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How to replace minutes with action logs

How many times have you arrived at a meeting to find that nobody else has read the minutes either? It's hard to find the time, we're all busy people. Make sure that important information doesn't get lost beneath a pile of 'he said, she said'. Replacing minutes with an action log can be a real boost to your productivity.

Things you'll need

  • An Action Taker
  • Excel

Change your mindset

Keeping an action log is easy. The hard part is changing your mindset. It's become ingrained in 'business culture' that we have to minute meetings.


The first thing to accept is that pages of minutes are not only laborious to read through, they are also counter productive. Information gets lost in what we think we're supposed to record.


Embrace change.


Understand the purpose of a meeting

A social event is where we get together and talk about 'how things are going.' An effective meeting is about bringing information to the table in order to make decisions.


We're usually really good at the first part but struggle to make clear decisions based on the information we have shared.


An action log takes the focus away from the information brought to the meeting and records what needs to be done once we leave.


If something is important enough to be minuted, it usually requires an action. Actions drive an organisation forward. They are what you monitor progress against.


What to record

Recording actions is easy. There are only three things you need to know:


  1. WHO: has agreed to the action
  2. WHAT: exactly have they agreed to do
  3. BY WHEN: will they complete this


Be specific, keep it concise, and don't abbreviate instructions. People will forget what was meant.


#3 is the most important point. Unless you set dates for the completion of tasks, you will not be able to monitor your progress.


What does an action log look like?

An Action Log looks like this:


Action Log sample


It really is that simple.


Text description of image - excel document table showing date and who present at the meeting. Main body of the table is filled with a row with four column headings (left-right) who, what, by when, done. The next row has the following text in the columns under the headings: James C, email copy of action log to all present, 3 Jan 2012, a tick.


Always clarify actions

In order for an action log to be successful, everybody needs to be clear about what they have agreed to do.


END OF MEETINGS: The Action Taker should read out each action recorded, allowing participants the chance to clarify or change what they have agreed to. An updated copy of the action log should then be e-mailed to each participant.


BEGINNING OF MEETINGS: At the beginning of every meeting, the action log should be reviewed. Any actions that have been completed successfully should be ticked as 'done'. Participants should be encouraged to help to find new solutions for anything that has not yet been completed, and a new completion date should be set.


Productivity should increase once people get into a routine of setting tasks and reporting back. Tasks that are not completed may help to highlight capacity building opportunities within your organisation.


Recording votes and decisions

For official purposes, it's a good idea to keep a separate log of votes and decisions. If a vote or decision is taken during a meeting, make it an action to write the outcome in the Decision Log in case anyone wishes to dispute or review it in the future.

Further information


Page last edited Jun 23, 2017 History

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