Cheeseburgers and filing my taxes, yes please!
The concept of temptation bundling is a great way to find motivations for the “shoulds” of life, those activities you should get done, but continue to put off. Temptation bundling is the act of pairing an activity you look forward to, like eating a juicy cheeseburger, with an activity you’re less than enthused about, perhaps filing your taxes. The combination of the tempting activity and the dreaded activity make you feel more eager to do the dreaded activity.
I first learned about temptation bundling by, ironically, practicing temptation bundling. Fully engaged in New Year’s resolution mania, I once again am pushing myself to reach 10,000 steps a day, a challenging feat for anyone with a desk job. I live in Wisconsin, the average temperature in January is 20 degrees. This means indoor walking. As a treadmill-less person, I walk laps up and down long hallways. BORING! All the Taylor Swift and Adele music in the world couldn’t make a 20 minute lunch time walk appealing. Until I discovered podcasts. I can listen to witty conversations, learn something new, be mentally engaged and even look forward to my next walk/podcast lunch break.
During one of my first walk/podcast breaks, I began listening to Freakonomics Radio. They featured Katherine Milkman, Ph.D. She’s an assistant professor at the Wharton School. She co-authored the paper, Holding The Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling. Now this sounds like the coolest research paper ever written! Who doesn’t love The Hunger Games? Milkman and her team ran a nine week experiment to test if temptation bundling encouraged action. In their experiment, reading addictive fiction books (the tempting activity) was paired with gym attendance (the “should” activity that may require a push to do). Participants in the experiment were assigned to one of three groups. One group was assigned an iPod preloaded with four audiobooks identified as addictive, page turners, like The Hunger Games. The iPod and the audiobooks were kept at the gym and could only be used during workouts. The next group was able to download one of the suspenseful books on their own iPod. They were encouraged to listen to it only while at the gym. The third group, the control group, was given a certificate to purchase any book and given no encouragement about when or where to read the book. They were only encouraged to go to the gym.
Researchers found temptation bundling worked! Participants who had gym-only audiobook access attended the gym 51% more than the group that was only encouraged to exercise and 29% more than the group that was encouraged to restrict their audiobook listening to only at the gym.
I organically stumbled on a temptation bundle that was pretty similar to the study, listening to podcasts and walking. What other activities can I temptation bundle? Chopping veggies for the week and throwing a kitchen dance party? Or maybe grocery shopping and catching up with a friend? What do you think might pair well together?
Kate N., MS, CEAP, joined Empathia in 2005 as an EAP Counselor, then became a Performance Specialist in 2012. Kate has a master’s degree in Educational Psychology and is devoted to helping individuals determine how to make lasting changes. Prior to joining Empathia, she worked in the social work field as a case manager for Child Protective Services. Kate enjoys baking, yoga and escaping into the woods of Northern Wisconsin.