What is an Action item? Everything you need to know.

A common question people often ask is what is an action item. Having a complete understanding of action items, their importance, and how they work is essential. Today we will discuss everything you need to know about action items to make the entire project management process easier and smoother.

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For any organization or a company, it is very important to deal with things effectively. One way of achieving efficiency is by completing all the tasks but doing these tasks is not very easy for the upper-level employees. This is the reason why they divide the huge tasks into small tasks and distribute them into departments and employees.

As these tasks are being divided, they need a proper description that will help the person in understanding the requirements of the task. That description for the task is known as the action item of the task.

An action item is not a simple term as it can have a lot of information about the task and here, we will discuss what is an action item and all about it.

The 3 main W’s of action item:

Whenever we talk about the action item, there are three W’s that are considered in it. These are Who, What, and When. All 3 of them are discussed in detail below.


As the term refers, this is the person that will be dealing with the task. The action item for this task will make clear that the specific task is assigned to that specific person.


This is a very important part of the action item. This is because this is the description that will tell the person what he is needed to perform for the task. This not only needs to be clear, but it also needs to be short and to the point so that there are no ambiguities left.


This is the time that is allowed for the task to be completed. Sometimes it is called the deadline for the project. It is preferred that this term is only mentioned in incomplete time and date format instead of mentioned casual formats.

Tips to implement these W’s of action items in your professional life:

Although an action item seems to be a very simple thing to make it is not that simple. That is because any presence of uncertain information will mean that the person who has to deal with the task will have to face a lot of difficulties.

So, here we have some tips to improve the action item for any task. This will not only be helpful for the higher authorities, but it will also be very helpful for the employees that will be assigned to the tasks.

Make things clear by providing a short but clear description:

When you are making an action item, you must keep things clear and short. But it is not a very good practice to make the action item short and unclear at the same time. This will create problems for understanding the action item. For example, if we take the instance of a sales register for an office and the task is to create a report of the sales for the current week.

If you make your action item like “Sales Register” and assign it to any employee, he or she will be unaware of what they need to do. To make things clear you can make it like reviewing the sales register or make a report of the sales register. This will make a lot clear about the task that is needed to be performed.

Always starting your action item with a verb will help a lot:

Most of the time people have the question of what is an action item and how to make it efficient. Here is how you can make your action item efficient. As an action item cannot be one or two words because doing this will cause many ambiguities, it is a good practice to make your action item in the form of a sentence.

The best practice is to start the name with a verb as it will have several benefits. Some of the benefits are listed below.

  • It will help to keep the action item to the point.
  • It will help in better understanding.
  • It will make the instructions clearer from the start.

If we take the same example from the previous case, we can see that making the action item like “make a sales report” will tell the person what he needs to deal with in this task.

Make your action item look like instructions:

A great way of making your action item effective is that you make your action items like instructions. This will make it very clear what is required and sometimes the descriptions will also help in better understanding.

When you make your action item look like instructions, the huge tasks will become easier not only to divide, but the employees will also find it very easy to understand the scope of the whole project because they will know what are the parts that are correlating in projects and how they can increase the efficiency of their task.

Apart from the title, the descriptions can also be made as a set of instructions. It will be extremely helpful for the employees to understand what they are required to deal with because the description will already be very helpful.

Changing this helpful description into a set of instructions will help in making it easier to understand to pick the problem that you have to deal with.

Never forget to add due dates for all action items:

Apart from all the other forces that drive a person towards completing the tasks, due dates and deadlines are the most effective ones. This is because a deadline provides a time limit for the projects and tasks. Whenever you are making an action item and assigning it to any employee or a specific task, one thing to consider is the deadline.

This deadline will not only help the employee in better time management, but it will also help the employers in dealing with the ultimate deadlines of the complete project.

One great mistake in this part of making the action items is that people usually make deadlines in the form of days like “5 days or 2 weeks”. This has many problems. Some of them are listed below.

  • This is not a very formal way of assigning a deadline so it will not have a very good impact on the person who is assigned the task.
  • You will have issues related to time as no proper deadline time is mentioned.
  • People with different time zones can face many problems.

The best solution to all of these problems is to make a proper deadline that has all of these parts of information.

  • Time with AM and PM.
  • The location region of time.
  • Day, Date, Month, and Year.

With all of these added in the deadline, the deadline will be complete and there will be no ambiguities left about the deadline.

Assign people their tasks intelligently:

One thing while knowing what is an action item and making the action items for any specific task is to know which employee will be the best for this task. It is not a very good practice to assign accounts related task to a person from another department. 

This is because of the lack of information and skills will cause a lack of performance and productivity. That is why you must only assign the tasks to the employees related to a specific department.

Action items in the form of steps will be extremely helpful:

If there is more than one task, there must be more than one action item and the best way of dealing with this situation is that you provide the information step by step. This will be very helpful, and this action item will act as a guide for solving the most complex tasks.

Provide short but descriptive details about each action item:

There are times when you are not assigning an employee with only one task, in this case, one employee has to deal with a lot of tasks and for each task, an action item has to be made. If you are looking for what is an action item and how you can make it helpful for the employees and employers as well, this will be the best solution for you.

As the action item is used to tell the employees what they are needed to do, this must be made very clear. To do this the action item must contain a proper description for each task. Some properties of the description are given below.

  • It must be short and to the point.
  • The description of the task must be easy to understand.
  • None of the important information must be missed.

When you create a description for the action item, it will become very easy for the employee to understand the task requirements and in this way, the action item will be very helpful for the employee.


Sometimes complex and hard tasks are needed to be divided into smaller chunks. If you are looking for the answer to what is an action item, the answer is that it is a set of instructions that helps to assign these small chunks of that complex task to different employees. It makes it very easy for each employee to understand their assigned task and its requirements.

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