Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The strategy of pairing

Strategy of pairing

If you're anything like me, chances are you have something on your regular to-do list that you keep putting off such as going to the gym, catching up with household chores or dealing with emails.

I've come across something so simple and genius in it's approach that it's changing my life, one boring task at a time.

I first came across the 'strategy of pairing' (aka Premack's principle) whilst listening to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast earlier this year. The idea is: you take an activity you don't like and one you do like, and entwine them to make yourself more likely to do (and possibly enjoy) the very thing you've been putting off.

The example given in the Freakonomics podcast was centered around a common issue - people who struggle to go to the gym. They discussed a study at a university in the U.S. which gave students gym-only access to tempting audio novels, the idea being that they'd get hooked to the book and want to go to the gym to continue listening. The study reported impressive results.

The idea came up again recently in the book I was reading, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, in which author Gretchen Rubin gives several pairing examples, some of which I've listen below along with my own:
  • Doing the washing up during advert/commercial breaks.
  • Listening to an audio book or podcast whilst walking to work/going for a run.
  • Watching your favourite TV show whilst catching up with the ironing.
  • Filing/clearing your inbox whilst listening to your favourite music.

Pairings are, of course, unique to everyone - it's all about what fits in to your life and what you enjoy. The most successful pairing I have is related to fitness: I watch specific Netflix TV shows only during my daily 5:30am workout at home. I look forward to watching those addictive shows and not feeling bad about the screen time, plus it gives my brain something to focus on other than the time left on the clock during a grueling workout.

Do you have any pairings in action already, or any you're now planning to adopt? Comment below!

Additional Refs:
Gretchen Rubin's blog: The Strategy of Pairing

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