The Amazing Potential to Increase Productivity and Have More Fun at Work: Pair Working

You can call me a productivity freak, as I have over the last 10 years experimented with hundreds of ways to increase my productivity. The one way that had the highest impact on productivity was definitely Pair Working.

1. Pair Programming

Pair working was introduced to me by pair programming. Pair programming is a core concept of the agile methodology of extreme programming (XP) that recommends that software developers work in pairs. That means that while one person codes, a second person sits next to him and gives advice on what to code and vice-versa.

Around ten years ago I was building a new development team and I was experimenting with agile methodologies like pair programming. So I told my team to try pair working s. At the time I was feeling unsure about it because I was afraid that I was using two developers to do the job of one developer. However, after a short period of time it became apparent that pair programming really worked. The code quality was high, the progress was fast and the developers were motivated.

2. Which Kind of Tasks Can Be Done in Pairs?

After seeing the great success of pair programming I was wondering if it was possible to apply the concept of pair programming to other kinds of work. For example, was it possible to have the same increase in productivity of pair working  on tasks related to marketing, finance or accounting? And if it was possible, would the benefits be as significant as for software development?

I put it to the test and soon found that pretty much any other task, which you do on the computer and you can share via screen sharing with someone, can be done in pairs. The only things that are hard to do in pairs are personal communications, especially communications by video conferences. But any other work, like marketing, accounting, finance or presentation preparation can be done more effectively by pair working. 

3. Pair Working and Delegation

At the time that I was thinking about applying pair programming to other areas, I had just hired an assistant. My challenge now was to delegate as many of my tasks as possible to my assistant. However, I found that for many of those tasks my knowledge was required; so that I had a hard time letting my assistant take tasks from me. But then it occurred to me that instead of either doing the tasks myself or delegating those tasks to my assistant 100%, I could take a middle way: I could work in pairs with my assistant.

This proved extremely successful. While my assistant wasn’t able to do most of my task by herself, she was able to work together with me, sharing the computer screen and either executing what I was telling her or giving me her opinion on the work that I was doing. At the same time she was learning the things that I was working on and thereby enabling me to later fully delegate those tasks to her.

By first pair working  with my assistant and only afterwards delegating to her, I was able to become more productive and work on less tasks. 

When I started out I was doing most of the non technical tasks by myself, as I try to show here:

Now the work distribution looks different:

  • ⅓ of my tasks I am able to delegate, 
  • ⅓ I am pair working s, and 
  • another ⅓ I am working on myself, as shown here:

Now, for every new task I will first do it myself. Then I will work in pairs. And only then will I delegate the tasks. We can show this order as follows:

4. Pair Working in Practice 

How does pair working look in practice? Let me give you an example from my own work: I might have to work on an article for which most of the content is already in my head. I would therefore often dictate the content to my assistant and at the same time I would be seeing her screen and checking the content and improving it. Alternatively, I would write the content myself and let her check on my spelling, grammar and style.

5. Benefits of Pair Working

There are multitude of benefits of pair working, the most important of them are:

  • Best way to delegate 
  • More fun 
  • Faster work
  • Higher quality of work 
  • Hourly rate difference
  • More focus
  • Less distraction  

5.1. Best way to delegate 

When you are trying to delegate you often have the problem that the tasks that you are delegating require your knowledge. Therefore, before you can delegate, you need to transfer that knowledge to the person to take on those tasks. The best way to do this is by pair working  with that person.

5.2. More fun

Working alone especially when working from home can often be lonely. Pair working has the benefit that you have constant social interaction.

5.3. Faster work

When you are pair working you are able to get your work done faster. This is because you are able to multitask. While multitasking is generally not recommended, in case you have two people working on the same task it is great. 

5.4. Higher quality of work 

When you are pair working  you are able to check upon each other’s work quality, thereby ensuring that you don’t make mistakes. For pair programming it has been documented that code developed by two developers pair working  is higher quality and it has much less bugs.

5.5. Hourly rate difference

When you are pair working it is possible for you to get a large amount of the benefits without hiring a pair that has the same skills and knowledge as you have. 

Let’s assume your hourly rate is 50 EUR and your assistants rate is 5 EUR. In that case, you are able to be twice as productive, you will gain 50 EUR each hour, while only spending 5 EUR.

5.6. Focus

When you are working alone especially when you are working from home it is hard to keep your focus for a long time. Especially if you have to think a lot it is very likely that your thoughts will come and go. One way to fight against this is to talk to yourself or even better talk with somebody else while you are thinking. This is what happens in pair working. That way you stay focused.

5.7. Less distraction 

Many people, especially those working remotely struggle with the many distractions that they are exposed to, especially via social media, as they are only a click away from the latest news on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. pair working  makes these distractions much less likely to happen as you share your screen with another person. This is an implicit benefit of sharing an office with your coworkers, you are less likely to look at social media. But this barrier you do not get when working from your home office, unless you are pair working. 

For all the above benefits pair working  makes a lot of sense and if you are not doing it already you should try to do so as quickly as possible. 

If you are interested in having your own pair to work with you, constantly check on your focus, prevent distractions and make work more fun, then get in touch with Focus Cycles Pair Working. It offers people working with you as your pair, that are highly qualified and intelligent, at a price as low as 9 USD per hour.


Focus Cycles is a productivity consulting company offering online productivity courses, productivity software and productivity coaching. As you are reading this, we let you register a trial of pair working at a big discount! In order to do so, you have to register at www.focuscycles.com by entering this code: ILOVEWORK.
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