Maximize Your Time With Temptation Bundling

As much as I enjoy running and the quiet reflection time I’ve come to depend on, long runs during marathon training require more than a steady beat from Pandora. Years ago I started listening to podcasts on my long runs – Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, The Nia Shanks Show (previously the Lift Like A Girl podcast) and The Fitcast – and although I never completely dreaded the long run, I quickly started to look forward to completely zoning out and enjoying the newest episode.


Saturday, things came full circle as I listened to an old episode of my newest (to me) form of entertainment; Freakonomics Radio. The episode I selected was called, “When Willpower Isn’t Enough”, naturally as a Health Coach, this had my interest instantly. The core of the episode revolves around Katherine Milkman, an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who – self-admittedly – struggles with willpower, saying, “I find it difficult at the end of a long day to get to the gym, I find it difficult to stick to my diet, I find it difficult to stick to my goals more generally. And … one of the things I’ve found curious is why, and what I can do to solve those problems for myself and for others. And that’s where a lot of my research focuses.”

Many of my clients – and certainly myself at times – struggle with getting in the things they “should” do, and cutting back on things they’re tempted to do. You have a goal of doing 40 minutes on the elliptical 3 times a week, but your temptation to watch The Bachelor is hard to fight at the end of a long work day. When you give in to find out who gets a rose, you feel guilty. Now you’ve not gotten your workout in, AND you’ve done nothing productive but sit on your couch and squawk at the TV for an hour.

This scenario is what prompted Katherine to find a solution, which she coined, “Temptation Bundling”. The idea is to pair a goal action with a temptation action so that the unproductive thing you just love to do, will drive you to do the action you strive to do, but don’t really enjoy. For Katherine, this meant only watching her favorite guilty pleasure TV show (temptation behavior) while she was working out at the gym (goal behavior).

This not only was an efficient use of that hour, she felt good for getting her workout in and enjoyed the show more without the guilt that came with skipping the workout to watch it. Win-win-win! Temptation bundling can be applied to many scenarios, like meeting with a difficult client or family member at your favorite restaurant, or cleaning the house while blaring your favorite album. Being a Personal Trainer and Health Coach I like to focus on how it can help propel you towards cementing your goal actions to become habits. This extra boost of willpower can help you overcome your own obstacles.

You won’t always be in a position to watch your favorite show or listen to new podcast episodes while you workout. Maybe there are no TVs at the gym, your wifi isn’t working or your phone dies. But, if you routinely perform your goal action with a little help from temptation bundling, you’re on your way to building a habit and experiencing your once dreaded activity with a positive approach.

Get started today by using this simple worksheet to identify your regular temptation behaviors that are distracting you from your goals, and goal behaviors you find excuses to avoid. Here are a few examples and how they can be combined:

I can only listen to my favorite podcast when running.

I can only watch my guilty pleasure show while on the elliptical.

I will only meet friends for happy hour if I made it to the gym that morning.

I will only have a sweet treat if I have some fruit first.

I will only go out to dinner if I cooked the night before.

Get creative but be reasonable. Your temptations should be something you greatly look forward to, but are also wasting time and your goal actions should be achievable.

Temptation Bundling

If you would like more direction on what actions will get you to your goals and accountability to stick with them, email me and let’s talk!


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