Conquering the Insurmountable Project – One Step at a Time

Are you facing a business project that looks so gigantic it seems likely to overwhelm you before you can complete it? Are you not even sure where to start? We’ve all been there. Before you conclude you have just been given more responsibility than you can handle, follow this simple advice from the experts: break the project into smaller, more manageable pieces.

This divide-and-conquer strategy will work with almost any project, from writing a proposal or business plan, building a house to constructing a website. For this particular example, we’ll use an office scenario: let’s assume you’ve been given the task of writing the business proposal for your company’s next big project. The funding and management approval depends on the persuasive capabilities of your proposal, and you’ve never written a proposal before.

Take a deep breath. Think about how the project can be divided up into phases or other pieces. First of all, be sure you understand your ultimate goal, the audience who will judge your writing project, what the finished “product” must be, and the deadline for completion. In the case of constructing a house, the builder’s contract most likely spelled all tasks that would be completed by a certain date, and of course that builder knows his “audience” is the homeowners and inspectors who must sign off on his work. In our example, let’s say you must deliver twenty copies of a nicely printed proposal to your company’s Board of directors at the next meeting, which takes place in a month.

Now that you have the goal, the audience, and the deadline firmly in mind, what are all the ingredients your final “product” must contain? In this case, the project proposal must describe exactly what the project is, how it will benefit the client or company, how, when, and by whom it will be accomplished, how much it will cost, and how those costs will be paid. Make a list of all those sections and notes for what they should contain.

Next, ask yourself if you can do the whole proposal by yourself. Odds are that you cannot. Even in this case, although you may be able to write the proposal on your own, you probably haven’t memorized all the information you need to include in each section. You must do your research and collect all the facts and statistics. Make a list of who has the information you need, and then contact them and tell them exactly what you need from them, and when. You may even be able to get others to write some sections for your proposal. This breaks down the project into even smaller pieces, which you will add to your checklist.

Now, what tools do you need to accomplish the project? In this case, it’s probably only a word processor and access to a nice printer after the proposal is finalized. But if you’ve never written a proposal before, you’ll want to look at some examples of proposals or–to take the most efficient route–start with a dedicated software package like Proposal Kit, which contains all the templates, instructions, and sample proposals you could possibly need. Starting with a pre-made package will automatically give you a structured series of steps that needs to be accomplished and a document already broken into individual pieces you can tackle one section at a time.

A new house is well on its way to completion after the blueprints have been approved, the schedule is done, and all materials and personnel are on site or lined up for timely arrival. An experienced builder will already have a known list of smaller tasks that must be completed in order to complete any project. In a similar manner, after you’ve set the schedule, lined up your tools (computer, software, printer or PDF converter), and collected the data “ingredients” from your information sources, you’re halfway to the proposal finish line. Even if you have to wait on some facts and figures, you can still fill in the sections for which you have data, and check those off your list.

Writing your project is largely a matter of putting the information in the best order for the audience, which for our business proposal is typically this: Introduction (explanation of what the proposal is about), Expected Benefits, Project Description (as specific as you can make it, including tasks, personnel, schedule, costs, etc.), and a brief summary section explaining why the project is great idea to accomplish right now and why your team can be trusted to carry it out. Finish off your proposal by asking the readers to take the next step–in this case, requesting that the Board approve and fund the project you have proposed.

A ready-made proposal kit can really expedite the writing part of the proposal process, giving you the framework you need with easy assembly of templates that include instructions and examples. Even though the general process of putting a proposal together is well known and structured, there can be an unlimited variety in what information goes into a proposal depending on the scope, industry and individual needs of the client and project – all of which can be assembled with a pre-designed proposal kit. And because the pages are professionally designed, the end result will look appealing, too. If you’ve done all the planning and research beforehand, you can check all the pieces off your list as you go and type out a draft proposal in fairly quick order.

Now, just like the house building process requires inspectors to ensure quality work, your not-quite-finished draft needs reviewers, too. Be sure to have others read your entire proposal, and if possible, get a professional editor or proofreader who is not familiar with the project to check every page before you declare the proposal final. If you are the only person writing the proposal, it can be easy to overlook mistakes even when you have been staring at the same writing for days. Then, after all team members have signed off on it, have your masterpiece printed or converted into a PDF and delivered. Then relax, pat yourself on the back, and wait for the reward you so richly deserve.

Now you know how to conquer any huge project by breaking it up into manageable chunks. And you’ll feel better prepared and perhaps even flattered when you’re asked to take charge of the next seemingly insurmountable challenge.

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