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How Do You Deal With Deadlines?

Jan 4, 2014
Proposals in General
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How Do You Deal With Deadlines?

Deadlines are to proposal professionals as water is to fish. They are the lifeblood of our profession. Dealing with them effectively will make all the difference in your emotional wellbeing and in your professional career.

Valerie J. Mann has written a very informative article about “How to Deal with Deadlines” in the most recent Journal of the Grant Professionals Association (Fall 2013). I will combine her advice with my own in the list below.

Some of these suggestions may seem very obvious to proposal professionals, but in my experience many of them are routinely overlooked because (ironically) of the press of time or because of defective proposal development processes. Which ones do you use? Which ones should you use in the future?

Here is my list of ten recommendations for meeting proposal deadlines:

• Work backwards from the due date and set deadlines for all the major steps that need to occur. Display this visually on a calendar that is distributed to the proposal team and senior management.

• Set the final deadline several days before the published deadline for submitting your proposal. Do not forget to factor in final proofing and production time.

• Make your assignments to proposal team members very specific. The more specific the assignment, the greater the likelihood that the deadline will be met.

• Follow up with team members on a daily basis to ensure that they will meet their deadlines.

• Be mindful of the actual time it takes to do a complete proposal and plan accordingly. It always takes longer than you expected!

• Make sure that key members of the team will be accessible during the final critical five days before the due date.

• Be confident and convey that to the proposal team. Proposal professionals, like everyone else, do their best work when they are calm and focused and not anxious.

• If you have problems meeting certain deadlines, tackle the most stubborn and most important ones first.

• Be honest with senior management and do not be afraid to ask for additional resources, such as consultants and outside experts to address specific portions of the proposal.

• Pace your proposal team and avoid draining their energy, especially toward the end of the process. Encourage work breaks, the lack of which leads to lower productivity.

Deadlines should be the proposal professional’s best allies, not their worst nightmares. Figure out how to meet deadlines, for your own sake and that of your colleagues.

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