Making decisions

Discussion in 'PUBLIC: Discuss the GTD Methodology' started by Anonymous, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    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.
     
  2. hnortonil

    hnortonil Guest

    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".

    -Heather
     
  3. beyerst

    beyerst Registered

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    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.

    br,
    Tim
     
  4. CosmoGTD

    CosmoGTD Guest

    Decision Making

    Decision Making IS a Next Action, in my view.
    It is a specific mental behavior, by definition!

    If a Decision has to be made by a specific date, then put it on that date.
    Then sit down at a specific time, and look at the pros-cons of the decision. Do whatever research you need to do.

    Then make the decision, and measure the results.

    Just "putting off" making a decision to sometime in the future is not a good idea, in my view.

    Gather the data.
    Analyze the data.
    Make your best guess, as all decisions are probabilities.
    Then evaluate the effects of this decision after it is made.

    Decisions, are next actions.
    What else could they be?

    A Decision is a conscious, deliberate Mental Behavior.
     
  5. beyerst

    beyerst Registered

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    Hi Coz,

    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.
    Tim
     
  6. mikaels

    mikaels Guest

    decisionmaking is sometimes more complicated...

    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?
     
  7. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    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.

    Don
     
  8. AMS

    AMS Guest

    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.
     
  9. Bryan

    Bryan Registered

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    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).
     
  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    M2CW:

    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"
    or
    "call confab/meeting with wife to discuss pros/cons of digital cable"
    or
    "ask myself what is keeping me from making this decision"
    or
    "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.
     
  11. ddewees

    ddewees Registered

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    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.

    Dave
     
  12. Anonymous

    Anonymous Guest

    Decisions are not actions

    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.
     
  13. Jan Ernest

    Jan Ernest Registered

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    This thread is dated December 2003.

    Anyway, something still is unclear to me with regard to this one.

    I get that decision is only a matter of Yes, or No, this and that. and definitely will take a split second to decide.

    I get that in order for you to decide if it is a Yes, or No, one will have to go through a decision making process - Where this is definitely recognized as Next Actions.

    BUT - When you are already at the end of the tunnel after the decision making process:

    1. Called (Next Action) Supplier A to request for quote,
    2. Called (Next Action) Supplier B to request for quote,
    3. Reviewed quotes from Supplier A, and Supplier B,
    4. Draft Cost and Benefit Analysis from quotes of Supplier A and Supplier B,
    5. etc.

    You get to a point where you need to make a decision - Either Supplier A, and Supplier B.

    Yes decisions only take awhile to make literally, BUT - One. Needs. To. Make. A. Decision. Either. Supplier A. or. Supplier B.

    I was told that making a decision, is different from making a choice. Without further a due - May I ask if at the end of the tunnel (so to speak), the most appropriate Next Action (Verb) to use is:

    "Select a Choice"
     
  14. Gardener

    Gardener Registered

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    I would probably say, "Make final choice". But that's just because that language would be more natural to me.
     
  15. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    What you are really asking is what to do with a project that feels done but has lingering issues. I think the correct answer is too do what seems right in the moment. If there are any lessons to be learned from your decision, learn them. This comes up fairly often, especially when there is disagreement about what done looks like (given that the main goal was achieved). For example, someone does the main job, but doesn't follow up on the "as long as we're doing this, we should..." Sometimes, as in the case you pose, there is a subsidiary issue which could be considered part of the original project. If you are not ready to move on it, I see nothing wrong in closing out the remodeling project, and putting the tv issue in someday/maybe. We are in the middle of redoing both upstairs bathrooms, one after the other. At a certain point, we had to declare the first bathroom done, so we could use it while the second is being done. The first bathroom has some remaining issues, but they amount to a handful of independent next actions. For example, we needed to buy some specific supplies for cleaning, and some touch-up paint work is needed. But the bathroom is done, because we are using it!
     
  16. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    I wouldn't because the way I make decisions that require anything more than a snap judgement is to decide upon criteria, gather information, and then analyze the information. If I (or the group I'm part of if it's a group decision) still can't decide as a result of analyzing that would mean to me there's still some more work to do, whether it's refining the criteria or getting more information.

    To use your example, if drafting the cost/benefit analysis didn't yield a clear winner for me between supplier A and supplier B, I'd identify what's missing and then take concrete action to get it. That could be a phone call or face-to-face discussion with someone, some web research, an email to someone or a similarly specific action.

    There are other people who feel that "think about" or "make a decision" is a next action. If that works for them, that's fine. It doesn't for me, though, which is why I always define a more specific action (like "review all info gathered about blah blah" or "send outlook invitation to everyone on the decision-making committee" or whatever I feel is needed) that will enable me to make the decision.
     
  17. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    The trick is to think enough but not too much. When the decision comes down to the pink or the purple colander, you might convene a focus group, or you might just decide. I have also learned that sometimes you just need to go wild and crazy, and decide to throw out the marginal things in the refrigerator and live with the consequences.
     
  18. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    First, let's please stipulate that I'm not trying to argue about what way is right. I'm not. But I think we're having a disconnect.

    If the decision is as easy as "buy a pink or purple colander," I'm just going to go out and buy the colander and decide on the spot. I wouldn't bother to put "decide about colander" in an action list. I'm just going to go out and do it, and make the decision on the spot.

    I'm talking about the kinds of decisions that for me don't lend themselves to snap judgments. For me, buying a new car or a house, choosing a software partner for a large sales deal, and decisions of similar magnitude require lining up some ducks in a row first. For me, deciding whether to sign up for cable service would even fall into that category because I would want to at least talk about that with my significant other.

    Even so, once I've got said ducks lined up in a row I wouldn't bother to put "make a decision" in an action list. I'd just pull the trigger, or not, once I've done all the actions I feel I can to support making a decision.

    I like concrete next actions. Make a call, send an email, talk to someone, go someplace, even brainstorm ideas (which to me always means pad and paper) work well for me. "Make a decision" is too vague for me as to be useful. YMMV.
     
  19. mcogilvie

    mcogilvie Registered

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    While it is tempting to believe that the amount of analysis we perform is roughly proportional to the importance of the decision, David Allen has taught me that importance is at best an ambiguous concept. I will yield my mild attempt to point out the foibles of human decision-making to your perception of your own rationality.
     
  20. bcmyers2112

    bcmyers2112 Registered

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    Good Lord, @mcogilvie, all I'm trying to do is suggest that if one is having trouble making a decision, there may be more work to do than just putting "make a decision" in an action list and for me it's worth clarifying what that work is -- while still allowing that someone else may have a different but equally valid method of handling things. And somehow even that's not reasonable enough to avoid gratuitous snark in these forums?
     

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