Work-Life Balance when Work and Life are at Home

Its Sunday, yet I’m thinking about work, and I’m writing about work, and I’m sitting in my office at my work computer. When you work at home, it’s hard to get a sense of balance and to learn how to effectively go from one to another.

This is the hardest part of running a virtual company from home – I could quite literally work every waking minute.

This is also the thing I struggle with the most – just ask my husband. Wait, don’t ask him! You’ll get an even uglier picture than what I’m going to paint and run screaming back to the office. Please don’t. Keep your social distance.

So from one that struggles with this concept, let’s talk about how to try to make it work.

Routine?

If I struggle with work-life balance, I struggle with routine even more. That’s partly why I do what I do; it’s a new adventure every day. All of the experts will tell you that in order to be successful you have to have routine. I’ve read the books and can give you the titles if you want – heck I can send you my copy.

I. Can’t. Do. Routine.

Why? Because life is different every day. My work creates this environment. Working from home allows the flexibility to operate in this space.

Confession, I’m also ADHD (diagnosed before there was an H and before “girls could get ADD” – HA! proved ’em wrong even when I was 7). This is my blessing and curse-but that’s probably a whole other article, or series!

Even with living a different day daily, I do get “ready” in the morning – to what degree is determined by what’s on my calendar. (Before the virus) I get my kids ready and out the door for school, and I do eat something for breakfast (usually, sometimes I forget until it would be mostly considered brunch). I also do something to move my body at some point in the day – a walk, a Beachbody workout, or a round of Zumba or Just Dance on the Wii. Most days I also eat lunch (sometimes not until 3:30 when I realize that the kids are getting out of school soon!) That’s all I commit to for “routine.”

Even without routine…I. Get. Things. Done.

These days, it’s pretty much the same except that I’m not getting a kid off to school, she’s earning her wifi or doing e-learning days.

My advise, and it’s not scientifically based, is to do what works for you and your family. There are things that must get done every day. If it matters to you what order and when they occur, great! If it doesn’t matter to you, that’s great too.

Personal & Work Space

The best part of work from home? The Commute! The worst part of work-from-home? Access to the office!

The primary way I try to separate work and personal life is by separating the spaces. I have a dedicated home office. If I’m in there, I’m working or doing something related to work.

Generally, My kids aren’t allowed in the office. Sometimes they want to be with me when I need to work in the evening or on a weekend. In my old house we built a space in what would have been a closet (not a walk-in) where my daughter could read, draw on a whiteboard, and, many times, sleep while I work. We don’t have that luxury in this house, but I still manage to keep the kids close when they need to be…prime example is occuring while I write this (see the picture – worth more than 1000 words! And yes, I’m still in my pajama pants, its Sunday morning at 8:00!).

With schools closed, I’m attempting to instill the separation for my daughter too. She now has a work space in my office to do school work. Two exceptions: reading she can do on the couch (who doesn’t want to snuggle up with a book and a blanket on the couch?) and gym has to be done anywhere other than my office! I’m still waiting for the day my husband calls and says “I’m bringing my computer home – make room!” He’s still going into work every day (ooooh, do I have my own thoughts on that! But, those are at-home thoughts not to be aired online!).

Will this work for everyone? Probably not, but if you can at minimum set up space that is for work for a set period in a day then becomes family space – marked by a change in arrangement or some other visual/physical change – I believe that you can achieve the same type of physical shift from Office to Home.

Ideas for physical change:

  1. If working from the dining room table: move all work off of the table and put it out of site (cover it with a blanket if you have to!
  2. If working from a folding/temporary table: fold it away. If that’s too much, move it off to the side of the room or into a different space.
  3. If working from your bedroom: put it all away. Put it in a drawer, under the bed, in a different room, or in the closet. Working from the bedroom you’re going to really have to be purposeful in how you separate work-life-sleep balance.

