As an avid follower of the Getting Things Done system, I am a big fan of doing something right away if it takes two minutes or less.

However, I have found sometimes where, counterintuitively, it seems best to wait a bit before playing whack-a-mole with issues as they arise. Here are a few examples of when doing things right away may not always be a best practice.

Big rocks, little sand

The Covey time management system espouses starting the day by tackling the biggest projects. In its famous example, trainers use a vase to represent the finite amount of time we have in the day, big rocks are projects and sand is the little stuff.

They start by adding all the sand to the vase and thus show that there is no space left for the rocks. Convincingly, they then show how by putting the rocks in first, there is plenty of space for the sand and even a little room left over.

Most of us have had days where we worked nonstop only to find that the day ended without us getting anything done. Unfortunately, many of us have had this happen so often it becomes normal; we end up spending our days reacting and responding and then finding time before and after hours to get our work done.

If this is happening, sometimes the best thing to do is to recognize it and then find a way to reprioritize work for work hours. In other words, close the door, come in late, schedule a meeting with yourself, or whatever it takes to address the big rocks first.

To be or not to be

Similarly, when we are super busy, taking the time to reflect can feel like a luxury. However, quickly responding to emails without thinking, calling someone while experiencing a strong emotion (whether it is happiness, sadness or anger) or otherwise responding too quickly can leave us at a disadvantage.

When we are running a mile a minute, sometimes the best thing to do is to set up a few personal rules. For example, never respond to an email while experiencing a strong emotion. Or, it is better to start a meeting two minutes late than to start disheveled and distracted.

The point is, once we identify the times when our judgment may be compromised by the desire to respond, we can reset our reaction to a more thoughtful response if we have a few internal guidelines.


Finally, most leaders are bombarded with more information than necessary. Yet, a lot of what comes through is noise.

When we take the approach of dealing with it right away, we give the issue extra weight because we have prioritized it. Conversely, to respond to it we have also deprioritized something else. Recognizing the detrimental affect focusing on noise can have on our important projects is the first step in filtering it out.

Filtering it out could look like delegating it or simply ignoring it for a set amount of time. Both can be difficult to do at first. However, mastering the arts of delegating and delaying can help remove less important things from our plates while empowering our staff to take on more ownership of lower level items.

The bottom line is, while it is great to be responsive, it is better to be efficient. Noting when responsiveness undermines efficiency is a best practice to embrace.