I have seen this topic discussed several times on the forums and it seems to be a common point of discussion. I recently collected my thoughts regarding this issue and thought they may be useful to someone else. Or they may be completely incorrect and someone can point me to the error of my ways.
There is a general opinion that David Allen is completely against pre-planning and prioritizing next actions/tasks. This seems to stem from his view of abolishing the "daily to do" list. However, in _Getting Things Done_ Chapter 9 "Doing: Making the Best Action Choices", he does allude to a prioritization scheme.
In "The Four Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment", once context, time, and energy have been taken into account, priority must be evaluated. David Allen states:
"At the end of the day, in order to feel good about what
you didn't get done, you must have made some conscious
decisions about your responsibilities, goals, and values.
That process invariably includes an often complex
interplay with the goals, values, and directions of your
organization and of the other significant people in your
life, and with the importance of those relationships to you."
Now suppose I get up in the morning and begin a review of my next action lists (or "Master Task Lists" as Franklin Quest/Covey would call it). I can see right off hand the most important/urgent items and begin focusing on those. I make a conscious decision about the priority of these actions relative to my "goals, values, and directions". I then rate them on a priority scale of A-C. I then rate them within the lettered priority group as 1-[number of items in the group]. I end up with an "A1, A2, . . . C3, C4 . . ." list that is mixed in with all of my other unprioritized actions. All I have done is completed the fourth step of the "Four Criteria Model" ahead of time.
Now when I am "in the moment", I evaluate context, time, and energy; priority has already been evaluated. Obviously these priorities can be changed on the fly relative to new inputs or situations. In reality, this is not a significantly different situation than the Franklin-Covey "Priortized Daily Task List" which also allows processing new priorities in the moment. Where David Allen's method improves upon the Franklin method is that I have a convenient way to see *all* of my options (including unprioritized) and not just the ones I have prioritized as the most important. The GTD system also provides the best way to handle all of my various inputs and creates the most efficient system to manage "stuff". Without the GTD system, I would not have a complete list of items to prioritize.
I believe this method also eliminates a problem the GTD method seeks to solve but also creates in the process. David talks about processing your stuff into your organizational system. Once your stuff is in discreet categories like "Next Actions", "Someday/Maybe", "Reference", etc. you can focus on those individual areas and not "go numb" to an amorphous pile of stuff. However, in a sense, each of those areas can become an amorphous pile of stuff without further processing. A stack of reference material not filed into a general reference filing system can be an amorphous pile of unorganized reference that repels you every time you think of looking something up.
Next actions are organized by context. But individuals with extremely large next action lists may see 50+ items in one context. Without some form of pre-prioritization or planning, every time one action is completed, a decision about priority is needed for every action remaining on the list. Since every item on the next actions list cannot be completed in one day, a simple top to bottom approach of working through each action is sure to let some important and/or time sensitive items fall through the cracks. This problem is compounded by the fact that it is very easy to "go numb" to the this long list of items which amounts to an amorphous pile of unknown priorities.
I believe the daily planning and prioritization of the Franklin Quest/Covey method can work in synergy with the GTD method. It solves a common problem people experience with the GTD system while not violating any of the basic principles of the GTD system.
It appears David Allen himself is becoming more aware of the role of priorities in the next actions lists as evidenced in this blog entry http://www.davidco.com/blogs/david/a...is_a_prio.html.