Transition Time

Ok, this is the real kicker for work-from-home. In an office setting, you have the commute to transition from work mode to home mode. When you work from home, you don’t have the commute. One of the perks, right? This is where it can be a downer. Be intentional in creating transition time from work to family.

Back in the real world, in a parallel universe, I had a kid coming home around 4:00. This was my cue that my day would be wrapping up soon and that I needed to start wrapping up work. If I have late-afternoon calls, I know that I have to wrap up the day after my call so I prepare ahead of the call. I don’t stop working at 4:00, she comes in gets her snack and starts homework while I wrap up my day.

The end-of-day wrap up is only one element though, there’s also the mental preparation needed to switch from one persona (work) to another (parent/spouse). I have an alarm that goes off on Fridays at 5:15 so that I purposefully get up, leave the office, and do a transition activity (music. walk, audible, call a friend) so that I am ready to be in family mode when the rest of my family gets home and they are ready for the weekend.

Since I don’t have a kid coming home after school and we don’t have evening activities now, I’m going to be setting that alarm to every day so that we (both me and my daughter – the rest of the family as they join us) can all have this transition time.

What happens if I don’t have the transition time? Well….this is where I’m glad my husband and kids don’t get a say in what I write! But, in all honesty, because that’s what we all need right now, I’m not in a great head space. I’m still thinking about the problems I’m trying to solve with clients, I’m not “present” with my kids, and I’m pretty grouchy. I need time to gather my patience and muster energy reserves to make it through the evening. Sometimes, its just not pretty. If you can make it pretty every evening after working from home all day – drop me a line, we need to go into business selling the secret sauce (if it’s even legal!)

Until then, here’s to supporting your local wineries, breweries, distilleries, and restaurants that deliver. They’re going to get us through this. And my favorite…my local winery hangout @mallowrun is doing a drive-thru today to get cases at wholesale cost. If you need me after noon today, I’ll be in their line (they’ve had 40 minute waits each day this weekend!).

Stay healthy and safe,

"Replacing" the Face-to-Face Planning Session

A lot of what I do is planning, problem-solving, and getting information out of people’s heads to craft it into a masterpiece of a plan, proposal, or solution.

I’m now facing the need to do current-state, future-state, and gap workshops virtually!

I will never be able to replace the in-person session – the energy, body language, and idea flow that happens when I lock people in a conference room – hence “replacing” in quotation marks. However, I still need to complete my projects.

My planning sessions typically include storyboards, easels, and note cards or giant and regular sticky notes. Very tactile and visual. And very in-person.

So what am I going to do?

I know I’m going to use a video conferencing app to be able to video chat and share my screen. This way, I do get to see people’s faces, and they get to see what I’m creating as I’m creating it – as they would as stickies or cards go up.

Where I fall short is how to create the online visual of the sticky notes/cards. I’ve done a bit of research on tools that are out there. There are a lot of options, but I’ve boiled it down, and I think I’ve made a decision, but first – here’s what I found. (None of these are paid reviews by the way, just what I found in my afternoon search!)

Good to note here that all of the options have a sharing feature so I can share the workspace with a team.

 Visio

“Microsoft Visio is a diagramming and vector graphics application and is part of the Microsoft Office family” (thanks Wikipedia!). 

My Experience: I’ve tried using Visio for online sessions before, it’s clunky and slow. It does save time in the documentation phase, but watching someone create a Visio is worse than watching paint dry. It’s hard to keep the team engaged and ideas flowing when you are dealing with the intricacies of Visio itself.

LucidChart

“Lucidchart is a web-based proprietary platform used to allow users to collaborate on drawing, revising, and sharing charts and diagrams. “

 My Experience: Do you Visio? That’s what this looks and feels like to me. There’s lots of ability to chart and diagram. That said, Lucidchart does have better visualization templates to choose from that may look better in the end, then again, so does Visio. What am I missing here that I can’t get in Visio? I guess it is a cheaper option!

