Sunday, November 1, 2015

Eating That Frog can net GREAT Results!

In August I wrote and submitted a grant proposal for one of the nonprofits I work with.

Sadly, we received what I call a "Polite Rejection" letter that stated, more or less -- Thanks for applying, there were so many great applications but yours wasn't one of them.  We are happy to provide feedback at your request.

Requesting feedback was a frog for me.  I wanted to know, I put a lot work into the grant proposal.  I didn't want MY writing to be the reason the non profit did not get the grant.  If I am to improve I need to get honest feedback on how I can do a better job.

We got the Polite Rejection Letter October 9.  It took me a week, and on October 16, I sent my letter requesting their feedback.  I hadn't yet heard from them.

The foundation allows, and encourages, nonprofits to send a draft proposal prior to sending in the real thing.  This offer ends 2 weeks prior to grant deadlines.  With their next cycle deadline being December 1, time was ticking down.

Wednesday I put on my big-girl panties and became a little more assertive in getting feedback.  Not only did I send an email to the grant committee requesting feedback, I also sent the old grant proposal to be pre-read, explaining that I was not successful in previous cycle and have asked for feedback, but haven't gotten it, and could she look it over and let me know if there was something I could change.

Friday I got the reply:

Thank you for reaching out to us. We always appreciate applicants requesting feedback. Overall, the committee felt you had a strong application and it was well written. The main concern was in looking at the bid you provided as many of the activities appeared to imply that your consultant would be doing direct fundraising as oppose to educating your organization on develop your own fundraising capacity. As the goal of this program is capacity building, direct fundraising would not be an eligible expense. If you have any further questions, we are happy to talk more with you and always encourage you to take advantage of our rolling deadline and apply again.

See that?  I "had a strong application and it was well written."!!!!!!  We are attempting to hire a consultant and that consultant's contract (which they call a bid) had things in it the foundation won't fund.

It wasn't me!

The consultant has met with this foundation and they are happy with what he is proposing he do for us.  The went over his contract/bid and he will update it, and we will resubmit!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Eating That Frog with the Help from a Little Tomato

Yesterday I talked about an info-graphic posted on Federation of Independent Business called Powerful Productivity.  

Last week, I started using using The Pomodoro Technique - it is basically setting a timer and focusing on the task at hand. You work in 25 minute busts (called Pomodoros) with a 5 minute break.  After 4 Pomodoros, you take a longer minute break of 15-30 minutes.  The "Technique" got it's name from the tomato timer used.  You can read more on it in the link, but you get the idea.

I am amazed at not only how much I get done in 25 minutes, but how fast that 25 minutes goes!

I found a free app on my phone and it works okay.  What I don't like about it is that when I need to focus I turn my cell phone to silent so I am not interrupted by my notifications.  When my phone is on silent, my Pomodoro alarm is also silent.  

What I like about the Pomodoro App is that it tracks how many Pomodoros a task takes, and also remembers to give you extra time when you've worked for 4 Pomodoros.

The alarm on my phone goes off when I have it set to silent. But doesn't remind me to take longer breaks!

I am sure I will figure it out, but working in 25 minute bursts with a quick 5 minute break seems to be working wonderfully well.

Yesterday I added "Eat That Frog" to my productivity repertoire - short and sweet is that you start your day with your worst task, something you've been putting off and get it done.  Not doing that task weighs down on you; completing it frees you.

My frog yesterday was all the stuff I haven't been putting off.

Such as my folder of mail and stuff in the kitchen. We each have a folder and instead of having piles on the counter, we have folders.  My folder is overflowing to the point that I have a pile on the counter.  You can see the corner of that pile in the bottom left corner of the picture.

I also had these two baskets full of stuff -- Things that need to be done, but I just don't get around to it, like changing my name on a few last items that are still in my maiden name.  The H2O at Home box contained something I was supposed to return to -- too late, I get to keep the items!

My goal today was to just get it organized, knowing that there are a lot of things that need to get done, but my first step was to sort it all.  As I was going through the stuff, I realized there were different areas/subject, so I made a folder for each, placed them in a file sorter I had from my old classroom.  The first file, "Needs Action" are bills that I need to pay, or other things that have a rather short timeline.

I made a huge dent during my first pomodoro (25 minutes) and finished going through what remained in about 10 minutes into my 2nd pomodoro.  I printed out the cute frog and while waiting for my laminator to heat up, I looked up at this:

I pulled the stack of papers and books down.  The books were put away where they belong, sorted the other papers and items.

My work area looked like this, in 2 pomodoros, or 50 minutes:

My plan is that I will start each morning with eating a frog - either something in the folder, or something else that is pressing.

The best part is that I found a refund check in the amount of $101.80!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I am a WIP

Is there life after teaching?

After 21 years of being a special education teacher, I am nearing the end of my third month of my one year Leave of Absence.

Over the summer I began dabbling in my exploration as a grant writer.  I took classes, read various books and websites, began networking.

Then I was asked to assist an equine assisted therapy center in organizing and running classes. It was a blast!  Working not only with horses, but children and young adults with disabilities.

I kind of lost my way with my grant writing dream.

This week it dawned on my what my problem is.

For 21 years, my life has been ran by deadlines set by someone other than me:  start of school, lesson plans, posting of grades, report cards, progress reports, special education paperwork, daily and weekly notes to parent, and the list goes on.  Anyone who's ever been in education understands that it is a career shaped by deadlines.

I don't have that now.  Other than random deadlines like grant proposal due dates, I don't have any set schedule.  I can show up in my office when it fits.

Some days it just doesn't fit!  Yesterday Mom had doctor's appointments - I will never understand how two 30 minute appointments can take all day!  But that's what it was.  I love that I can take her to appointments, support her, go shopping between appointments, eat lunch out and enjoy our time together.  All the while NOT getting text messages from my assistants about how my kiddos are falling apart in my absence!

Some days I have nothing planned; and that's what I get done - NOTHING!  That is not saying I don't have things I need to get done, I just don't have a plan of what and when they will get done.  My to do list continues to grow, becase I don't have a plan to get them done.

This week, I decided I will channel my inner-time-manager.   I do, after all, want to get my freelance grant writing business up and running!  I would love to be able to replace my teaching income with writing.

First, I decided that my planner needed a boost - I need color.

I went from this: 

to this:

The colors make me smile! That long list is for today!

I also researched various suggestions from an info-graphic posted on Federation of Independent Business called Powerful Productivity.  

Today, if you look, I have a long list of things to do.  Sadly, it is almost 10 am and I'm still in my pj's!  I need to get dressed and start my day.  I have a frog to find and eat, a pomodoro to set my pace and give me breaks, an Action plan (Method) to get things done, and I have to be like Seinfield and not break the chain!  

I have a plan - but I guess I have to work that plan now!!