Welcome to medical science liaison podcast. I'm Jane Chin, your host for this segment. This podcast is for current MSLs, MSL managers, and medical directors. Please visit us on the web at MSLIQ dot com. To contact us, please email: podcast@msliq.com .

Most MSLs want better work-life balance and more job satisfaction. These are also two issues that MSL managers and medical directors pay attention to when they are looking to hire, motivate, and retain good MSLs. Many elements of the MSL profession are entrepreneurial - for example - developing your thought leader network in your region, setting collaborative goals, and managing your time and travel demands.

Unlike professionals in an office-based position, MSLs can’t huddle in a team meeting very often. There aren’t water coolers to share stories and "osmose" best practices. Performing effectively and efficiently as a MSL depend in large on the assumptions and behaviors of that liaison.

Company expectations of MSL activities can differ; geography is key in setting the upper and lower limits of a liaison’s travel. Therefore MSLs are usually left to their own devices to manage their work-life balance and job satisfaction.

Some of the entrepreneurial rewards of the MSL profession also yield the challenges of this job. I often think back to the days when I was a MSL and wonder how I would have been more effective and efficient if I had already learned the lessons I am learning today as an entrepreneur.

There are at least five ways to manage work-life balance and job satisfaction. I’ll share two of the five on this podcast. The full length article will be published in the February 15 issue of Art of Medical Science Liaising. You can access the full article if you are a subscribing member to MSLIQ.com .

The first, and maybe most obvious way to manage work-life balance is to define what that means. Most of us have an unrealistic view of work-life balance. This sets us up to feel guilty if we didn’t work enough and guilty if we worked too much. Sometimes, there’s just no winning in this formula because we’re measuring balance with time.

If you want to measure balance by the amount of time you spend away from home versus amount of time you spend with family, you can adjust by spending less time away from home or bring the family along on travel. For most MSLs the first option isn’t readily available, so some MSLs would pay the extra fare to bring family along on certain trips.

For me, I focus on the quality of time spent outside of work and not the amount of time spent. At least for now, I believe balance is bunk, and there’s no such thing as work-life balance. I spend a lot of time doing what I enjoy doing, which happens to relate to work.

The time I spend outside of work is therefore precious, so I pay attention to create an environment where work does not intrude. This means shutting down the computer and removing widgets like PDAs or blackberries or cell phones from the premises. In other words, whatever will distract my attention back onto work when I meant to focus on something or someone outside of work.

For those of us who define work-life balance as a quality of time measure, our goal is to preserve that quality when we have the time.

Along the same lines, we need to define what job satisfaction means. Again, this depends on the liaison’s individual situation and work preferences. We may generally desire intellectual stimulation, career mobility, manageable travel, and an opportunity to learn.

However we may not prioritize the list the same, depending on what’s happening in our life and career. Having rigid expectations of job satisfaction is a sure way to job dissatisfaction. We certainly aren’t looking to shortchange ourselves or swap one element of satisfaction for another.

But at a given time, we may place more importance on career mobility versus a time when manageable travel is more important. It may be useful to re-examine your job satisfaction priorities every six months or during a performance review, and at least once a year.

It is also helpful to involve people whose lives your career priorities will influence. For example, if you want to focus on career mobility, you may take on more responsibilities. This means you may travel more, and even think about relocation. If any of these decisions affect the work or life of your family members, you will want to have this discussion before implementing on your new priorities.

Now let’s change gears to the second area, and that is: Multitasking. You may be expecting me to advocate multitasking as a way to improve work-life balance. In fact, I’m advocating NOT multitasking to improve your work-life balance.

As professionals we’ve been so indoctrinated with why multitasking is great, that we may be multitasking ourselves into forgetfulness and senility. We want to fill up all of our time with as much as possible and concurrently whenever possible. At the end of the day, we may look back and wonder why we were so busy all day long and only accomplished very little.

I know that MSLs have periods of downtime, and I’m not referring to catching up on your reading when you’re waiting at the airport or on a plane. But if you’re at the airport or in your home office, and you’re speaking on the phone while answering your emails on the blackberry while listening to a web-conference while sending instant messages with three other colleagues…. That is the type of multitasking I’m referring to.

Multitasking dysfunction has become pervasive. Tamar Hosansky at Medical Meetings wrote about attending a conference and wanting to approach people, but everyone seemed to be talking on their cell phone, working on their laptop, or both.

Where multitasking is concerned, I believe that “Less is More.” Focus on one task at a time, get it done, and move onto the next task. Limit yourself to one or two web browser windows at any given time.

If you can imagine popping open ten web browser windows at once and switching from window to window to accomplish ten different tasks, you can get an idea of how multitasking affects the memory.

Reducing multitasking will enable you to focus on the quality of time you’re investing for each task. When you’re really paying attention, you’re less likely to have to go back for the second or third time to try to remember what it was you were in the middle of. You may even end up spending less time per task and get just as much if not more accomplished. And your memory will be less likely to fall prey to information clutter or data fog.

Many successful executives have learned to not fragment their attention and time to the point of risking a crash. Some CEOs block out a certain number of uninterrupted hours during the week when they absolutely will not be disturbed, to work.

So there you have it, two areas you can do immediately to help improve your work life balance and job satisfaction. More of defining what you want, and less of multitasking all that you have to do.

If you want to participate on MSL podcast or want to suggest a future podcasting topic, please contact us at podcast@msliq.com .

Thanks for listening, and Until next time!