Do you struggle with overcoming laziness and having willpower? You plan productive things—like studying for an exam, going to office hours, or working out—but when it comes time to do it, you don’t because you don’t feel like it.
Instead, you feel like chilling with friends, watching Netflix, or surfing the internet to avoid thinking about school. And the more you choose what you feel like doing, the easier it becomes to procrastinate in future decisions.
I’m not picking on you, because you’re definitely not alone. Thousands of college students face the same struggle to be productive.
But, let me ask you this. What if there was a way to accomplish both what you should do, while also making what you want to do more enjoyable? Continue on to see how.
How To Increase Willpower
One of my former college housemates recommended that I listen to this Freakonomics podcast on increasing willpower, and I’m glad he did because the subject is exactly my type.
Katherine Milkman, the guest on the podcast and a professor at the Wharton School at Penn, says a powerful solution to increase your willpower and overcome laziness is called temptation bundling.
In the podcast, Milkman describes the term temptation bundling as a solution to be productive by combining one thing you should do but struggle to finish, with some other action you want to do but isn’t so productive.
She says that many people try to motivate themselves by attaching negative consequences if they don’t do some type of action. But, avoiding the negative outcome is the only motivation to do it, and leads to shaky results. However, temptation bundling is uniquely different in its approach and how it drives motivation.
The difference is that temptation bundling is joining two activities, getting the motivation from the pleasurable activity and using it to do the undesirable activity first. Constraining yourself this way improves your motivation because you’re not motivated out of avoiding negative consequences, but motivated from a positive reward system of getting to the second activity. And this mindset correlates with better success.
Plus, another positive aspect of temptation bundling is that you can do some activities at the same time, which Milkman calls complimentary activities. In these cases, you actually get more enjoyment out of both activities when doing them together, than you would if you did them separately.
You’ll learn more about temptation building in the next section, where I laid out three examples.
(If you want to get all the information directly from the source, listen to the Freakonomics podcast mentioned above with host Stephen Dubner and guest Katherine Milkman.)
Examples Of Bundling For Overcoming Laziness
Below are some examples of temptation bundling, which show the undesirable commitment paired with a desirable commitment. Sometimes it may be better to do both activities at the same time, such as Example 1 or Example 2 potentially, and other times it doesn’t make sense, like Example 3.
Example 1: Bundle two hours of studying with Chipotle
Combining studying with Chipotle can help you focus to achieve excellent grades, while rewarding yourself with an amazing burrito during or after studying. If you’re not a fan of Chipotle (how dare you?), replace the second part of the bundle with your favorite restaurant food for proper motivation.
Example 2: Bundle working out with watching Netflix
Are you addicted to a Netflix series? but you can’t remember the last time you went to the gym. Make the commitment to yourself that you can only watch Netflix after you work out. If you don’t work out that day, no Netflix. Or, if getting crazy is your thing, grab a tablet and plug your headphones in to watch Netflix while on the treadmill or elliptical.
Example 3: Bundle applying to three positions with day-drinking
Have you been putting off applying for internships or jobs for next summer? Require yourself to apply to three organizations on Saturday morning before going out with your friends. Then, once you submit your applications, you will be in a positive mood, without anxiety, and with a clear mind. You’ll have a better time the rest of the day knowing you were productive in the morning.
Aligning your desirable activity with what you don’t want to do will improve your chances of completing the first activity. Then reward yourself with the second activity you want to do for the perfect temptation bundling. After these three examples above, I’m sure you get the picture.
What are you waiting for? Start temptation bundling to increase your willpower and your productivity will follow.
Readers, what do you think of bundling something productive with something enjoyable? What are two activities that you would bundle? Are you going to try this out to start overcoming laziness?