Turning ideas into action can make all the difference between a productive meeting and a mediocre one. But how do you go from brainstorming and project planning to actually crossing things off your to-do list? If you don’t have a system for tracking action items, you run the risk of them falling by the wayside and never getting done.Here’s what you need to know about action item tracking, and how to use an action item tracker to streamline your task and project management process.
What Is an Action Item Tracker?
An action item tracker is essentially a list of action items, presented in a way that makes it easy to track the progress of individual tasks. Unlike a simple to-do list, an action item tracker often includes fields for the creation date, due date, and status of each task.You can create a simple action items template in Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel, or use dedicated project management software or task management tools. For example, when you use a tool like Anchor AI to generate meeting minutes, it will automatically identify action items, add them to a task list, and add assignees and due dates.Project managers can also use an action item tracker to manually assign tasks to team members, monitor their progress along the way, and keep a record of completed tasks.
Why You Need to Track Action Items
Tracking action items during and after your meetings shouldn’t be an afterthought. Here are four ways that using an action item tracker can make your life easier.
First, an action item tracker can help keep your team organized. You don’t have to rely on team members to take their own notes and remember what they need to get done. Having a central task list and an action plan keeps things running smoothly.Plus, you can keep action items for different projects separate, monitor subtasks and dependencies, and use integrations to share data between apps.
An action item tracker can improve productivity by making it clear which tasks need to be completed first. Set the priority level, track task progress, and follow up with team members who are falling behind on tasks.Since the description of the task is written right there in the action item tracker, there’s less waiting around for information and less uncertainty about the task.
The best action item trackers and project management templates clearly identify the task owner, or the team member responsible for the task. Set up notifications to be reminded of upcoming due dates for urgent tasks.Team members can be held accountable for missed due dates, since you’ll have a record of when the task was assigned and whose job it was to complete it.
Don’t toss aside project task lists once you’ve marked all the checkboxes. Completed action items serve as a record of your project progress and can even be included in your meeting notes for future reference.You can track progress metrics to see how well your team is working together overall, and keep stakeholders informed about the progress of the project. Use this data to streamline your workflows and course-correct in real-time.
How to Identify Action Items
How do you distinguish an actionable item from an offhand comment or request? If you're the note-taker in a meeting, it can be hard to know which items to write down. Sending out an email, posting on social media, and placing a lunch order can all be considered action items. But do they belong on your to-do list?Here are three things that set action items apart:
- They’re specific: An action item is a distinct task that doesn’t involve multiple steps. If it does, break it down into smaller subtasks. The assignee should be able to act on the action item based on the information in the description.
- They’re time-sensitive: All action items need a due date. If a colleague says, “It would be nice if we did [x],” that’s probably not an action item. Turn it into one by making it a time-sensitive task: “Research the viability of [x] by [due date].”
- They have a task owner: Each action item should have a single assignee so it’s clear who’s responsible for the task. Otherwise, you could end up with two team members completing the same task, or assuming the other will take care of it.
If you’re using an automated action item tracker like Anchor AI, there’s no need to think about what action items are — it identifies them for you during a meeting and adds them to a project management system for later.
How to Track Action Items
Once you’ve identified an action item, you can add it to your meeting notes or action item tracker. At a minimum, be sure to include the following three fields:
- Task description: A short but concise description of what needs to get done.
- Assignee: The team member responsible for completing the action item.
- Due date: The date by which the task needs to be completed.
Depending on the complexity of your project, your action item tracker may have fields for additional information. It may be a good idea to include the following details:
- Priority level: How urgent is the task? Mark action items by priority level so you can work on the most important tasks first.
- Creation date: When did you assign the action item? Make note of the creation date so you can calculate the time to completion.
- Completion date: This field will be blank when you assign the task, but you’ll update it when the task is marked complete.
- Category: Your action item tracker may span multiple projects or categories, so keep them organized with clear category labels.
- Status: The status field can contain labels such as In Progress, Complete, or Overdue, or display a percentage of your task progress.
- Notes: This field is for notes or updates on the task, such as “Waiting for client approval” or “Survey results: 70% of employees in favor.”
Action Item Tracker Template and Examples
Action item trackers don’t have to be complicated. You can use Anchor AI, an automated note-taking tool, which creates and tracks action items during a meeting. You can also use a simple Excel template and manually update the fields as you go along. Here’s a free template with action item examples:
Depending on the size of the project, you can either label items numerically, or use a system like 1.0 for a primary task and 1.1 for a subtask. Be sure to use a numbering system so you don’t have to identify tasks by their description alone.
Streamline Team Meetings With an Automatic Action Item Tracker
Action items can turn up anywhere, like an email from a client or a conversation with a boss. Often, they come up in meetings when there’s so much going on that it can be hard to distinguish action items from the rest of the discussion. Use an action item tracker to keep action items separate from the rest of your meeting notes.Want to save time by automating the process? Anchor AI can generate action items for you by automatically transcribing and summarizing your meeting in real-time. Invite Anchor AI to your virtual meeting or upload a Zoom recording. Anchor AI can take notes, write up a summary, and identify action items with due dates and assignees to follow up on later.Sign up for free today or contact the team to learn more!