Time. As capture and proposal professionals, we find that it is most certainly NOT on our side. We are always battling time constraints and deadlines that fall at the most inconvenient times, such as vacations or family events. Summer is particularly taxing, especially as we get closer to the end of the Federal fiscal year and the government pushes out a seemingly endless stream of solicitations.
Advice abounds on how to better manage time. But, what time management innovations are most useful for our profession?
The biggest time waster related to people is due in large part to distractions caused by innovation. Our teams are so connected to the world through smart phones, tablets, iPads, and the like that they lack focus. It is virtually impossible to hold a meeting without most of the attendees checking their email, social media posts, and text messages.
With all the innovations in personal applications, your team members may even be turning off their oven or spying on their nanny. The problem is not so much a lack of time, but a lack of focus.
The best way to gain focus is to demand focus. Urge the team to focus on winning, not on tweeting. This focus involves breaking bad habits like constantly checking email. When planning short meetings, require attendees to pay attention, and for longer meetings, schedule breaks for checking messages. Do not feel guilty for demanding focus because it is quite likely that the majority of the distractions have nothing to do with the meeting agenda.
“Starting each day by focusing on winning reminds us of where and how we should be spending our time. It also makes it easier to resist the urge to respond to distractions that might seem important but really aren’t. When we manage our distractions instead of letting them manage us, we have a lot more time to accomplish the things we need to do in order to win.” –Holly G. Green, CEO, The Human Factor
Get your team focused on winning. Are the necessary distractions really necessary?
Time management processes
Innovative Capture and Proposal Managers borrow from best-practice methodologies such as CMMI, PMI PMBOK, and ISO.
These methodologies all herald the importance of repeatable processes as a means to make the most of our time. It is true that repeatable processes reduce errors and rework. However, often we blindly follow a capture or proposal process that was once innovative but has become nothing more than a habit. Some habits are bad habits that we need to eliminate.
For example, some companies follow a solutioning process that takes them down a time-wasting path of building storyboards to the subtask level.
They get so focused on filling in the multitude of boxes in the storyboards that they forget to solution the value proposition. The result is very repetitive features, benefits, and proofs text that is of little help to the writers. Blindly focusing on a process rather than creating a winning solution is a bad habit.
Another example relates to meetings. Often we try to be inclusive. We add so many participants to our meeting invitations that our meetings (kickoff, tag-ups, color team reviews) become unwieldy. It wastes the Capture or Proposal Manager’s time to manage an overly large meeting with too many talking heads. In addition, all of the individuals who are not really needed are wasting their time. Meetings come with an opportunity cost. Only those who must be there should be there.
Examine your processes. Are some of them bad habits? Which ones can you eliminate or revise?
Technology: There’s an app for that!
Time management apps that you can download to your smartphone, laptop, or tablet abound. All have free versions as well as paid versions with greater functionality. My favorite? The Komorian Eternity Time Log for iPhone or iPad has features such as the ability to define and time personal and work activities, review time logs and calendars, run detailed reports and pie charts, back up data, and export results to fully analyze how you spend your time—and thus gain greater productivity. Similar highly rated apps include HoursTracker, My Hours, Eternity Time Log, and aTimeLogger. The APMP Reporter recently referenced a list of free time management apps perfect for business including Toggl, My Minutes, RescueTime, and Paymo. Options abound.
Use time management apps to best advantage. Can you leverage technology to analyze your time, eliminate time wasters, get more productive, and have more hours in the day for your personal life?
People, processes, and technology innovations can save time or be time wasters. Be sure that you understand the difference.
By Lisa Pafe, Lohfeld Consulting Group Principal Consultant
Reprinted by permission from the APMP-NCA Executive Summary Summer 2014 issue.