What is a “Next Action Item,” and How Can the Matrix Help You Find Yours?

21.03.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course “How to make better decisions with the Matrix” by Kari Beaulieu


The concept of action items comes from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” or GTD, style of work. His philosophy is action-focused, meaning that he encourages followers to focus on concrete tasks rather than overarching goals.

As a more focused definition, action items are single tasks or activities that are self-confined and can be handled like a single person.  They’re things that you can put a box next to and check off when done.

This lays the groundwork for consistent forward progress.




So how can you find an action item, and how do you know which one to work on first?

Follow These Steps

1. Choose one project, goal, or responsibility you have
This might look like “up sales by 5%,” but it might also look like “redesign company blog” or “hire a receptionist.”

2. Now pick one of them and break it down into actionable steps
Let’s use the example of redesigning the company blog. “New layout” is not an action item. An action item is “find three potential layouts.” Another action item would be “pick the best of the three layouts.” One moe action item could be “apply the new layout.”

3. Draw an Eisenhower Matrix
You must be getting good at this by now!

4. Put the action items in their appropriate quadrants
Seriously, I bet the corners of your matrix are all perfectly right angles.

5. The action item at the top of the “Critical and Urgent” quadrant is your “Next Action”
That was probably a lot easier than you expected it to be. You know what comes next.




Don’t Look So Sad

Keeping a coherent list (or matrix) of “next action items” will help you work more effectively. That means you’ll get more done during the day, and heck, you might even get out of the office earlier.

Today’s Homework

Do exactly what I described above (yeah, I know you didn’t do it while you read the description).

Start your day with a polished list of action items tomorrow.

I’m holding you to it.


Recommended book

“The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich” by Timothy Ferriss


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