Behance’s Action Method Process

Behance is an online magazine that targets “brilliantly productive creative professionals”. Based on their work with creative professionals they have identified a three “bucket” (my term not theirs) approach to making sure you get the most from every idea. They call this their Action Method.

Basically you take every idea and capture the following from it:

  1. Action Items – Things that need to be done.
  2. Backburner Items – Things that might need to be done.
  3. Reference Items – Things you need to record.

Here is a graphic from their site that demonstrates the process:


Lets run through an example. We could use something all business and work related, but right now I’m hungry which for some reason is reminding me of Taco Bell which is reminding me of late night dorm runs to Taco Bell from years ago. (I said all that in order to keep my example from seeming too random.)

So lets say a bunch of college students sit down and talk about
making a midnight run to Taco Bell. They end up with the following
Action Items:

  1. Find out what everyone wants.
  2. Get money.
  3. Borrow car.
  4. Drive to Taco Bell.
  5. Get food.
  6. Get cute worker’s telephone number.
  7. Return to dorm.
  8. Return car.
  9. Distribute food.

They also end up with the following Backburner Items:

  1. Try out Taco Cabana.
  2. Investigate some type of college student discount.
  3. Hold a hot sauce contest.

Notice that the Backburner items can be pretty random. The idea is
to make sure that any good ideas that are merely side products of the
task at hand aren’t lost along the way. These aren’t things that will
necessarily be acted on, just reminders of things that could be done.

Possible Reference Items that might be generated from the meeting:

  1. The list of Backburner Items.
  2. A hand drawn map to Taco Cabana.
  3. The telephone number for Taco Bell (so they don’t have to look it up next time).
  4. Taco Bell’s hours that were discovered in the phone call.
  5. A list of people who wouldn’t loan their car to be targets of possible mischief int he future.

In the Behance model, they suggest being very careful with what you file to keep clutter at a minimum.

What I like about the process:

  • It is simple – too many processes get so complicated that no one does them any more.
  • It requires writing things down – writing things down can be one
    of the biggest productivity steps you’ll ever make. In addition to
    keeping you from forgetting, writing helps you clarify your thoughts.
  • It is technology neutral – you can use whatever works best,
    paper, computer, voice recorder, tri-corder. It isn’t limited to
    buying a particular product or expensive solution (although Behance
    does sell some paper products that help support their process)

Things I don’t necessarily like:

  • In my experience you don’t really know what you’ll need until
    after you need it. I suggest filing a little more aggressively and
    then doing some type of file purging a few times each year. Behance
    suggests being Anorexic and I suggest being Bulimic.
  • The system doesn’t seem to have any type of schedule for
    reviewing backburner items. While leaving this out helps keep things
    simple, you need to come up with some time of process for making sure
    things aren’t just recorded, but actually get reviewed.

Anyway, I’d encourage you to checkout the Behance site–especially if you are or work with graphic designers. They have some simple products designed around their process that might be nice if you find the process really works well for you.

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  1. Evielyn says

    I have just come across the action method and i like it. I do alot of creative work with graphic design, video editing, stage sets and more. I am always looking for ways to move forward in projects with my teams.

    I use the paper method when in meetings and then transfer all actions to my gtd (getting things done) method. Any backburner items i put in someday/maybe which i review each week in my weekly review (that way i can move forward on any of them when i have the time).

    Reference items i file in an appropriate place and i have to admit i am a pretty mean filer – i file anything and everything, but it means that if i am ever in need of anything i know i have it.

  2. Alex Ciobica says

    The process that could make sure backburner things are not just recorded is schedule a weekly review. Like in GTD.

    What I like about this process is that it allows you to experiment with things that worked in other methods. They only give you a structure of the process. You can customize it to your liking as long as you pass through these three steps.

    Love it the concept. Must try it out.

    Thank you.

  3. Josh says

    Action Method’s software is horribly broken. Features don’t line up across platforms (Web, iPad, iPhone), task organization is sorely lacking, and development has seemingly stalled.

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