Originally Posted by Heather Lee on October 21, 2012
What do Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and swimming have in common? Both require a towel and the following directive:
Among all of the entertaining lines in that book, that one has stuck with me since I first read it in junior high school. Honestly, it has even become my cardinal rule in proposal work and life in general. So much of what we do is mental; remembering those two little words can prevent us from drowning in stress.
Yes, it really is that easy. Don’t panic. Feeling overwhelmed is a common occurrence when you’re dealing with proposals, especially when someone slaps a gonzo RFP on your desk and asks you to break it down. So how do you not panic?
Get a grip.
Divide and conquer.
Control your pace.
Get a grip. Stop and think about it. The world is full of huge projects, and shredding that RFP for an outline or compliance matrix is just a big part of a yet bigger job. We don’t need to panic because we work through big jobs every day. Just get a grip and make your plan.
Divide and conquer. Start by breaking out the major sections: Instructions to Offerors, Evaluation Criteria, Performance Work Statement, etc. Put them into separate stacks and then work through each stack, putting completed sections into your binder as you go. This method gives you the double benefit of better organization and a sense of progress while you work.
Control your pace. You’ll always want to finish quickly so you can move to the next task on your list, but don’t let yourself rush. Rushing leads to mistakes or omissions, which lead to compliance problems, which lead to your team hearing, “We missed that requirement.” You can maintain a steady pace without barreling toward the finish line and actually save yourself time in the end.
If these three steps sound ridiculously simple, it’s because they are. They are the first and probably most important things I teach to new proposal teammates as they come on board. The more you develop your ability to not panic, the happier and more productive you’ll be. Welcome to the pool, friends. I brought you some floaties.