Temptation Bundling: A Powerful Strategy to Help You Boost Your Willpower

Katy Milkman is a behavioral scientist and professor at the Wharton School.

A few years ago, she struggled to hit the gym as often as she’d like.

So, in an attempt to change her exercise behavior, she came up with a clever strategy.

She committed to listening to her favorite audiobook novels only at the gym.

And this simple strategy worked exceptionally well.

Within a few weeks, Milkman regularly showed up at the gym five days a week.

The Conception of “Temptation Bundling”

Milkman gave her strategy the name “temptation bundling” and defined it as:

Pairing a pleasurable indulgence with a behavior that provides delayed rewards.

Then she conducted a research study1 to put temptation bundling to the test.

With the help of her colleagues, she recruited 226 participants for a 10-week study and divided them into three groups:

  • Group 1 was the control group, and they received gift cards for participating.
  • Group 2 got free audio novels uploaded to their personal iPod and were told only to listen to them while exercising.
  • Group 3 got to loan an iPod with audio novels, which they could access only at the gym.

And the temptation bundling turned out to have a significant effect on the gym attendance of the groups.

After the 10 weeks, compared to the control group:

  • Group 2 had visited the gym 29% more often.
  • Group 3 had visited the gym 51% more often.

So, making a commitment to listen to the audio novels only at the gym had worked well.

And having access to the audio novels only at the gym had worked even better.

How to Use Temptation Bundling

If you want to create a temptation bundle, you can use this simple formula:

I will only [tempting behavior] while I [desired behavior].

Let’s have a look at some temptation bundle examples for inspiration:

  • I will only listen to my favorite podcast while I prep meals on Sundays.
  • I will only drink my favorite coffee while I work on my report.
  • I will only get a pedicure while I answer overdue emails.
  • I will only listen to my favorite playlist while I clean the kitchen.
  • I will only watch my favorite show while I fold the laundry.

As you can see, there are many ways you can use temptation bundling to your advantage.

All you have to do is reflect on what you want to do and what you should do.

And whenever the two seem compatible, try bundling them together.

If the bundle works, you can boost your willpower and change your behavior dramatically.

Final Words

The beauty of temptation bundling is that it allows you to enjoy short-term benefits today and still reap the long-term benefits tomorrow.

So, if this strategy resonates with you, I encourage you to try it.

It will increase your chances of accomplishing your goals — and you’ll have a lot more fun in the process.

Footnote

  1. Holding the Hunger Games Hostage at the Gym: An Evaluation of Temptation Bundling