Proposal preparation and time management are linked together like a hand in glove for a variety of reasons. This include:
- If you don't submit your proposal on time, you can't even compete for the contract or grant award.
- If you don't receive the notification on time, you won't have time to complete it with efforts that result in winning.
- If research needs to be conducted, collaborative agreements need to be created and approved, and data mining needs to be done, you can't possibly do it in a short-time frame.
- If submitting a proposal at the very last minute (because an organization failed to prepare), it is highly likely that glitches can prevent the application from being uploaded properly resulting in formatting issues or not upload at all.
- If you have uploading issues (with electronic submissions), you can't receive technical support if submitting proposals at the last minute.
- If submitting at the last minute, the agency accepting the proposal can't advise you on mistakes if submitting late or at the last minute. It is literally impossible!
Most people underestimate the time it takes to prepare grant proposals and technical RFP's. Failing to do so will often have negative results. Here are a few tips to ensure your time doesn't slip right out of your hands during proposal preparation phases:
- Plan, plan, plan, and plan more. You can't ever plan enough for this type of technical writing.
- Read the notice several times. Many times the agency putting out the call for proposals will provide an estimated time it should take to prepare such proposals. Federal contracts usually note somewhere in the back of the notice how many hours they estimate it should take to prepare. It is often drastically underestimated, but you get some type of idea about how long it will take to prepare the proposal.
- Employ help. You can't do it all. Heck you may not be well equipped to write any of it. Many people think they have the patience, skill sets, and abilities to create technical writings. It's not easy, nor is it for the faint at heart. Hire professionals, ask staff for help, or call the agency that put out the notice, they may be able to offer some assistance (though they can't offer much for fear of preference over one applicant of another).
- Break the proposal up into chunks.By doing so, the applicant is able to better manage each section. It is overwhelming looking at the entire proposal, but when broken up into small sections, it is so much easier to complete them.
- Work on the most difficult sections (the sections with the highest points awarded) of the proposal first. The most difficult sections take the longest to prepare when you do this, it ensures applicants spend the majority of their time working where the most points are given.
- Maintain a calendar (electronic and hard copies) and set reminders and hard deadlines throughout the application prep process. If you do this, time won't creep up on you.
You can make minor modifications to your application process to reduce your chances of losing track of time. Time is valuable. Once it's gone you can get it back, so use it wisely.