Trying to make it to the gym but your favorite show is calling for attention? Aiming for a pre-holiday pound shedding so you don’t have to buy new pants before the new year but there is ice cream in the freezer? We have all given in to temptation and I even suggest giving in to temptation is a healthy thing. . . once in awhile. When surrendering becomes the norm and the thing we really want to do (or something we need to do whether we want to do it or not) isn’t getting done, we have procrastination problem. Fortunately it isn’t a problem we have to wait until tomorrow to overcome. Katniss from Hunger Games to the rescue.
Katherine Milkman (Wharton), Julia Minson (Harvard) and Kevin Volpp (Wharton) tested a concept called Temptation Bundling. Temptation bundling is when you allow yourself to do something that you really want to do at the same time as something that you really don’t want to do. In this example, they used audio books that participants could only listen to while they exercised. That is, would listening to the next chapter in Hunger Games be enough to get your butt into the gym? They used three test groups: a control group, a group they were given audio books on their ipods with the suggestion of only listening to the books while at the gym and a group that listened to the books on provided ipods that were only available at the gym. During the initial period of the test, those who had ready access to the books on their own ipod increased their weekly average gym attendance by 6%. Those who could only listen to their books at the gym increased their average weekly attendance by 27%. Then their was a week long break. All three groups gym attendance dropped significantly, although the control group dropped less than the other two.
What does this mean to you? Goals are accomplished through a combination of motivation, determination and positive habit. By bundling the thing your goal requires and something you simply enjoy doing, you do increase your chances doing what must be done. This still takes determination but this automatic reward does help build positive habits. You must construct your reward and task carefully to minimize the amount of self control (determination) is required. For example, a goal of walking 30 minutes a day can be paired with walking to an ice cream shop or bakery but don’t bring ice cream or bagels home. Pair reading a book you wanted with exercising but leave that book in your gym bag. Pair making those booking phone calls with a piece of candy but leave the candy in your office behind your phone.