Cardsmith

“Sticky notes on a virtual whiteboard. Brainstorming online, collaborate in real-time, project management – all in one. Perfect for agile & lean teams.”

My Experience: This is a basic sticky note online app. It was quirky in chrome today, not sure if that’s normal. It did work in Edge, but I’m not a fan of the browser. That said, they do have Business Analysts and Project Planners and Managers in mind and have some pretty nifty templates.

The interface is simple. The cards (stickies) are easy to use and move around. You can create a default card so that each card you create has the same look/information. There are also built-in card managers to let you have the cards in freeform or in a tile view (all the cards are lined up perfectly for all of you OCD-er’s), and there’s also a grid function that you can use to sort the cards. I like this last one if I’m going to attempt Compression Planning remotely here soon.

With cardsmith, the cards can have images, links, to-do lists, and links as well as text.

 Pinup & Note.ly

I group these two as they are the ultra-simplified versions of sticky notes.

My Experience: You create sticky notes and can move them around, change color, etc. They look like they could be the same developers! Too basic for what I need, but could be a straightforward option for a bulletin-board replacement.

 Stormboard

“Digital sticky notes, whiteboards, and workspace for business processes”

My Experience: You know how when you go car shopping, and you find the car that has almost all the features you need, you just wish it was in a different color? That’s kind of how I feel with this Stormboard. It is very close to having all that I would want.

Integrations with other apps/software make this one the high-end model. You can add documents, images, and videos. Stickies can be combined to create Index cards. And, there’s a whiteboard function if you need to draw something out.

I didn’t try it, but they do say that it works on phones, tablets, computers, and Surface Hubs.

The kicker for me? You can assign tasks from the stickies, and you can send reports instantly. These features are definitely on my “want” list!

I tested this one with a team member, and if you share the stormboard, others can add to the board live while others are also working on it. This is a great feature for Pair & Shares or Group Breakouts.

Decision?

I’m looking at cardsmith and Stormboard, leaning more towards Stormboard, but I’m going to take some time in the next few days to keep using the free trials before I make a decision on which to use live.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

If you’ve done a virtual planning session I’d love to hear what you used an how it turned out.

Wishing you all the best as we navigate new waters,

A few coronavirus survival tips from a long-time Working-From-Home consultant and mom

As the world faces the pandemic of an era, all of us are facing new ways of living. Whether it’s just that you can’t go to your favorite restaurant or bar on St. Patrick’s Day or that you are now a work-from-home professional or you might have the trifecta: working-from-home-while-home-schooling-and-you-don’t-even-get-to-go-to-the-bar!

I’m now in that last category! My saving grace? I’ve done this before (well, before I got to go to the bar!). I’ve had my school-ager home for breaks before while I worked, just not this unplanned and without anything outside the house to go do.

I thought I’d share a few tricks I’ve used while working and momming. I’m not saying that these will all work for you, but we can all use a little camaraderie. So know that you’re not alone, even if you think these tricks are useless.

Keep in mind that as I write this, daycare is still open. If my 4-year-old comes home, there may be a different post – and I can’t promise that my language will be as civil!

1.You need an office.

Even if you can’t work in your usual office, you still need an office to work in – that has a door.

We all saw the video of the kid coming into the room during the BBC interview so doors aren’t foolproof, but it does limit background noise. Set up a desk of some kind. It could be a folding table, TV trays (anyone have those anymore? We do!), or the dining room table if you have a separate dining room. If you can’t set up your desk in a place with a door, at least have a plan for where you will go for calls so that you can shut out the noise of a full house when you need to (my daughter recommends the closet!). A dog barking or kid noise will happen, but don’t be the one that we hear your entire life going on in the background while we are having a meeting!

2. You can’t work like you’re in an office.

For better or worse, you’re not in an office. You won’t have the interruptions from your co-workers wanting to stop by and chat when you really need to concentrate. However, you also won’t have the ability to stop by a co-workers desk and ask that really quick question you need to ask.

