This is the fourth in our series about habits. If you want to check out the others, you can find them here, here and here.

We’ve talked about the habit loop, and convenience/inconvenience and stacking, and now it’s time to introduce yet another strategy you can use to help you build habits without relying on willpower or motivation: Pairing.

Pairing might sound similar to stacking, but it’s actually quite different. Pairing is when you take something that you really enjoy, and you pair it with a habit or behavior that you’re trying to build and strengthen (often times something that isn’t as fun.)

Want a few examples?

  • Let’s say you’re trying to exercise more. What if you only going to let yourself watch your favorite TV show while you’re on the treadmill at the gym?
  • Or, if restricting yourself doesn’t resonate with you, simply use TV, podcasts or audiobooks to make the exercise more enjoyable. I, for one, always end up running just a little longer (often subconsciously) when I’m particularly engrossed in an audiobook.
  • I once had a client who was trying to build the habit of opening the mail daily and she only let herself listen to her daily news podcast while she was opening the mail.
  • Personally, I’m not a huge fan of chores (who is??), but I get a lot more of them done when I’m pairing them with listening to podcasts.

Have you used pairing? Do you currently use pairing? Tell me how in the comments.