Life Hacks: Balancing LPD Work and Research

Because of the multiple hats one wears as an LPD, one common struggle is how to balance things. This can be particularly difficult when a person’s research does not align readily with their LPD work. But because the kinds of prolonged, engaged concentration that scholarship requires can sometimes feel at odds with the more hands on, dynamically responsive, even frenetic activities of language program direction, developing a solid set of strategies for establishing professional equilibrium is essential. We will now expand on the tips introduced in Module 1: Life Hacks, this time with particular attention to how they might aid you in balancing your LPD work with research.

The same time tracking and workflow apps that were introduced in Module 1: Resources for managing your time can be used to intentionally make space for research and writing. The NFCDD (linked in the list of practical resources), recommends a weekly 30 minute meditation on what you need to do that week, when you will do it, and how you will creatively cope with the things that just won’t get done. Strategies such as this can help in setting realistic and manageable research goals that match your particular workload and priorities.

You already read in Module 1: Life Hacks how creating a secondary workspace that is removed from your LPD work can help you to devote some uninterrupted attention to research. If you are able to create a designated space at home for writing, you can store any print references you are using close by, along with any notebooks you use only for research, so that when you move into this space you are immediately surrounded by materials devoted to this part of your work. If you work in a public space like a library or cafe, you can recreate some of this feel by creating a virtual noteboard using a document or a digital app (such as Trello or Miro) that you open up on your laptop when you want to transition to a research state of mind.

If research in applied linguistics or language education is a part of your professional identity and workload, you can find ways to embed scholarly production into your LPD job. This might include developing a research agenda that incorporates some of the types of inquiry described in the previous section in ways that address real and immediate needs of your program.

Whether you set writing goals by semester, by week, by day, or all of the above, planning your writing is widely agreed to be the most effective way to keep to it. Organizations such as NCFDD (see practical resources) offer a workshop on setting longer term goals at the start of each semester and summer. Some academics swear by the pomodoro technique, which includes timed spurts of concentration and structured breaks, or productivity apps such as Forest. For others, setting daily word count or time goals proves the best method. Experiment a little and find something that works for you.

One way to hold yourself accountable, while also ideally experiencing a sense of camaraderie and support, is to find a writing group. Many campuses, colleges, and departments will support writing groups for faculty, sometimes specifically for more junior colleagues. Professional organizations also sometimes support these groups. Or you may just decide to start a bi-weekly or monthly meet-up with colleagues. These range from a face-to-face gathering where people sit and write together at a designated location to virtual versions of the same to social networking groups where members post a daily check-in. In any case, these groups can be a great source of motivation and also inspiration, as there is always always side chat about writing strategies or other professional issues.

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