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There are certain moments in the life of a CRA or a CSC where the workload is high: database freeze, study start-up, etc. And you may feel overwhelmed and not know how to handle the tasks you are asked to do. How to organize when each task is urgent? How to be sure not to forget anything?

Here are some tips that I was given when I was confronted with this type of situation.

ARCWritten by Sophie Hammer

Define priorities

When you have a lot of work, you have to plan. As soon as you receive a request, check the deadline with your interlocutor. This way, you can classify the tasks you have to perform according to the degree of urgency. When you organize your days, you will have to deal with the tasks by order according to the date of the deadline.

Effectively divide your tasks into your day

When you have several tasks with deadlines close together, evaluate the time that each task will take, its level of difficulty and the constraint it represents for you. Obviously, always deal with emergencies first, regardless of the time, difficulty or constraint that the task represents.

Let me explain: we all have times when we are more or less operational in a day. Some are in the morning, others in the afternoon. If you find it difficult to emerge in the morning, plan a rather easy task, something that does not require much reflection. Seek out when you feel most operational in your day, you can take on complicated tasks and demand a high level of attention when you are in full possession of your abilities and thus be faster and more efficient.

You can also plan tasks according to your fixed schedule. For example, you have a meeting at 3 pm and you come back from your lunch break at 2 pm, plan a task that is treated relatively quickly so that you are not cut off in your impulse by your meeting.

If you are lucky enough to be able to work telecommuting one or more days a week, plan long or demanding tasks for that day. Far from the office, you will be less often interrupted and you will be able to devote yourself fully to your task.

Similarly, I advise you to treat a relatively short task when you arrive at the office, directly, without opening your email box. This will allow you to advance on your schedule, and be ready to welcome new tasks once your e-mail box is opened. Also, it’s good for your morale, because you will be able to tick a task on your to-do list while your day is hardly started.

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Finally, think about whether you like it or not. If you hate doing something, it will be much harder to tackle this task than another. Here too, plan an unpleasant task after a rather easy task, this will allow you to more easily chain your tasks.

If you’re having trouble to start doing this kind of task and you’re used to pushing them back as much as possible to more pleasant tasks without ever having the courage to do it, you can split them. This works mostly with repetitive tasks, avoid tasks where you will need to plunge back into what you have done the previous time to avoid wasting too much time. For example, you have to re-contact 50 rather recalcitrant centers for your project. Start by doing one or two and then do something you like, then re-contact a third, and so on. The task will seem less insurmountable since this will constitute the succession of small short tasks and it will be easier to complete it

For very long tasks, break them down into FSA: the First Smallest Action. Method I learned during a training with Laurence Einfalt. This is the first action to be taken to carry out this action. Again, this makes it possible to de-dramatize the task. For example, I have to submit a file to the ANSM? My first smallest action will be to take the list of documents that I have to submit in my file. Once I re-read this list, my next FSA will be to check that I have all the documents on that list. Then ask the promoter for the missing documents and so on.

Use appropriate tools

Several types of tools exist to organize his time: in paper format or in electronic format, using software… Try different methods and find the one that suits you best.

If you need to write on a paper format, maybe you’ve heard about the bullet newspaper, bullet like « chip. » This is a method invented by a New Yorker called Ryder Carroll, here is the video in which he explains his concept:

To get the subtitles in French, click on the « subtitles » logo bottom right of the video player. You can also watch this video in French.

The goal is to put everything in one and the same notebook, so that you will always have everything at hand and you do not lose any information unnecessarily. Obviously, everything is not good to take, it is up to you to organize to save time, and the goal is not to waste time in superfluous planning. You can pair your notebook with a calendar, so you will not have to draw your calendar yourself or you can also print your own calendar.

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I also use this notebook to take notes at meetings or phone calls. To clearly show the difference between the calendar part, task list and daily schedule and the note part, you can divide your notebook into two by using a repositionable divider. All that will be before the repositionable divider will concern the planning of my time, everything that will be after the repositionable divider will be notes.

If you are a digital fan, you can use applications such as Wunderlist or Trello. Check out the following points, which I think are important when choosing your application:

  • You can indicate deadlines to your tasks,
  • The system provides you with automatic reminders as you approach the deadline,
  • You can easily view the list of your tasks,
  • You can organize your tasks by project,
  • You can consult and update your tool on several media (for example your computer and your phone).

Whatever tool you use, think about updating it regularly. Otherwise, its utility will be less.

Do not get distracted

Whether you are a CRA, a CSC or a project manager, you regularly receive e-mails and phone calls. Although you may think that the consultation of an e-mail takes a few seconds, it cuts you off in your work and you need a little time to get back into what you were doing. As Vanessa wrote in the article « I am crumbling under the mails, how to get out alive », it is useless to consult his e-mail box at every moment. Begin by closing your box. Yes, close it because, if you leave it open the smallest e-mail that will be sent to you will appear on your screen and you will be tempted to read it. Reopen only at well-defined times. Do not panic, if someone needs you urgently, they will contact you by phone.

If you need to consult old e-mails to perform your task, you can also select the « offline » mode on your e-mail box, so you will not be bothered by any mail. Do not forget to reactivate the reception of the emails once your task is finished. You do not risk losing e-mails because your box will synchronize and you will receive all the e-mails you have received during the time you were offline.

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If you are really late in your work or you have to be perfectly focused on your task, filter the calls. Ask a colleague if he wants to answer the phone for you and only go through real emergencies (such as a center that has a patient on site and has an urgent question or a serious adverse event, for example). Of course, you will have to do the same for him in return.

If you do not have a colleague or if all your colleagues are as overwhelmed as you, put your phone in silent and tell your answering machine to leave a message, you will consult them after your task finished and will call back immediately.

Inform your manager and project managers

Do the tasks accumulate and you know you will not be able to handle them? Do not let the deadline pass without saying anything. Immediately notify your project manager, he may be able to find a solution to shift some requests. Indeed, sometimes tasks with a deadline may be less urgent and processed later. However, to identify this type of task, it is necessary to discuss it.

Also inform your manager, he can give you solutions to better organize your time and possibly ask a colleague to help you. This will also help identify if some studies exceed the time that was initially estimated and reorganize your work.

These are the keys to managing your workload. You will not have less work, but it will allow you to approach it more serenely. Do you have tools or working methods to help you organize yourself? Tell us everything in the comments.

One step further:

A method to organize this task and its workspace that I found very interesting: The great book to organize.

Vanessa Montanari uses Leo Babauta’s « art of going to the basics » to manage her company, her activities of CRA, CSC and project manager.

Since e-mails represent a large part of our work, here’s how to manage them.

For the CSC, here is an article about a software to help you organize your projects in your center: How to work in Clinical Research, without stress with INNOGEC?

For CRAs, here is a list of tools that will help you organize your work during a monitoring visit in this article.

Si tu as aimé cet article, je te remercie de « liker » ou de partager avec tes collègues et amis Attaché de Recherche Clinique :)

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