How to organize your to-do lists using action items

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To-do lists are essential tools for effective task management. The more tasks you complete on a to-do list before the deadline, the more productive you are.

Project managers and their teams often struggle to determine who is responsible for which task and when it needs to be completed. You can save time and increase productivity by escaping this dilemma.

In this article, you will learn how to achieve this by using action items in your to-do lists.

What is an action item?

A visualization of people working on tasks

The action item is a task on your to-do list. Your to-do list may contain multiple action items when the project is complex. Every time you complete an action item, you get closer to completing the project.

Action items are more descriptive than a typical task on your to-do list. Designing a logo for an ecommerce customer is an example of a typical to-do list item. However, the action items would explain a lot more than that. Here is a list of action items related to the logo design project:

  1. Hold a brand discovery call with the customer.

  2. Brainstorm logo ideas with designers.

  3. Build a prototype for logo concept one.

If you ask for the action items using the terms “what”, “who” and “when”, you should get specific answers. The term “Who” designates the person responsible for carrying out the project. Likewise, “What” will clearly identify the resources required. “When” specifically mentions a deadline for the task at hand.

You may need to send a project progress report to your client for any large and complex project. Action items help you to create such reports effortlessly if you keep the following tracking data:

  • Title of action items

  • Tracking number or identifiers

  • Creation date

  • Priority level of tasks

  • Estimated completion date

  • Name of recipient and creator of the task

  • Short and long description

Any online to-do list apps or tools mentioned in this article will help you track action items. Follow the strategies mentioned below to create a better to-do list with action items:

1. Start with a verb

An image showing a list of tasks and people

Often, task lists only display the name of the task, such as “Introducing on an ecommerce blog” or “Infographic for a tech blog.” Such short descriptions only confuse resources.

Instead, use verbal forms, such as “Joe will create the slideshows and Kelly will present them to the client” or “Sam will design the infographics and Jessy will upload them to the blog.”

Such items in a to-do list make tasks more motivating and actionable. Plus, coworkers will find your task boards or reports more meaningful if you use verbs instead of random nouns to describe tasks.

2. Clarify by capturing the details

A visualization of capture details in OneNote

Capture and Clarify are the two most important terms in the GTD system that boost productivity. Therefore, you should include them in your action items. At the same time, your actions should be clear and concise.

For example, the design of “Social Media Graphics” does not provide minimal insight into the task. But, if you mention “Client Promotion Via Social Media Graphics For Instagram,” that gives a lot of detail that your graphic designer can use to get the job started.

OneNote is a powerful note-taking app that you can use to write clear and short action notes. You can also use a bulleted list to break the action item into smaller tasks. You can also insert things like a table, picture, sound, website link, etc. to leave suggestions for your designer.

3. Simplify an important task into action items

It’s best if you write action items that are not divisible into smaller tasks. When you break a large task into smaller action items, you make the task more flexible. Several resources on your team can take on a small task and complete them in a short period of time.

This distributed task completion allows you to quickly complete an important or complex task without burdening a team member. Suppose you want to present a blog website project to your client. Your action items may look like the following:

  1. Joe is preparing a video presentation.

  2. Kelly creates a demo of the website.

  3. Sam plans the pitch with the client.

  4. Jessy presents the pitch to the client.

Notable is a markdown-based note-taking app that you can use to create and share action item lists. It also offers effortless note-taking and collaboration features like tagging team members, creating links to other notes, importing notes from other apps, and more.

To download: Remarkable for the Windows | Linux | macOS (free)

4. Set a deadline

Terms like due dates and deadlines are the most effective force that drives anyone towards completion of tasks. Therefore, whenever you add an action item to your team’s daily to-do list, be sure to assign a due date for that task.

ClickUp is a comprehensive task and project management tool that automatically implements the concept of action items. You will find many professional project management templates in this app. With a few clicks, you can customize any of these templates to suit your project.

5. Keep action items in multiple lists

An image showing action items in TickTick

Action items are the most granular form of any project. Separate action items into multiple lists under one project.

For example, a website development project requires different skills such as web development, graphic design, animation, creative writing, and server hosting. Thus, you can create five separate lists of action items based on the skills required.

TickTick is an online note-taking app that you can use to describe your action items for a project in multiple lists. The app supports unlimited subtask creations. Therefore, it is easier for you to create a hierarchy of tasks under a single project.

6. Daily or weekly review

An image display for review work in Todoist

To make sure that the action items serve the purpose of efficient and timely processing of tasks, you should review the task lists. Depending on the duration of the project, you can follow daily or weekly reviews.

The review process will help you perfect the to-do list by incorporating feedback and feedback from team members, collaborators, and clients.

Todoist is an ideal to-do list management tool with smart views such as boards and tasks. This particularly helps to review all the action items of the same project. You can easily change the action items if needed.

Get the most out of your to-do lists

You can create more actionable task lists if you implement the above strategies when creating task list action items. Whenever you assign such tasks to your team members, they can easily understand the task, deadline and goal.

Plus, action items help you break up a large and complex project into smaller, more manageable tasks. It allows you to get things done effortlessly.


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