Be Aware of Your IntuitionAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“I believe in intuitions and inspirations...I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am.” ~ Albert Einstein
GTD is a self-management system in which, when you have done your homework properly, you can and you should guide yourself by your instincts and intuition. This doesn’t mean that it’s a quite informal system in which you will always end up doing what you want.
What it means is that, once you have captured everything that’s under your radar, have made clear what each thing is about, have put each thing in its place, and have rationalized which ones are your real interests, then your conscience is ready enough to make more or less intuitive decisions. I say “more or less”, because behind that apparent intuition, as you can see, an important work has been done.
Without enough preparation, trusting your intuition would not be the most intelligent idea. Neurological research has proved that most of us are too confident and that we trust too much our intuitions. The most famous study consisted on raising the following question to many students across different North American universities:
A bat and a ball cost 1.10 dollars all together.
The bat costs one dollar more than the ball.
How much does the ball cost?
The immediate response that comes to mind for most people is that the ball costs 10 cents. If we bothered checking, we would immediately realize that it’s not possible (if the bat costs one dollar more than the ball, then it would cost $1.10, and the sum would be $1.20).
50% of students from prestigious universities such as Harvard, the MIT, or Princeton got the wrong answer. In some less well-known universities, the percentage even reached 80%.
The problem is that we trust so much our intuition that we rarely check whether it is correct or not, a verification that most of the time only implies thinking a bit more. According to Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize and studied this kind of behaviour, it wouldn’t be unfair to name this behaviour intellectual laziness.
Moreover, when we think that a conclusion is true (whether it is or not), our brain is more willing to believe the arguments that support it—even if they aren’t very strong. In other words, instead of first arguing and then coming to a logical conclusion, many times what we do is firstly, come up with the conclusion (intuitively) and then look for the arguments that support it. If you think a bit about it, it’s crazy.
Therefore, you have to be aware and not stay satisfied with the first answers that come to your mind, the ones that are easy to digest. Question your intuition, or at least, feed and educate it enough—like GTD does—so that it becomes a really useful tool.