could lead to other projects: research parental contol options for TV (a la the v-chip).
12-12-2003, 10:00 AM
i think "decide on digital cable" is really a subproject which DA endorses as possibilities.
I had the same issue with installing dsl modem at home. had "decide whether to install dsl modem" as a NA. it just got moldy. Didn't ever do anything to "decide". I have a category called "Review/Think about" these are the moldiest of all my NAs.
"decide" is iffy as a NA in my experience as while it is a "next action per se" it is not really a physical action which willmmove this forward. So when i get "decide" as the "NA" and it gets stuck (more than one week on weekly review) i take the next action deconstruction further
some suggestions as valid next actions are "ask myself why is this decision so hard to make"
"call confab/meeting with wife to discuss pros/cons of digital cable"
"ask myself what is keeping me from making this decision"
"ask myself: what do i need to do or what do i lack in order to make this decision"
notice that "ask myself" is a verb that i take as a next action
if you can't answer these questions, then it probably is a someday/maybe
these are actions that get the ball rolling.
i find "decide" is really an excuse for not doing something -- there is always something you can do as a bookmark/next action to help you decide.
again, i think "decide" is ok as a temporary next action, but if it sits more than a week, move to someday/maybe or better yet, deconstruct the next action further to move it forward.
12-20-2003, 02:44 AM
Another way to look at a decsion would be to put it in "Incubate" status. I haven't complete come to grips as to where to put these types of items in my system. For now I also put decisions in my NAs, although they do violate the less than 2 minute rule.
Incubation seems to be an appropriate way to think of decisions as long as you regularly visit that list.
12-23-2003, 01:06 PM
I write about <a href="ondecidingbetter.editthispage.com>decision making</a> and in my view, deciding is not an action, it is the point at which you do one thing or another that reflects a choice between options.
I suspect that paralysis by analysis is mostly due to resistance to taking the next action beyond the decision point because it can't be undone. When you call the cable company, you can no longer "not order it" You can't get a satellite dish.
I agree that if it's a binary choice, the next action is: "Order cable or satellite". If it's a unitary choice, the "order cable" is a someday/maybe item. The decision is the doing/not doing.
One of the best aspects of GTD is that it focuses on actions in the now and not on deciding about what to do, when. More present, less mental energy.