We’re 7! How has GTD helped us get this far? - Next Action Associates


On Wednesday this week Next Action Associates turned seven years old.

We’re quite proud of that. We live in a world where many start-ups don’t make it past the toddler stage, and the majority fail before they begin primary school; yet here we are confidently making our way through the early grades, and because we’re continuing to grow, we’re getting fitted for larger school clothes for next year.

So what’s got us this far? Undoubtedly a large part of our success is the strength of Getting Things Done® as a proven approach to provide relief for problems our clients are hip-deep in every day: stress. The niggling worry that important balls are being dropped. The doubt that what they’re focused on at the moment is the best thing. The triumph of ‘just busy’ over ‘confidently engaged.’  A regular sense of being overwhelmed.

In this world, David Allen’s work is a soothing balm, an approach that points the way to a world of stress-free productivity when we choose to do productive things, and to undistracted enjoyment when we choose not to be productive.

But I think our success is also due in large part because we’ve woven GTD into how we work; both as individuals and as a team.

So what does that look like in our day-to-day work?  What tangible evidence can you see of the benefits of GTD at Next Action Associates?  Here’s a taste:

There’s rarely ambiguity about who’s doing what, and why – our roles and ongoing accountabilities are clear and regularly reviewed.  We have shared inventories of organisational-level projects with clear ownership.  At the tactical level, at the end of our meetings we ensure that each next action and project generated in the meeting has an owner.

We use common vocabulary that encourages productivity – spend some time at the office in London and you’ll hear GTD terms used as common currency.  “So that means I have a waiting-for on you, right?” “I think I’m clear what the desired outcome is, but let’s understand what the next action is and who has it.”  “That’s not something we’ve encountered before, whose role do you think that falls under?”  Using the lingo streamlines discussions, increases the ‘signal-to-noise ratio’ in our communications, and keeps us all focused on the best way to make forward progress toward the outcomes we want to achieve.

A great team that’s greatly engaged – I’m guessing that those of you who have been in touch with members of the team have been impressed not just with their ability to ‘walk the GTD talk,’ but with their shared sense of purpose and their infectious attitudes. At one of our recent staff meetings, two people began the meeting with the comment that they were “really looking forward to the meeting.” I don’t recall that attitude being so common in previous places I’ve worked.

Everyone has a voice – we encourage everyone on the team to prepare ‘Agenda’ lists with issues they want to discuss at our meetings, and we ensure that we always have time to discuss those issues in appropriate detail.  Whether it’s a strategic opportunity with a client, or the need for a new kettle for the kitchen at the office – if it’s important to our people we make sure it gets consideration.

There’s very little friction in how we work day-to-day – GTD is about streamlining thinking and action, ensuring common ways of working that result in both maximum return on energy invested as well as clear-headed focus on the task at hand.  There’s generally a quiet, unstressed hum of satisfyingly productive activity at the office that’s quite infectious. As a result, there’s a lot of space for humour and light-hearted interactions too.

We enable healthy focus outside the office – Amy does triathlons all over the globe. Robert’s a published poet. I play jazz bass. Ed’s got mean juggling skills. Linda’s got an acting career in addition to the work she does for us. I could go on. The fact that we get the most out of our time at work means that we can have significant, meaningful engagement in things outside of work.

We get it wrong sometimes – We’re far from perfect, and we’re learning all the time. But there’s a virtuous cycle at work there – the better we get at using GTD for our own work, the better we get at helping our clients.

So finally a big thanks to all of you who have supported us, challenged us, and inspired us over the years. With seven years behind us, our work feels as fresh and relevant as ever, and we’re looking forward to many more years of helping you to realise the benefits of GTD.

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