How to carry out ‘extreme pairing’ to become more productive

Gretchen Ruben talks about pairing in her new book ‘Better than Before’. This is the concept of coupling one activity that you don’t really want to do, with another that you want to do, to help form a habit of both of them. She gives examples such as watching TV whilst exercising or cleaning the house whilst the adverts in a TV show come on. Gretchen explores the concept of pairing less desirable activity, with anther more desirable one, to help you form a habit of both.

In order to be more productive I have looked at how you can ensure you are pairing pretty much everything you can. This can be two things you enjoy doing, it doesn’t have to be only a way to make a habit of those less desirable activities, it can also work to achieve multi tasking and becoming more productive with your time.

The activities I have tried out pairing together are:


1) Commuting and reading

Pop your latest book or your kindle in your bag and pull it out whenever you are commuting to work on public transport. Obviously if you are driving to work, this is not a sensible idea, but you can listen to an audio version of your book instead!

I am ploughing through my books by reading them on the way to work, its amazing how quickly you get through them, the other advantage is that it makes your commute fly by.


2) Commuting and Headspace

You can try listening to Headspace when you commute. If you have a stressful journey to work, one way to relax is to listen to the Headspace app. There is a commuting guided exercise that you can listen to in order to help you relax on your journey to work and set you up for an awesome day ahead.


3) Travelling and writing

There is something about being trapped on a train or a plane which allows you to be super productive. I allowed myself 20 mins to clear my e-mails so I was not distracted, then I had hour after hour (I did a lot of travel this week) to write as there are no interruptions and you can really get into it the flow of it. It is tempting to fall to sleep whilst travelling, but the time can be used so productively if you can manage to keep yourself awake!


4) Exercising and audio books

Every time you start to exercise, pop your ipod on and listen to the latest audio book you have downloaded. At times it can motivate you to exercise for longer as you just want to finish the chapter! I have started doing longer runs as I am ramping up for the half marathon, so I am listening to more and more audio books. It really feels like I have done two things at once  when I get back from the run.


5) Queuing and e-mails

If you analyse your day, you might find that you spend quite a lot of time queuing. You can be productive in that time. You might be waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting at the post office, in a shop, wherever you are, you can pop your phone out and start organizing your e-mails. Filing them away, deleting ones you don’t need to keep, forwarding those that need to go to someone else and possibly even actioning some. Whenever I am waiting or queuing for anything I immediately take out my phone and try to help on my mission for Inbox Zero. It’s amazing how quickly that time adds up.


6) Running and supermarket shopping

Rather than having wasted time getting to the supermarket, you can incorporate it into exercise. Run to the store, do your shopping and then run back. You might want to take a backpack with you, to help you carry all your food. The run back might be slower as you will have bags with you, but it is great exercise. This technique saves you having dead time getting to the supermarket and back and helps ensure you fit in exercise into your day.


7) Dinner and drinks with meetings

If you need to have a meeting after work hours, it can be a great idea to incorporate it into a working dinner. I have recently been doing quite a lot of work in the evenings, as I am trying to progress things outside of my day job. It is great to incorporate heading out to dinner, in my case exploring new places as I am in a new city, and getting the work you needed done completed.


8) Reading and having a bath

I love nothing more than having a long soak in the bath. If you spend quite a bit of time in the bath, you can take a book in and relax whilst reading. You just have to watch out for getting the pages all crinkly!


9) Phone calls and tidying

If you are at home and you need to make some phone calls. Put your hands free headset on and this will allow you to tidy up as you chat. Tidying the house doesn’t take much brainpower, so being able to basic housework whilst your on a call is relatively easy. You’ll find you have finished your call and your house is looking spick and span, meaning you don’t have to spend any of your precious free time doing housework later on.


All of these things help you feel like you are achieving more in the time you have. They don’t take much additional effort and they help you to become super productive. You have 168 hours in a week. If you can figure out how to do two things at the same time, you can achieve more in those hours.


I’d love to hear your ideas on whether there are any other activities you can pair to help you become more productive in the comments below.


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