Procrastination is like a credit bill: it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill Click To Tweet

Does this scenario sound familiar? You wake up in the morning, pump your fist in the air and tell yourself that today you will finally go to the gym and exercise.

As the day goes on, you’re losing energy and willpower from work demands and other activities. By the time you get home from work, you’re exhausted the last thing on your mind is to exercise.

Then, just like every other day, you curl up on the couch read a book and watch your favourite TV show. It’s been several months since you had your New Year’s resolution to get in shape, but you’re still procrastinating on it.

Luckily, there is a simple, effective strategy you can use right now to stop procrastinating and start taking action to achieve your goals.

You’re not alone

Katy Milkman, Associate Professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, had a similar struggle in overcoming procrastination. In an episode of Freakonomics, she talks about this strategy:

“I struggle at the end of a long day to get myself to the gym even though I know that I should go. And at the end of a long day, I also struggle with the desire to watch my favourite TV shows instead of getting work done.

And so I actually realized that those two temptations, those two struggles I faced, could be combined to solve both problems.”

To combat her chronic procrastination, Katy simply combined her guilty pleasure of watching her favourite TV show with her long-term goal of losing weight.

She would only allow herself to read ‘The Hunger Games’ book when she went to the gym. Her strategy worked very well, Katy soon started going to the gym regularly soon after.

This simple technique of combining things that make you feel good now with something that is good for you in the long-run is called ‘temptation bundling’.

Temptation bundling

Essentially, you bundle behaviours you are tempted to do with behaviours that you ‘should’ be doing.

Temptation bundling has been formally tested in a study done on the exercise habits of 226 students from the University Of Pennsylvania. During the experiment, students were only allowed to listen to their favourite audio books if they went to the gym to exercise

The result: students who applied the temptation bundling strategy were close to 51% more likely to exercise than the control group. (Full study, PDF)

How to (finally) stop procrastinating using this research-backed strategy Click To Tweet

How to use temptation bundling to stop procrastinating

Here’s a simple exercise to put all of this into action.

Draw two columns on a piece of paper.

  1. In column one, write down the activities that you’ve been procrastinating on doing.
  2. In column two, write down your guilty pleasures that give you that feeling of instant gratification.

Now you can simply criss-cross across both columns to match what you ‘should’ be doing with what you ‘want’ to do.

For example, whilst writing this article, I’m also listening to my favourite music and podcasts. I’ve also used a similar technique to maintain a regular exercise routine for over five years.

Here are some examples that may help:

  • I will only listen to my favourite music when I exercise.
  • I will only watch my favourite show when I work on my writing project.
  • I will only get a pedicure when I catch up on my backlog of emails.

Recap

“Just try new things. Don’t be afraid. Step out of your comfort zones and soar, all right?”
– Michelle Obama

Temptation bundling is one of many strategies that will help you stop procrastinating and take action. Most importantly, it kick-starts a new habit by helping you to do more of the things you should be doing and not just things you want to do.

By combining your guilty pleasures with your long-term goals, you can begin to build healthy habits that will transform your life.

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