Solution: For us GenX-ers, go back to the college days and find a chat app. AOL isn’t en vogue anymore, but Microsoft has Teams and Google has Hangouts. There are others, but likely you use one of these broad platforms to get your work done. Get your team or typical go-to coworkers on the app. This will give you the ability to ask a quick question just like you always did, but without the awkward small talk.

You might not have coworkers interrupting you, but if you’re in the quagmire bucket with me and have school-agers under 13, you will have your co-livers interrupting you. There’s food, drink, and dire device needs that need your immediate attention!

Solution: This one is multi-part.

  1. Fill a water bottle or other lidded liquid conveyance container with a drink of choice that should last them an hour.
  2. Set out provisions like grapes, crackers, banana (if they can peel them alone), or other non-perishable-in-an-hour kind of food.
  3. Get 2 pieces of paper. On one, make a red X and on the other a green check mark (or other yes/no symbols of your choosing – we are doing emoji’s this time). Put them on the office door, back of your chair, or even wear it. These are to let your family know if you cannot be interrupted or if you can handle a quick question. You’ll have to explain this – probably many times!
  4. Set a timer for an hour or 90 minutes (depends on how independent your kids are). When the timer goes off, check on the kids. This is meant to be a a quick check-in. We’ll get to the bigger break – lunch!

3. Your schedule won’t be exactly like at the office, especially with kids.

When you work from home, the nice part is that you don’t have to commute and, depending on your meeting schedule, you may not even have to get dressed-except to maybe change into sweats. This is a huge timesaver! The downside in the coronavirus situation is that you also have the kids home with you. This is a huge detour in the schedule. So how do we deal with this?

Solution: First and foremost is that you have to set expectations for yourself and with your employer that this is not business-as-usual, so it cannot be business-as-usual (even for those of us that work from home everyday!). Be clear in your expectations about when you must be available (meetings, client calls or emails, etc.) and when you can be flexible (working on your assignments) as long as deadlines are met. Let me reiterate that you are still on the hook for deadlines (managers and execs, I’ve got your back too!).

Second, establish as a family when you will be working and when you will be available for family. This may mean splitting your day into chunks.

  • You might do an early morning first pass before the kids are up: set your priorities for the day, check your calendar, and respond to any urgent emails that won’t sit until after you get the family moving.
  • Once everyone is as settled as they are going to be for the day, you can get back at it (taking your check-in breaks) until lunch. I’m making mine earn her play WiFi this time, so that’s keeping her busy!
  • When you get everyone fed at lunchtime, this is a good time to answer e-learning questions and make sure everyone is on track for getting school work done. I think this is also a good time for a brain break for everyone. Go for a walk (if you’re allowed by local rules), play a quick card game, or get out the Wii/Switch and “Just Dance.” It will likely be longer than an hour for your “lunch break” doing it this way – but you don’t have your evening commute, so you can make it up.
  • Lastly, if you haven’t finished what needs to be finished for the day, once the kids are playing after dinner or when they are tucked in for the night, you can finish up.

4. Breathe and take breaks

When you’re in an office, I think it’s easier to get up, move around, and take breaks. You have to get up to go to the printer or the conference room and the bathroom is (generally) more than 20 steps away. When you work from home you have to be intentional about getting up, moving, and taking those deep breaths that help to keep us calm. I’m not good at this one – it’s a struggle every day. Remember that timer to check on the kids? It’s also a good timer to remember to breathe (probably both before and after checking on the kids by week 2!) and to stretch.

We’ll get through this

Put on your sweats, get the laptop booted up, and we’ll get through this!

It’s not ideal, but we’re all making it work as best we can. While they are calling it “social isolation,” let’s not socially isolate while we have to physically isolate. Keep in touch with your friends and check in on family. There are lots of services offering free use while we are facing the coronavirus. If you or loved ones don’t normally have virtual connectivity, get hooked up so that we can maintain our social connections. Afterall, life is about more than just work.

