Top Time Management Tips for Grants

Updated: Oct 23, 2020

Time is money. Time is of essence. Timing is everything.

These stock phrases hold essential truths for people, organizations and project management. For managing grant projects in particular, time is a valuable resource that can make or break the success of your grant. And while time management tips are as easy to find as straw in a haystack, managing a grant project takes specific time management skills.

But don’t worry. Follow these tips to leave plenty of time—or at least enough time— for reporting, budget tracking, letter and narrative writing, stakeholder meetings and similar tasks, even when unexpected snafus eat up the hours you planned for other, just-as-important tasks.

Develop core time management skills.

It’s not managing time, it’s also the quality of attention, according to Wharton School of Business Professor Adam Grant. “Often our productivity struggles are caused not by a lack of efficiency, but a lack of motivation,” he wrote in a 2019 New York Times feature. “It’s not about time; it’s about timing.”

So, first start with these basic time management tools:

  1. Focus on what excites you about the project. The task at hand may be dull but don’t forget the big picture.

  2. Set realistic daily and weekly goals. A list of goals can help you keep track, plus gives you the satisfaction of checking off each one.

  3. Set time estimates for tasks. Estimate how long you think each task will take, and then try to stay within the estimate.

  4. Prioritize tasks. Doing the most important tasks first means that what doesn’t get finished won’t keep you up at night.

  5. Block distractions. Don’t be afraid to turn off your ringer or close your email to meet your deadlines.

  6. Get enough sleep! A solid night’s sleep will make you sharper, faster, and more productive.

Add to your core skills for grant management.

Most grants require a fair amount of administrative work such as reports, tracking and evaluation. While these categories overlap quite a bit, you can still break up and even divide tasks among staff members to manage grant project time. If you are solely responsible for the grant project, breaking up complicated or complex tasks will help you keep track of your progress while not overwhelming you.

Use these tips to keep your grant project on track to meet its deadline:

  • Develop a time line. Remember, everything takes longer than you think. Include tentative deadlines, and end your timeline two or three days before the project deadline.

  • Create a check list. If you’re relying on others for information and data, create a list to keep track. Include when the data is due.

  • Develop your budget early. If your budget is finalized, you won’t have to adjust activities that you thought you could fund but can’t. Also, you won’t have to go back and change your narrative.

  • Develop effective letter samples and templates. Streamlining this process will help you and everyone else tasked with writing letters of support.

  • Delegate someone to gather letters of support and/or signatures. Try to find someone besides you to complete this. If this isn’t possible, allot time every day to the task so it doesn’t overwhelm you.

  • Stick with what works. We all work most efficiently in different ways. Find out yours, and your team’s, and continue to use them.

  • Remember the back end. The final tasks in your timeline often take the most time, so allow the right amount of time they need to succeed.

And most important:

Take a break when “stuck.” When the columns of numbers start to dance on your computer screen or you find it impossible to write the next sentence, just stop. A walk around the office or block, or switching to an “easy” task, will freshen your juices when returning to writing reports or a narrative.