Time often feels like the enemy. There just never seems to be enough time in a day (or week), and proposals often take much longer to develop and complete than we think they will. With grant writers often telling us that time is the largest hurdle for them to overcome, we thought it was important to explore some tangible ways to slow down the clock.
So, what can you do to ensure time doesn’t become the enemy in your grant writing?
Below are the first five of ten tips to help you slow down the clock, maximize your time, and make sure you have the space you need to write great proposals. If you need more time for grant writing, or for any other project you may be working on, these ideas are for you. Carry out these ideas, and you’ll be well on your way to having the extra time you need.
Time Tip #1 – Don’t Procrastinate
Procrastinators… you know who you are. If you’re being honest, you probably even put off taking the time to read this blog. Although we may laugh about our stalling tactics with friends and loved ones, procrastination can be a real time waster.
For some, it’s a habit that has been formed over many years. You may simply see it as a part of your “make-up.” But don’t settle. If you know you put things off and wait too long to get things done, then you need a plan. The first part of the plan might just be admitting you’re a procrastinator.
For many, procrastination happens when we have a task waiting for us that we don’t want to do. We might also procrastinate because we don’t excel in a certain area, and we hope someone else jumps in and completes the task for us. At times, we delay because the task awaiting us is boring or has potentially difficult or challenging circumstances to overcome.
Whatever your reason, procrastination is not a quality trait, so you need to plan to be proactive. When you know a certain task will trigger procrastination, get it on the top of your list and get it done first. Everything else will seem easy and will begin to fall into place.
Time Tip #2 – Figure Out Your Time Wasters
What distracts you? What happens over the course of a day that causes you to lose focus on the task at hand? Your time wasters could be any number of things, so it is important to identify what they are so you can implement a plan to overcome them.
For example, a grant writer might come back to their office after lunch with great intentions of pumping out the answer to the “sustainability question” in their proposal. They only have an hour before their next meeting, and they’ve blocked the time in their calendar to make sure they get the work done.
But something happens between sitting down at the desk to craft a beautiful answer and leaving for the next item on the to-do list. Instead of immediately digging into developing an answer to one of the questions on the application, they open Facebook and spend 22 minutes watching super fun videos of people falling down or cats scaring themselves in mirrors.
It’s so easy to get sucked in and so easy to end up wasting precious time. Everyone deserves to watch a good cat video now and then, but not at the expense of writing an important proposal. Before you know it, 22 minutes has passed and not a word is on the paper. This part of the grant proposal doesn’t get done, and it piles up for another day.
This may be an extreme example, because we know no one would ever go on Facebook while at work, but hopefully it demonstrates the problem. Know your time wasters and make sure you know how to avoid falling into the trap they set for you.
Time Tip #3 – Turn Off Your Notifications
Technology can make life easy and bring us instant access to information from all over the world. For the most part, it is an amazing and helpful tool none of us could imagine living without. But, for people struggling with time, instant and constant access is not always conducive to focusing on getting your work done. Continuous notifications can distract and take you off task quicker than just about anything.
It could be the “ding” from your inbox, a text from a friend, a new Facebook post, the score to a game, a tweet from the President, or an updated weather advisory… they all have the potential to pull you away.
When you need to focus, turn off your notifications, close your email, and put your phone in a drawer. You will find that more time is available for you to accomplish your tasks.
Time Tip # 4 – Work In Segments
There are times when large undertakings can seem incredibly overwhelming. When looking at a grant application, you might just see pages and pages of questions that need to be answered and wonder how it will ever get done. That’s understandable. But, by breaking down the work into smaller pieces, looking at specific sections, and setting aside smaller amounts of time over a longer period, your perspective may change.
Don’t try to tackle everything at once, especially if you don’t have to. Working in segments will likely make you more productive and allow you to accomplish more compared to pulling an all-nighter to finish your work. If you want to do your best work, and be more effective with your time, find a way to portion it out and complete it piece by piece.
Time Tip #5 – Make Use Of “Dead” Time
Depending on the job you have or the pace of the life you lead, you may have moments throughout your day that seem wasted, but could be redeemed for something more productive. If you have to drive throughout the day for your job, or if you have a commute to and from work, using your time in the car may be one of the ways to gain a few extra minutes accomplishing tasks related to your grant proposal. Take advantage of the “dead” time to make a call to a potential partner to share your vision for the project, or have a conversation with one of your colleagues to brainstorm potential answers to one of the application questions.
If you exercise, that time might be spent conducting some research as you listen to a pertinent podcast while doing your squats or running on the treadmill.
Every person and situation will be different, but look for openings in your day you may not have considered, and be intentional about plugging something into that time to benefit your overall production.
Try A Few Tips This Week
It’s time to take action. Identify at least one of these five tips and look for easy ways to adjust your life to give them a try.
Next Friday’s blog post will bring another five tips. Just a sneak peak… one of the tips involves potentially letting some people down.
While you wait for next Friday’s blog post, take a look at some more time saving advice in our “Effortless Ways To Save Time In The Grant Writing Process” blog post. Read this to get some relevant tips while gaining FREE access to a “Common Documents Checklist” that will encourage you to prepare some of the frequently used materials that most grant applications require.