With lots of strength and courage,

and for some humor…

Work-at-Home Mom Meme
photo cred: https://flickr.com/photos/shantipoet/7395464526

Is your rural healthcare organization, K-12 school, or higher-Ed college/university ready for the zombie apocalypse?

USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant Open!

Approximately $72 million dollars available!

zombie

We all thought it was crazy-talk that we could be isolated for weeks or months on end and that our only communication with the outside world would be through technology. Well, here we go! Can you still reach your rural patient base or rural students?

DLT now accepting applications to provide healthcare and education via tele-connectivity in rural communities!

Are you ready to apply?  The SNF Writing Solutions team has a history of awarded funds for this grant and would love to help you apply.  Act fast, applications are due April 10th.

Please visit the following website for additional information regarding requirements:  https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/distance-learning-telemedicine-grants

Leave a comment below or email us.  We look forward to working with you!

Drug Free Communities (DFC) Funding Opportunity Announced.

The Drug Free Communities (DFC) funding opportunity announcement dropped! SNF Writing Solutions is looking to extend our 4-year win streak working with coalitions on their applications. Leave a comment or email us if interested in learning how the SNF Writing Solutions team can help your coalition apply. Please share if you know a group doing good work in their community to reduce youth substance use.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/nearly-25m-available-substance-use-prevention-coalitions-new-partnership-ondcp-cdc/?utm_source=link

Big Announcement Coming January 1st!

My “light” evening reading is a hint.

Happy Fall-New-Year

Crisp air, changing leaves, colorful trees, sweatshirts, and football. And my birthday (and my husband’s and my son’s)!!  All reasons to celebrate my favorite season. (No, I didn’t mention the “flavor” – not a fan, call me crazy!)

It’s also the time of year that I start to look at my plan for next year. December is just so full, fitting in a strategic plan review just doesn’t happen. And January – well – that’s for resolution failure, not a good time to try to plan while you are starving, you just don’t make good decisions when you are hangry! Plus, fall is it’s the start of my personal new year, so it’s fitting.

It’s often said those that “do” don’t take the time to “do” it for themselves – and that is so true! So I’m going to post my progress in updating my plans and give you a glimpse into my process. My wish is that other independent consultants can benefit from my work.

Out with the old.

I can organize and streamline just about anything business related – except for my office space! That’s where I called in Laura from Victoria’s Organizers to help me sort through the layers of clutter and create a space that works for my work.

Four full contractor trash bags, 2 tubs and a box to my lovely assistant to scan, and 2 trips to Goodwill later…I have a space that is functional for me even if not textbook organized (and I can see the floor!).

I highly recommend calling in a pro to help, even if you think you’re pretty good (as in all other things – the pro is a pro for a reason). She was able to work within my style and needs (i.e. organized chaos). I still have some homework to get done before our next session, but I’m already working in a much more functional layout.

You may not need to rearrange furniture each year, but the declutter and toss clears the path for new work and thinking. Give it a try!

In with the new

With functional space to work in, now it’s time to look ahead. The nice thing about being an independent consultant is that I get to determine (to some extent) what I work on and how I spend my time.

What is it I want to do?
What do I really enjoy working on that I’m also really good at?

(Change the “I” to we for your department/organization and this will work for any setting)

With dry-erase marker in hand, I’ve outlined a list of the kinds of tasks and projects I enjoy and have the skillset to complete. I’ve also identified a couple of opportunities to get some additional training so I can do some things even better. I’ll be looking for an Excel “beyond-expert” class if anyone knows of any!

Looking for commonalities I found a few themes in what I like doing: “growth, decisions, concept, and manage.” Building to growth and bringing concepts to clarity are part of helping a organization evolve while decision making and managing are crucial to sustaining an organization.

