Using an ‘action date’ is a proactive approach to managing your workload.
Whenever a task is unfinished, there is a next step. Frequently, that step is passively managed. Usually this means waiting for something to happen to allow work to continue. It could be waiting for a part to arrive, or for a customer to call back, or something similar.
Rather than just leave things to chance, always assign an action date to a delayed task. An action date creates a sense of ownership and active management in people.
An action date is simply the date that you need to take action to get the ball rolling again. Far too often projects and files sit incomplete not because nothing could be done, but rather because there was not nudge to get things going, or because people waited for something indefinitely.
Consider, for example, a customer who said she would call back in a week. The action date would be set for the employee to call the customer back in nine days. If the customer calls, obviously, the employee change the action date to whatever the new ‘next step’ is. If the customer doesn’t call, the action date prevents the order from sitting incomplete indefinitely because of an oversight.