Action Item

The modern workplace is filled with buzzwords and innovative concepts meant to make teams more productive and focused. One phrase that has experienced an uptick in popularity lately is the term “action items.” But what are action items, exactly? More importantly, why do they matter to your business?

Join us as we explore these questions and discuss how to create an action item tracker that will keep everyone on the same page following company or team meetings.

What Is an Action Item?

An action item, also known as an actionable item, is a follow-up task that you identify and assign after a meeting. Action items must be clearly defined and include a deadline and a detailed description.

As the name implies, action items begin with a verb that dictates what act will achieve the stated objective. A few examples of verbs for action items include appoint, decide, evaluate, test, present, or assemble.

Action items should have a narrow scope, meaning they can’t be broken down into smaller tasks and they can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. You’ll also need to establish a desired outcome and explain how that outcome advances the big-picture goals of the organization.

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Why Do Action Items Matter?

According to a 2023 survey, 75% of workers don’t pay attention during company meetings. Instead, your team is likely distracted by a wide range of unrelated tasks, like answering emails, thinking about what they’ve got to do after the meeting, etc. If your team works remotely and meets via video calls, they are even more prone to distractions.

Action items help give purpose and focus to meetings. Instead of just getting together and talking about what needs to be done, you can use action items to set clearly defined goals and completion deadlines.

Action items are also a great tool for keeping your staff accountable. Once you create an actionable item, you can assign it to a specific team or employee. Now, everyone knows what needs to get done and who is tasked with accomplishing it. This approach cuts down on finger-pointing and encourages everyone to work together for the common good.

Action items are typically agreed upon together and assigned out during a meeting. In this type of setting, action items are very beneficial because they:

Action Items vs. Tasks

Action items and tasks may seem similar, but there are some key differences that aren’t readily apparent.

A task is expansive and encompasses a variety of small action items that must be done in order to complete the full task.

Here’s an example of action item vs. task:

Action items are narrow and focused. They are meant to help your team progress toward larger goals and complete major tasks.

How to Write Action Items in Meeting Minutes

We’ve explained action items in general, but what are action items in a meeting? When creating actionable items in your meeting minutes, you should:

  1. Write out a clear objective.
  2. Review the tasks required to meet the objective.
  3. Break the tasks down into concrete action items with the following details included:
    1. The employee responsible for taking action
    2. The due date of the completed action item
    3. Any applicable details, such as contacts, file names, and things to note
    4. How (and to whom) the completed action item should be reported
    5. The action item that is next on the list

It’s easy for team members to get overwhelmed during an important meeting. When constructed properly, action items help reduce occupational stress by giving your team clear direction and realistic responsibilities.

How Do You Follow Up on Action Items?

To make follow up manageable, set firm deadlines. Assign each action item to a team or employee and make sure they are aware of the expected completion date. Once you’ve designated someone to complete an action item, trust them to get the job done.

Reach out to them periodically to ensure the project is on task. Make it clear that feedback is welcome and embrace a collaborative approach. The goal is to pool your collective resources and talents for the good of the organization.

We also recommend adopting a centralized collaborative management solution, like Asana, Monday, AirTable, ClickUp, and countless others. With such a platform, you’ll be able to document actionable items, follow up on outstanding tasks, and check off items as your team completes them. A collaborative solution will also:

Creating action items is simple, but keeping track of them and ensuring everyone is on the same page can be challenging, especially if you are using manual processes or antiquated technologies. The good news is that there are plenty of modern solutions out there that can take the headache out of action item management.

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