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Whiteboard filled, I’ve taken a step back and narrowed it down to a pretty simple concept:

I thrive when I’m helping solve problems to evolve or sustain organizations.

A little rewriting and (a lot of) wordsmithing and I’ll have a mission statement!

Next, I’m going to work on identifying strategies to bring in not only new clients (which, of course, is important), but also new challenges and problems that need solved. Stay tuned for the steps I’m taking to create these strategies and results of this work and what I’ll be up to next week.

Until then…

Cheers!

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2019 Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs Calendar Available!

It’s that time of year again…holidays, snow, school breaks and of course, the highly anticipated 2019 release of the competitive grant and state program calendar for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA).  Let’s get funding!

 

Quick Impact Placebased Grant (QuIP)

Reuse Re-imagine Revision Re-engage

QuIP is grant designed to enhance communal space to spark creativity and community wide conversation and engagement. OCRA’s strongest applicants will have significant involvement and partnerships within the community.  They encourage grants projects that will be unique and inspiring on the local level.  Eligible applicants include community group or organizations, local government units and schools (elementary through high school, college, university, trade and vocational)

Important Dates:

  • Monday, January 14, 2019 QuIP Opens
  • Wednesday, January 16, 2019 QuIP webinar
  • Friday, March 8, 2019 QuIP applications due
  • Thursday, April 25, 2019 QuIP awards announced

 

Stellar Communities Program Grant

The Steller Communities Program is an economic development program designed to help those community projects that address health and wellness issues.  New this year, the program has evolved to regional partnership initiative.  A minimum of two or more programs are encourage to partner together.

Important Dates:

  • Monday, January 28, 2019 Stellar Communities Program opens
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019 Stellar webinar
  • January 14, 2019 – January 25, 2019 Stellar follow-up with non-designees (HPGN)
  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019 Regional Capacity Workshop: Lessons Learned from Stellar Communities (Indy IGC)
  • Friday, April 5, 2019 Stellar LOI’s Due
  • Thursday, April 18, 2019 Stellar Finalists announced
  • Thursday, June 6, 2019 Stellar Planning Grants awarded
  • Monday, July 8—Friday, July 19 Stellar Finalists technical assistance
  • Friday, September 20, 2019 Stellar Finalists Regional Development Plans’ due
  • November 12 – November 15 Stellar Community Finalists Presentations
  • Thursday, December 5, 2019 Stellar Designees announced
  • Wednesday, December 11, 2019 Stellar Reception at Statehouse
  • Thursday, December 19, 2019 Community Stellarbration 1
  • Friday, December 20, 2019 Community Stellarbration 2

 

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

The CDBG is a federally funded program that helps communities with a variety of projects including community centers, health and safety programs, sewer and water systems and many others.  This funding helps communities improve their quality of life and ensures the safety and health of their citizens.

Important Dates:

  • Monday, March 25, 2019 CDBG Round 1 opens
  • Wednesday, March 27, 2019 CDBG Round 1 webinar
  • Wednesday, April 10, 2019 CDBG 101
  • Friday, May 3, 2019 CDBG Round 1 proposals due
  • May 20 – June 7 CDBG Round 1 site visits
  • Friday, June 21, 2019 CDBG Round 1 overdue docs due
  • Friday, June 28, 2019 CDBG Round 1 applications due
  • Tuesday, July 09, 2019 CDBG 201 Wednesday, July 10, 2019
  • CDBG 201 Thursday, July 11, 2019 CDBG 201
  • Thursday, August 15, 2019 CDBG Round 1 Awards Announced
  • Monday, August 19, 2019 CDBG Round 2 Open for Applications
  • Wednesday, August 21, 2019 CDBG Round 2 Webinar
  • Tuesday, September 10, 2019 CDBG 301
  • Wednesday, September 11, 2019 CDBG 301
  • Thursday, September 12, 2019 CDBG 301
  • Friday, October 4, 2019 CDBG Round 2 Proposals Due
  • October 21 – November 8 CDBG Round 2 Site Visits
  • Friday, November 15, 2019 CDBG Round 2 Overdue docs due
  • Friday, November 22, 2019 CDBG Round 2 applications due
  • Thursday, January 09, 2020 CDBG Round 2 announced

Additions and changes will be made to the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affair’ calendar directly, so check there often. Be sure to review the eligibility criteria carefully too!

