How to keep track of action items

Any good project manager will tell you that documenting and following up on action items is a key to a successful project. With all the tools at a project manager’s disposal, what should you use to track action items. Below is a list of tools I have run across for managing action items:

Microsoft Excel


  • Small learning curve
  • Easy to distribute/collaborate with team members


  • Not web-based
  • Tasks are not directly tied to the project schedule
  • No automatic notifications
  • Easy to get out-of-sync due to team members making changes to their local version
  • Project manager has to make all updates to tasks

Microsoft Project


  • All project tasks can be tied to the project schedule


  • Steeper learning curve than Excel
  • Requires the project manager to manually update all tasks
  • Not web-based

Online To-Do Software (Such as


  • Easy to learn
  • Very affordable (in some cases free)
  • Web-based
  • Can share/assign tasks to team members
  • Team members can automatically mark tasks as complete
  • One central list of tasks for a project
  • Tasks can be accessed/updated from mobile phones


  • Tasks not tied directly to timelines
  • Data resides on external servers

All of the above tools have their strengths and weaknesses. No one solution is the silver bullet for managing action items, but all of them below in the project manager’s tool belt.  If you have other tools that you recommend to your colleagues, please share them with your fellow readers below.

And remember – No matter what solution you use, make sure that you actively manage the action items for your project. If you neglect the action items, you are acting neglectful towards your project.

One Reply to “How to keep track of action items”

  1. “One thing though: unless the project someone works on is highly classified, I see no reason for which, for an online tool, the data resides on an external server. Most of the project tracking online providers have much more reliable computers, connections, security measures, back systems that regular individuals have… And from my experience (basecamp from 37signals for several years and more recently with 12spints from SAP) I have no reason to believe that these guys are taking a look inside my account.No trackbacks yet.”
    You can more about this?

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