Action List: The Benefits Over a To-Do List
24 Jan, 2022
You have probably heard of To-Do Lists, but what about Action Lists? Action Lists are a different type of list and can be more effective than to-do lists. This article will show the benefits of using action lists compared to to-do lists, and offer tips for creating your own.
The definition and differences between to-do lists and action lists
When you want to make a list of things you want to do or complete, you have a couple of choices. You can make a list of the things you need to do, or you could set up an action list.
What is a to-do list?
Your to-do list contains everything you’d like to accomplish. In other words, it’s a list of tasks that you’d like to complete, but it doesn’t contain any information on how to complete them. Variations of the to-do list are task lists and checklists.
A to-do list can be as simple as a single word written on a yellow sticky note and placed on your computer screen, or it can be as involved as a spreadsheet containing hundreds of items.
Variations of to-do lists are tasks lists and checklists. They’re quite similar. However, you can argue that a task list is a collection of jobs to be completed, while a checklist is a list of jobs that must be checked off when completed.
What is an action list?
An action list is a list of action items you will actually do. They usually take a specific time frame to complete and are accurately described using verbs. By performing the action, you “complete” your to-do item.
- What: Action that needs to be done
- Who: Responsible party for the task
- When: Due date of the task
Why use action lists?
Action lists save time when organizing and performing tasks by only focusing on the important details of a specific task. They also help you identify how much effort something will take.
For example, if you want to increase authority in the science community, your task list might say:
- Increase authority with the science community.
The action list might look like this:
- Write 1000 words.
- Proofread 1000 words.
- Revise 1000 words.
- Email colleagues about my new article.
- Send article to science magazine.
6 Benefits of action lists over to-do Lists
While a simple to-do list may be enough for small jobs, a more complex job needs an action list. Below we discuss the benefits of action lists over to-do lists.
1) Estimation of time
By breaking down the job, you can better estimate how long the job will take. In other words, tasks such as “Increase authority with the science community” sound like they might take a long time to complete. However, action items that include specific steps such as “Write 1000 words”, “Proofread 1000 words”, and “Revise 1000 words” will likely only require a little more than an hour.
2) Estimation of work and difficulty
By breaking down the job, you get a better idea of the difficulty level to complete the job. You can also easier consider alternative ways of performing each action, so that it takes less time while being just as effective. If you see certain tasks that are more difficult than others, you can spend more time thinking about how to perform them.
3) Dividing of tasks
This is especially useful for larger projects where you can split the work among different people. This will save you time because you can get your tasks done more efficiently if they’re assigned to the right person. By using an action item system, you can easily see who is responsible for the actions, get updates, set due dates, and communicate documentation.
4) Identify priority
You will be able to tell very quickly if certain actions are less important than others. Since completing some action items take a specific time frame to complete, they will show what’s more urgent and what can be done later. You can also work out the potential bottlenecks first, so you can see if your mission will be possible to accomplish within the given time frame.
5) Precise instructions
Action items are more specific and easier to follow than to-do lists since they include verbs. It’s simpler for you and others who work with you to know precisely what needs to be done. This will assist you in allocating responsibilities, communicating, and gaining insight into what everyone is working on at any time.
6) Figuring out what next step you should do
Action items also serve as a reference to what is coming next. Action items show bottlenecks, inspire, and enable you to create new jobs that need to be done. This way it helps you to strategize and plan for the future, instead of just reacting to what’s happening right now.
How to make an action list out of your task list?
If you want to create your own list of action items from your task list, you can follow these 4 steps:
1) Think about the steps you need to take to complete your mission
What is the goal of your task? Consider everything you know about it and how to achieve it. For example, from an engineering perspective, this means looking at all your resources, constraints, and requirements to make a clear definition of what you need to do. From a business perspective, this could be looking at all the resources such as money, time, and people.
2) Write down the actions involved in each step. Use verbs and be specific
Write down the actions you need to perform to complete each step of your mission. For example, if you need to make a report on research done in the field of neuroscience, “Do research” is not an action item. However, “Find, read and summarize 3 journal publications” is concrete and specific enough that you can create an action item for it.
3) Add to your actions the difficulty, priority, and time needed
Adding difficult, priority, and time estimates will help you be more accurate and successful in planning the right time for your job. These will also make it easier to prioritize the jobs you need to do. You can use a scale from 1-5 on how difficult each action is for you. Then, based on your experience, estimate the time required to complete each task. Finally, choose whether this job is urgent or if it can wait until later.
4) If necessary group actions and send them to the responsible person
Now it is time to distribute the tasks to the right people involved. If you have a team of people working with you, try to get a general idea of who is responsible for each action from the group itself.
When you are on a higher level, you can also put the actions in a group and send them to one person that can divide the actions even more, and to the relevant people.
A word on the ECLIPSE Software Suite
At ECLIPSE Software Suite, we understand the importance of having a system in place to help manage and streamline your action items. That’s why we created our AIM module, a software tool that makes it easy for individuals and teams to create, assign, update, and communicate about their action items.
With ECLIPSE Software Suite, you can take control of your work and make sure that every task is completed efficiently and on time. Contact us today to learn more about how our software can help you get organized and achieve mission success.