These applications can be overwhelming at times. If you need a hand – be sure to reach out. We look forward to working with you!

 

With Grantitude,

The SNF Writing Solutions team

How to Irritate Your Grant Proposal Reviewer in 5 Easy Steps

As I finish another grant review panel (this one Federal), I found that I had to check my “crankiness” meter – where I was on the scale when I reviewed the app – during our discussion in the team-consensus calls. Upon reflection, I decided that the applicants would do certain things that immediately changed my perception of the rest of the application. While I could temper this, somewhat, in the consensus scoring – there were many things that irritated me so much that I couldn’t (wouldn’t) let it go. And others on my review panel had their irritants too!

So, without further ado – if you really want to irritate your reviewer and have them view your application with the most critical of eye…make sure your…

1. Math is Wrong

In your budget, make sure that your summary table doesn’t add up – both for the request and any match requirement. If you want to outdo yourself in this area, your subtotals in the various sections should not match your summary. For added bonus frustration, leave out key pieces of information, such as base salary, so that the reviewer has absolutely no way of determining if your budget is accurate or reasonable.

For our objectives, make sure that your baseline and projected measures for your indicators is confusing – using percentages of percentages without mentioning what your denominator is. Reviewers will never be math or evaluation people that can figure it out; so you’ll be ok giving fluffernutter for objective measures.

For even more excitement, have numbers in various sections referred to in other sections with different values in each section – it will keep your reviewers on their toes.

2. Proposal and Documentation Don’t Match

When providing a partner list and qualifications, your Letters of Commitment that you attach should be from completely different entities – that way your reviewer has to figure out how it all fits together. Even better, have different partners in the qualifications list, letters, and budget. Reviewers all love an intricate puzzle to put together at the end of a long day! For bonus points, say that one of the partners is critical for implementation, but don’t include a letter from that partner – just your word that your most critical partner is on board is good enough.

Ditto the above for project staff. Be sure to include a random CV/Biosketch in the attachments too – reviewers love to be tested to see if they are paying attention!

When documenting your match, have a different amount in your budget than what is committed in your letters. Reviewers don’t even look at that or try to figure it out. Make sure to include various match amounts from organizations that aren’t in your budget or that you haven’t mentioned anywhere in your proposal, for good measure. Even better, just put in a dollar amount and don’t demonstrate how that number was obtained.

3. Project is Redundant of Others in the Area or from Across the Country

There’s nothing quite like reading a proposal that says that it is “unique” and “innovative” and – even better – “revolutionary to the industry” – when you’ve read the same project concept three other ways and those other proposals cited the research and project models that they are building their project from. Just put your “original” ideas out there – no need to do any best practice research during the project development phase.

4. Proposal Looks Unique without the Aid of the Provided Templates

If there are instructions or templates for the proposal or letters, no need to pay attention to those pesky details – reviewers aren’t going to look at the NOFO to know what was required – and there’s no way you would get a past recipient and someone who has written and managed similar applications/awards for several years on the same review panel – right?

When there’s a template, you would never want the reviewer to have an easy time finding information, so switching up the headings (or taking them out altogether), removing borders from tables (making it really hard to read), and abandoning the provided formatting for checkboxes and forms is highly encouraged.

5. Workplan Timeline is “Ongoing”

Every activity is always going to continue throughout the project, from beginning to end, so by all means, just give your timeline as “ongoing” for every activity.

