When you lead meetings, do you find that your participants return week after week having made little to no progress? Do you find that experience frustrating?
While it might be tempting to blame your participants, you, as the meeting leader, share responsibility with them. If you want your participants to make progress, you must make it abundantly clear what needs to be done in that time. What you need to do is write action items.
In the following article, we’ll review what exactly action items are and why they’re essential to the effectiveness of your meetings, as well as provide you with a few examples and an action items template that you can use whether you’re hosting a staff meeting or a weekly 1:1 check-in.
What Are Action Items in a meeting?
Simply put, an action item is a documented task or activity that needs to be completed that was discussed in a meeting. Action items should be given a deadline and assigned to either an individual or a group of people. To provide you with an idea of what this looks like, here are a few examples of meeting action items.
Meeting Action Items Examples
- Send a brief to the team on Monday
- Obtain approval from the department head by the next meeting
- Complete expenses on the last day of the month
- Write a draft communication plan by next week
Why Is It Important to Write Action Items for Meetings?
In a 2022 Harvard Business Review study, it was found that the respondents spent more than three hours every week preparing agendas for their meetings. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index noted that since February 2020, the average Teams user now spends 252% more time every week in meetings.
Not only does the time spent preparing for and attending these meetings come at a cost to individuals in the shape of increased stress, decreased productivity, and lesser quality work, the amount of time, resources, and effort required can mean less time devoted to things that would support employee goal achievement.
All of this is to say that it is more important than ever to make the time spent in and on meetings worthwhile. That’s why action items are essential, as they ensure that everyone knows exactly what is expected of them and gives meeting leaders something tangible to hold employees accountable.
Meeting Action Items Templates
Writing action items for your meetings should not be overly time-consuming or complex. In fact, it’s quite straightforward. The key is to answer the following questions:
- What needs to be done?
- Who is going to do it?
- When does it need to be done by?
- How high of a priority is it compared to other tasks?
Once you have those questions answered, you need to document the defined action items from your meetings somewhere everyone can easily access them. Then, depending on your available tech and how tech-savvy your participants are, you can use an action plan template or an app specifically for this purpose.
Option 1: Action Items Template
An action items template, such as this one from Niagara Institute, can be edited in either Google Docs or Microsoft Word. It’s a simple option that gets the job done and ensures you can begin writing and tracking action items right away.
Option 2: Meeting App
If you want a more comprehensive solution to help you do more than just write and track action items, you can look at a meetings management app, such as Hugo or Fellow. One thing to be aware of with this option, though, is that it will likely take time to learn/teach the tool, which could otherwise be spent writing and tracking action items.
Conclusion: Learn How To Run More Effective Meetings
While it might not be easy to run an effective meeting that makes everyone feel it was worth their time, it is entirely possible. The key is to have the skills, tools, and confidence. Fortunately, Niagara Institute can help you with all of that through our extensive library of free resources, leadership programs, and one-to-one coaching packages.