A couple of months ago we decided to put a submission in for an NIH grant. No big deal, I hear you all say. Well, we had decided so late that we only have 17 days to do it!
I was the main writer for the project, and so it fell to me to do some major blue skies, thinking about what we would put in the grant, and then to craft the content. At day 17, I thought it was a lot of work, but was optimistic about the amount of time it would take to put together. After all, I had a number of other documents I could pull from.
At day 14, I realized how much (or little) headway I had made, and the enormity of the task ahead dawned on me. I honestly thought I had bitten off far more than I could chew, and that failure could potentially be on the horizon. Then, I reminded myself that I adore challenges and the potential payout for putting in a tremendous effort over a relatively short period of time was large enough to make it worthwhile. So what did I do?
I separated the necessary tasks into two, and delegated parts of the grant documentation to a team member. She was excited to try something new, and I hope she was happy at the trust and belief I had in her to complete the multiple tasks. With that safely out of the way, I could concentrate on writing the grant.
When I had research that needed to be performed, she was also available to help me so I could continue to concentrate on the section that I was focusing on. Every day, we had multiple team meetings to see the progress we had made, and we became each other’s cheerleaders. This last part may sound unimportant, but as the hours I stayed at work lengthened into the early morning, and I was back in around 8am, her cheeriness and encouragement, among others in our department, really helped to keep me on track.
It was amazing to feel the team spirit, not only within my department (who held off all non-essential things until after submission), but also from collaborators who wrote letters of support for our project.
The value of networking and staying connected to those individuals was clearly highlighted. I even managed to network and make new collaborations which really added new perspectives to the project and will be a wonderful addition in the future.
As the word got out around campus, people would ask me about the progress and give words of encouragement. The positivity surrounding me was infectious, and as the days passed it became inevitable that we would make the deadline, and it would be a piece of work we could all be proud of.
When I had a complete rough draft and showed it to my supervisor and collaborator, I was incredibly nervous. For a moment, I regressed 10 years to writing my thesis and showing it to my advisor. Would he like it? Were my ideas any good? Was my reasoning sound? I needn’t have worried as he was happy with it; however, as with any draft, there were changes that needed to be made. You may be surprised to hear that I was glad of those changes because I continued to learn and hopefully improve my grant writing skills from an experienced master.
As a team, we took on a colossal task and won. We really came together and worked effectively trusting each member to complete their part to a high standard. There is no I in Team, however, I would not have managed to complete everything if I had attempted to do everything alone.
Sometimes, it is a good idea to truly test yourself and the team around you. It really builds trust and motivates everyone to work effectively together. The sense of achievement when everything was safely submitted was wonderful, and everyone’s participation was acknowledged. Of course, now we managed that I am going to have to come up with an even harder challenge for us to tackle – after a little while.