An action item is a specific task that needs to be done by a certain date. The action item will detail who is responsible for it, what they need to do, and when they need to do it.
Action items are granular—they can’t be broken down into further tasks. They should be clear, concrete, and concise.
Action items are often listed in meeting minutes, reflecting the next steps discussed and agreed upon during the meeting.
- “Collate January employee feedback survey results to present to next executive meeting on 20 October – HR team”
- “Arrange site visit with client and construction team before the end of the quarter – Fabian S.”
- “Draft shareholder’s statement for the annual report by 1 November – Nikita H.”
Why Should You Use Action Items?
There are many benefits to using action items.
- Keep employees focused on a task by ensuring they understand the next steps.
- Hold employees accountable by directly involving them in and handing them responsibility for a task.
- Provide clarity so that everyone leaves a meeting knowing exactly what needs to be done, when it needs to be done by, and who is responsible for each action item.
- Improve communication by reducing the risk of tasks being misunderstood, forgotten, or overlooked—effective communication is the most important factor for successful project management.
- Help projects run smoothly and on time.
- Identify priorities so your projects run as efficiently as possible.
Completing action items can help move a team or organization closer to achieving a broader objective, such as completing a project.
How To Write an Action Item
Here’s how to write an effective action item.
- Identify the broader objective or project. For example, “organize creators’ conference to be held on 14 April 2023.”
- Break the objective down into the specific steps needed to accomplish it. It helps to start each action item with a verb. Some specific steps for the above example include:
- Contact potential speakers
- Pack gift bags
- Find venue
- Secure sponsors
- Identify the key points for each specific action.
- The action that needs to be taken
- Which employee or team is responsible for it
- The deadline for completion
- How to report the completed task
- The status of the action—for example, scheduled, in progress, or completed
- Brief notes (if necessary)
- Any further action items arising from the task
- Then arrange the items in order of timing or priority—low, medium, urgent.
Included below is an idea of what a list of action items might look like for the creators’ conference example.
|Secure sponsors||Events team||10 April 2022||Via app||Completed||Refer to list of 2021 sponsors|
|Contact potential speakers||Jessica||10 May 2022||Via app||Completed||Contact Ian Smith & Di French first|
|Find venue||Anish||10 May 2022||Via app||Completed||To be signed off at meeting on 17 May 2022|
|Pack gift bags||Events team||10 April 2023||Via app||Scheduled||Eliza to deliver to venue|
Creating an action item template saves you time and ensures you include all the important information needed to complete a task.
How To Follow Up on Action Items
Follow-up is crucial to making sure employees complete action items. It creates an environment of accountability and ensures no steps are missed.
You can follow up on action items by incorporating reporting and tracking in your workflow. This empowers employees to update the tasks they are responsible for. It also allows managers and supervisors to have broad oversight of the project.
A standardized approach to reporting and tracking action items encourages employee participation. For example, you can use a shared document such as a spreadsheet for employees to update when they complete an action item. Collaborative task management software is another way to incorporate the tracking of tasks in your workflow.
Checking in at the start of each meeting is also a good practice to follow up on action items. A recent survey highlighted that high-performing teams are 55% more likely to start a meeting by checking in on everyone’s progress.
An action item involves defining a specific task and identifying what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and who is doing it. Action items help your team stay focused and ensure projects are completed on time. To be effective, an action item should be specific, clear, concrete, and—most importantly—be followed up.