Take action by pairing

Take action by pairing

In this post, I share one of my all-time favourite strategies for getting things done, which is pairing.

In this context, my definition of pairing is “doing two things at the same time with the view to achieve two things at once”. It is essentially purposeful multitasking, without one task suffering while doing another.

I first discovered the magic of intentional pairing over a decade ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. I wanted to exercise during my pregnancy, but obviously had to take things at a gentler pace, so wasn’t able to run as much as I had before my pregnancy. I started exploring other crossing-training options, such as the exercise bike and cross trainer in the gym of the building we were living in.

I often listened to music, audiobooks, and podcasts when I was running, but was frustrated I couldn’t read more physical books. The exercise bikes in the gym were relatively new, and had a ledge on which I’d seen people place magazines and newspapers. When I tried out these bikes I realised that it was feasible to prop up a magazine or book and comfortably read while cycling.

I had a stack of magazines piled up next to my bed, which I hadn’t managed to find the time to read. I tackled these first and got through all of them over the first few weeks of riding for 30 minutes each day. Now I had built some momentum, I thought ‘what next’? and reached for some books that had been on my shelf for a while. I hadn’t been able to find the time to dedicate 30 minutes to reading each day since I was a kid. I was astounded by how many books I could get through each month with 30 minutes a day, whilst getting my exercise in at the same time! Why had I never thought of this before?! I was completely converted, and still am to this day. 

We moved house after my daughter was born, and even though I joined a local gym, I didn’t go every day, and really missed my daily reading session. When I became pregnant with my son, I put my gym membership on hold, as many of the classes I enjoyed had become challenging during the last months of pregnancy.

I jumped on Gumtree and did a quick search for second hand exercise equipment. My search bought up a bike and cross trainer for sale, a couple of blocks from where we lived. The young couple were moving and were desperate to get rid of these cumbersome pieces, so I snapped both up for $100. This is seriously one of the best “investments” I’ve ever made. Especially the bike, which doesn’t take up as much space as the cross trainer and has always fitted into the bedroom or living room.

Since then, I rarely skip a day of Bike and Book time and it has helped me to read hundreds of books on my book wish list.  

I am always on the look out for an opportunity to read. I love reading while having a soak in the bath, as this helps me to relax even more. I am mindful of the books I select to read in the bath, as invariably they get splashed with water. Small paperbacks are best, and I often select older books that I’ve picked up at second hand book stores, op shops or street libraries that weren’t in mint condition to begin with.

I always have a stash of eBooks and eBook samples on my phone to read, which I’ll happily peruse while waiting in a queue or at school pick-up, instead of scrolling through social media.

Another way I consume lots of books each year is by listening to audiobooks. I spend a lot of time in the car for work and ferrying kids to and from school and extracurricular activities. It’s amazing how quickly you can get through a book in daily ten-minute increments to and from school!

My Audible subscription is another one of the best investments I’ve made. I’ve learnt so much from audiobooks, and there are so many to choose from – the Audible catalogue is constantly growing, and they offer a free trial. However, I also love Borrowbox, which is the free audiobook and eBook app accessible through Australian libraries. As a starting point I highly recommend you check this out first, to see if you like listening to audiobooks (I promise, you’ll be hooked!).

In addition to listening to audiobooks in the car, I’ve also listened to podcasts, courses and masterclasses I’ve signed up for, and most recently, since starting singing lessons last year, I practice singing. As long as it doesn’t distract you from driving, there’s a lot you can learn during the time you spend behind the wheel.

I also like to pair activity with listening to audiobooks, podcasts, etc, which is why I always run with my wireless headphones. I had an expensive pair of Bluetooth headphones … until the dog decided they’d make a tasty snack! After this, I purchased a $25 pair of wireless headphones from Kmart and haven’t looked back! These headphones have all the functionality of the expensive pair, and to be honest I can’t notice the difference in sound quality. Added bonus: should the dog get to this pair as well, I won’t want to kill him quite as much this time!

Running or walking with others is also fun, which is why pairing a walk and talk with a friend is a great use of time – exercise and social connection! You can even walk and talk on the phone with friends and family who are further away. I personally don’t enjoy talking on the phone, so would much rather walk and talk in person. Whilst I love coffee catch ups, walking and talking can be less intense. Because you’re also looking where you’re going, you don’t have to make constant eye contact. Walking can be a good option for people who find one-on-one catch ups overwhelming.

Cooking on the weekend is another activity that helps me relax. I love spending extended time in the kitchen where I can cook several things without the time pressure of having to get dinner on the table asap during the week or risk being eaten by hangry children!

I love pairing these cook-up sessions with great music – jazz, pop, acoustic covers, classical – whatever I’m in the mood for. Setting aside time to cook like this on a weekend converts it from a chore to an experience and something I look forward to doing. The added bonus is the end result: delicious food we can freeze and eat during the week!

My last favourite pairing combo is meditation and music. I have tried a few different types of meditation, and whilst I love my app with guided meditations, I sometimes find listening to someone’s else voice a little distracting. In this instance, I prefer to listen to music so I can tune into my own internal voice. Over time I have collected some beautiful instrumental pieces that are great to listen to while meditating. Listening to the same piece of music is helpful because it is familiar and comforting and I’m not distracted by the melody. Discovering the Spotify meditation music playlists have been a game changer! Many of the pieces in these playlists don’t have a strong, distracting melody, they are simply a collection of beautiful notes at a pace that complements deep breathing and meditation. 

I hope this episode has inspired you to look at the things you can pair in your life to not only take action and get more done, but also create more joy and connection by achieving your goals.

Now it’s your turn to further explore how pairing can help you take more action in your life. Here are a few questions for you to ponder – grab your journal and write down your answers so you can dig deeper.

  1. What activities do you currently “pair” in your life at the moment (whether you realise it or not)?
  2.  What other activities could you pair going forward, to take action AND sprinkle a little more joy in your life?

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
– Joel A. Barker: