Why An Action List Is Way Better For Productivity

action list productivity - danshaw consultingHave you ever used an action list to prioritize and scheduled your workflow?

If not, you can increase your productivity massively by ditching the traditional to-do list and use an action list instead.

Do you have a ton of things to get done today and absolutely zero motivation to do them?

We’ve all been there!

Whether you’re supposed to be running errands, catching up on that thesis-writing, or setting up and running between meetings for work, sometimes it’s easy to fall prey to procrastination!

Workplace productivity is a very important factor in business success, so we’ve created a series for you, the unproductive worker, to help you beat the slump, pick yourself up out of that unproductive rut and get back to kicking butt and taking names!


Create an Action list Instead of a To-do list

A to-do list is so overrated!

Why not start keeping an action list instead.

While a to-do list can make the day ahead of you seem daunting and can actually make you procrastinate even more and avoid certain tasks, an action/outcome list does exactly the opposite.

Instead of listing overarching goals or tasks to achieve for the week, the month or even the year, the action/outcome list subdivides your day and tasks into manageable chunks that not only seem far less intimidating on paper, but actually make ticking the ‘mini-tasks’ off your list that much easier.

If you’re wondering how that could possibly be, sit back and buckle your seat belt because you’re in for a wild ride.

action list productivity - danshaw consulting


Industrial Relations Consulting


Break Down Your Tasks

Apparently, to-do lists traditionally work in the short term, because you get a mini-high from completing a task on the list which revs you up to tackle the next task on the list.

But, when you put massive tasks, or a whole string of tasks on these lists, the high can often wear off before you’re anywhere near done with a large task and then it becomes increasingly hard to complete the task and check another item off the list.

By breaking down your overwhelming to-do list into an action/outcome list for the day, you are essentially putting each little brain-boosting check mark on the list within arm’s reach of the previous one.

For example, instead of putting “grocery shopping” on a to-do list, you may put “go to store” > “buy breakfast cereal” > “unpack groceries” > “have food for breakfast tomorrow morning” on your action/outcome list!

Not only does this break your errand up into manageable chunks, but it also puts down on paper for you a motivation for the action, and justifies why you need to complete that task, or even just portion of a given task today.

By listing the outcome, you are offering yourself not only the reward of ticking the next task off the list, but also the long-term reward which is the listed outcome of the action!

action list productivity - danshaw consulting

Also Read – The 2 Minute Rule Can Help You Beat Procrastination (Fast)


Why Action Lists Are Better Than To-do Lists

Action/outcome lists are short-term, and are designed to get you through the tasks you need to do today.

While to-do lists are great to compile and stick in the back of your diary just for reference’ sake, odds are you could think of one hundred and one things that belong on your to-do list right now, but there’s no way you could complete them all in a day.

So, by all means, create a to-do list and file it away somewhere so that you can reference it each week and make sure nothing slips through the cracks, but then to really up your productivity on a daily basis, create individual daily action/outcome checklists that will get you through the day without putting any unnecessary pressure on you to tackle the long to-do list in an unrealistic period of time.

Don’t let a long to-do list daunt you, or get you down, start compiling an action/outcome list for yourself every morning instead! By using verbs and focusing on short-term action-goals every day, you’ll find you get a lot more done!

For example, your to-do list may say “new website”, but that’s vague and unhelpful and will only have you putting it off, whereas having “call three web development companies and get quotes for a four-page website” is easy, direct, and bound to get done in no time!

If you’re absolutely loving your new action list, but are still struggling with keeping it pared down to a realistic length, you may try contextualizing the action and creating separate lists for, for example:

– At the office
– At home
– In the car
– At the gym
– At the shops

action list productivity - danshaw consulting

Also Read – Our Productivity Guide


Make A List Of Distractions To Avoid

If you find that a list of “dos” just isn’t enough for you, why not try adding a list of “don’ts”?

Because the action/outcome so clearly shows you what the reward or outcome of your actions is, it could also easily work in reverse for those things you find yourself doing throughout your day that you regret later on!

For example, if you find yourself checking your email while you’re in the middle of important tasks, and that puts a damper on your overall productivity, write a note to yourself saying “don’t check email while busy with tasks” > “distraction” > “unproductive time-wasting”.

By showing yourself before you make the mistake what the outcome of that mistake is going to be, you lessen the risk of falling into the same trap, e.g. becoming distracted by your emails, again.

action list productivity - danshaw consulting


Finally, the most important thing to do no matter what form your “do” and/or “don’t” lists take is keep them visible and updated throughout the day. By keeping them in your sights, you keep your daily goals and objectives in sight and this increases the likelihood of your achieving them.

Don’t forget to tick tasks off your action-list as you complete them for that extra little productivity-boosting jolt of serotonin.


Human Resource Consulting


Resources used for this article:

How to Make Your Work To Do List More Actionable, by Plan.io

This Productivity Method Is Way Better Than a To-Do List, by Melissa Chu

8 To-Do List Mistakes You Must Avoid, by Makeuseof.com

Why You Need a To-Do List AND an Action List, by Actioned.com

Why “To-Do” Lists Don’t Work, and How to Change That, by Lifehack.com