Timelines are just wishful thinking anyway, so no need to put any thought into the exercise. Reviewers don’t need to know what’s slated for the first year versus the third year, or even the fifth year; they are just being nosey. As for milestones, we will just know that we are making progress – we don’t need to think about them or when we might achieve anything that matters in our project. We aren’t going to meet the timeline we proposed anyway – we are waaaay to ambitious in what we proposed and definitely don’t have the staff FTE count to support the work (but, shhhhhh the reviewers will never figure that out!).

Personal Note:

I review budgets and work plans first (this is after the kids are in bed). When your math doesn’t add up – I’m jaded for the rest of your proposal – if they can’t do the math in their budget, can they manage this project? If your work plan isn’t supported by the budget, I really question if your project is achievable. I’ve worked enough projects to know what it takes and the FTE support needed to execute a project; I’m all for lean teams – but there’s a difference between operating a skeleton team and not having enough time/bodies to achieve what you set out to do in a project.  In your evaluation, give your benchmarks and indicators careful thought. You will have people that have implemented projects like yours on the review panel and they have a pretty good idea what is feasible and what is inflated. Finally, take the extra time before you submit to make sure that your supporting documentation (attachments) match what is in your proposal – the reviewers really do look that them.

Here’s to (not) irritating your reviewer!

With Grantitude,

stacy sig jpg

Stacy Fitzsimmons is the Founder and CEO of SNF Writing Solutions, LLC

 

Implementing a New Software? Don’t Forget About These 5 Things.

New software programs and apps can make life wonderful for organizations.  In addition to just rolling out the new system with the software company, there are other items to keep in mind.

People

Even with the greatest software, the human element still exists.  Users and Admins alike will experience tremendous change through the new system!  System champions must be ready with FAQs, training, and detailed documentation on how to perform job-specific tasks within the new system.  Expect some fear, resistance, and slower reception from staff.

Outside-the-System Tasks

Software systems are wonderful tools for automation and efficiency.  Nay times the new system will eliminate tasks done manually.  There are also times a new system will modify or add new outside-the-system tasks.  To ease the transition, prepare to discuss and document the modifications to manual tasks.  This can be achieved through a FAQ or in documentation manual side notes.

Processes

Related to outside-the-system tasks, the overall business processes will be modified with the implementation of the new system.  It’s okay and to be expected that the new system disrupts the status quo.  Manage the chaos and ease all affected staff with good current state (pre) and new state (post) workflows and stepwise manuals.  For tasks that are overly simple or only come up every once in a while, use a one to two-page Quick Reference Guide (QRG) to document the task.  Create this documentation while you have access to the developer or a software representative that can provide demonstrations and answer questions.

Business Requirements

When you started your software finding mission, or when you began the implementation with the software company, you most likely created a list of business requirements. Be sure to review this list of requirements periodically as the implementation rolls out.  “But we know the requirements; why do we have to review them? For several reasons, foremost are:

  • Ensuring the software, as delivered, will meet your needs.
  • Identify which business sectors/divisions will be impacted by the new software implementation.
  • Guide the documentation creation efforts.
  • Aid in developing communication planning for roll-out and change management efforts.

Training & Documentation

Whether provided by software company, internal resources, or a third party, training on the new system is critical.  New, shiny software will be absolutely useless without a trained staff to implement the new system.  The training dshould include a walk-through of the basic system navigation, and then a series of sessions on how to complete job-specific tasks.  Each session should reference documentation tools available to the staff as they work post-rollout.

The training and documentation should be captured and stored in a way that can be used in the future for onboarding new staff and as a reference for staff needing a refresher or transitioning to a new job function.

Final Thoughts

In the excitement of implementing a new software, the change-management elements can often be forgotten. Include these elements in the planning stage and work on them throughout the implementation.

I wish you well on your software implementation.  Should you have questions or need more information or help on any of these topics, leave a comment below, or you can email or call me.

With gratitude,

stacy sig jpg

Stacy Fitzsimmons is the Founder and CEO of SNF Writing Solutions, LLC

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