Thursday, December 10, 2015

Create Your Ideal Environment: Tips for Building Your Concentration as a Lightning Fast Grant Writer

Ironically, I did not start getting interested in ergonomics until I had my own grant writing consulting business. For some reason, I neglected my posture and health while I worked for various charities. Nevertheless, once I started working for my own company, I found myself getting fascinated with the details of what it takes to create a highly optimum work environment. I suppose that I got a lot more interested in my own productivity and comfort when the only employee at work -- at first -- was me. 

Nine Tips for a Healthy Workstation from the Mayo Clinic
Nine Tips for a Healthy Workstation from the Mayo Clinic

As I like to share with my workshop participants, I purchased an expensive ergonomic chair when I started Drew & Associates. The advantages of this rather extravagant purchase included the fact that it was actually designed to reduce my stress and discomfort. The chair I use has foam cushioning and moves with my back to avoid locking my torso in a rigid position. The movement allowed by the chair actually keeps you more relaxed and resilient. To my surprise, physical discomfort had actually been harming my otherwise superhuman powers of concentration. Once I started using the ergonomic chair, I found I could blissfully write for an hour or two with barely a thought about my physical environment. What other tips made money for me? 

First, I think it is not enough to buy an expensive ergonomic chair. You also need to know how to adjust it so that it really works for you. For example, I raise my chair so that it is high enough that my elbows are parallel to the keyboard. I raise the arms of the chair so that they match the length of my upper arms exactly. (Left one is a little shorter on me.) 

I also use an ergonomic keyboard. It is the best I could buy. It is bent in the middle to reflect the actual angle of my hands and wrists. It also has a shelf which allows me to rest the palms of my hands at the exact same level as the keyboard itself. As the video above recommends, I keep the top of the display screen horizontal to my eyes. 

All of these may seem like minor details, but when you are making money based on your ability to concentrate on a difficult task with an extremely tight deadline, I have found that these little details matter a great deal. In fact, I do not think I could succeed as a grant writing consultant unless I had the technological edge provided by the highest quality office equipment. 

Finally, I cannot stress enough the importance of minimizing distractions. I do play soft music while I am writing. I have done that for years. I cannot imagine writing without having a radio going on in the background. I am getting a kick out of using Pandora for my office sound track. Oddly enough, I have done some of my best work when I played a song I particularly liked over and over again. I know I should get tired of hearing such a song, but when it is the right one my brain does not seem to mind the lack of variety. It is not so easy to avoid the telephone. I find that I simply do not answer it while I am writing something. Usually, there is nothing urgent taking place so this is no big deal. If you are an introvert like me, then ignoring your phone calls is probably one of the most pleasant things about being a grant writer. 

I also limit myself to checking my e-mail about twice a day. This is exceptionally difficult. Nevertheless, e-mail can be a great time waster and an easy way to be distracted from concentrating on your highest goals and priorities.Ultimately, we are judged by the successes of our grant writing, not the speed with which we respond to e-mail requests. 

No comments: