How will you know you are progressing satisfactorily toward your chosen date for submitting your grant proposal? Defining milestones will help.

Earlier blogs have addressed why doing a plan for your submission is a good idea, key concepts in project planning, how to assess the feasibility of your proposed project, and how to construct a blank timeline. This blog will explain a way to gauge your progress toward meeting the submission deadline.

Project milestones are key events that tell you whether you are proceeding as planned. They are specific points in the development of your proposal. Failure to meet these targeted points (milestones) could derail your plan (there’s that word again!) and cause you to miss your submission date. Once established, milestones should not be moved without extremely good reason to do so. Examples of milestones include the submission date itself, internal deadlines for budget review and approval, other internal deadlines unique to your institution or situation (e.g., mock review), dates you will get your work to colleagues for input, and when you will do the actual submission (hint: probably NOT on the day it is actually due).

I also suggest taking a broader look at the world around you and add important dates to your milestones list. While not milestones in the truest sense, these are dates that are important to you or to others who will be helping you with your proposal. These are dates that apply to multiple people or to you as an individual. Examples include holidays, vacation times (yours or team members’), on-call times, teaching times, child’s birthday, or anniversary. In other words, dates/times you 1) cannot work on the proposal, 2) alter what part of the proposal you can work on, or 3) plan to put the proposal aside to concentrate on something else in your life.

Now that you have a good idea of milestones and other important dates, here is your assignment.

You will need paper and pencil (Luddite approach—use your computer if you choose), a calendar, your timeline with dates at the tops of the columns, one single color of sticky notes, and your chart marker with a medium-sized point.

Write all deadlines and other milestones on the paper (or your computer). Add other important dates as discussed above. Review and make certain you have captured all relevant dates. Now transfer dates to the sticky notes, one date per sticky. Or you can put your milestones and other dates directly on the sticky notes if you prefer. Then place the sticky notes under the appropriate column on your timeline. I suggest aligning milestones and important dates across the bottom of the timeline so you can see them at a glance. You may also want to put these dates in your regular calendaring system.

Next week I will explain work breakdown and provide details on how to begin.

Next Post: Buckets of Fun (Work?)

Previous Posts:

  1. #*@*! Plan Is Not a Four-Letter Word
  2. Planning to Plan: Gathering Materials
  3. Can You (Really) Do Your Proposed Study?
  4. Researchers–Start Your Timelines

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