Winning the Procrastination War with “Temptation Bundling”
Procrastination — we all do it. Have you ever said to yourself “Tomorrow, I’ll eat better” or “When things aren’t so stressful, I’ll focus on my health”? I know I have, more times than I can count. Exercise, laundry, and bills are also often among the most disliked obligatory adult activities we avoid. What if there is a technique that could incentivize us to tackle these activities and perhaps enjoy the process? Katherine Milkman, a professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, successfully found one.
Milkman struggled with regular gym attendance. She needed motivation. An avid fan of audiobooks, she listened to a broad selection of subjects, many that pertained to her profession and other genres like historical fiction. However, Milkman’s real infatuation was popular fiction novels like The Hunger Games. To motivate herself to attend the gym regularly, she restricted listening to these novels to the gym only. As a result, Milkman’s gym attendance increased to five days a week.
Pleased with her success, Milkman and two other professors, Kevin Volpp and Julia Minson, conducted a study involving 226 students and faculty. The focus of the study evaluated the outcomes of this “temptation bundling”. They assigned the participants into three groups: a group restricted to the use of an iPod loaded with audiobooks while at the gym; a group who received full access to the loaded iPod all of the time; and a control group that was given a $25 gift card and just encouraged to attend the gym. The researchers loaded the iPods with easy and entertaining reads such as Harry Potter, The Twilight Saga, Sookie Stackhouse, and The Bourne Trilogy.
The results of the study proved Milkman’s theory to be correct. The group given their iPods while only at the gym attended the gym 51% more frequently than the control group. The group given iPods full time attended the gym 29% more than the control group.
How can we apply this to everyday struggles with procrastination? Here are a few suggestions:
Temptation Bundling isn’t a typical rewards system—perform the tasks and receive the reward. Perceive this method as a way to create positive associations with dreaded tasks. Limit these activities specifically to these tasks-don’t cheat! Good luck and get creative with your bundles! I would love to hear what you come up with!
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