Two Tricks to Get Stuff Done When You Don't Have a Hard Deadline

Originally posted on GrantsChampion, September 12, 2017
I struggle as much as anyone else to get stuff done sometimes, especially when the weather is lustrous, summer is short here in the wooly north, and the woods beckon with their beauty.

Top view of young mixed race girl working on her laptop in bed

And, I also have the capacity to sit down and churn out 70-page grant proposals within days/weeks. In my experience, it’s easier to be productive when you haveTop view of young mixed race girl working on her laptop in bed a hard grant deadline because you have no choice (other than guaranteed failure) to put “butt in chair,” and write.

But when your program isn’t crying out for cash right now AND it’s demanding your time and attention in a gazillion other ways, it’s easy to deal with the day to day emergencies and put off that yucky grant that you don’t really want to do anyway or aren’t sure you’ll win even if you do give it your time and attention (yup, I do know what goes inside your head my friend).
Trick One
One simple trick that I’ve found helpful when I’m faced with something I’m slightly daunted by is setting a timer. It works like a charm for me.

For example, if there is something I think will take hours and I don’t know what I’d say I often get stuck in my head trying to figure it out. However, if I set
the alarm on my phone and tell myself to just write something/anything for 10 minutes, I start the process. More often than not I find that I’ve written pages and am still at it 90 minutes later.

Conversely, when I only have 15 minutes, giving myself a timer to write for 10 of them helps me get something done in that time – and collectively, it adds up.
Trick Two
Another trick I use is music or podcasts. I cannot write and listen to music with lyrics (I think it has something to do with left-brain, right-brain dominance).

However, if I’m working with numbers – such as a budget – I can listen to something and work on a spreadsheet. So, when I’m working on a budget or my home finances I turn on a favorite podcast that I only listen to when I’m doing my budgets. So, it’s a treat for me to listen to BBC Woman’s Hour or the Moth and then I can deal with the tedium of plugging in numbers and balancing statistics.

I’ve called them tricks rather than tips because I think they are just that. Strategies for tricking my sweet ego into doing something it doesn’t really want to do– or managing my inner 7-year-old who would much rather go out and play.

So, if you’ve got a task you’ve been putting off that has no hard deadline – and don’t we all – try out and see if one of these tricks works for you today.

And on that note, with this written, I’m going off to hike in the woods.

About the Author

Jana Jane Hexter

Jana Hexter believes that grant writing doesn’t have to be stressful to be successful. She teaches The Grant Writer’ Well workshops using this this philosophy, you can learn about courses starting in January, March, and September 2019 please visit She also shares a plethora of free resources at such as an Online Grant Writing Self-Assessment Quiz, a gift copy of Jana’s book, Grant Writing Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science, and Secrets, and an audio version of the 11 Guiding Questions for Conscious Grant Writing.

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