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Nowhere close to achieving your goals for the year? Try temptation bundling

If the end of the year is making you jittery about your pending targets, don’t worry. Experts explain how a practice called “temptation bundling” can help.

health-and-fitness Updated: Jan 04, 2017 18:44 IST
Sarojini Jose
Sarojini Jose
Hindustan Times
Temptation bundling is a self-motivational technique to help combine what you should be doing with something that you would rather be doing.
Temptation bundling is a self-motivational technique to help combine what you should be doing with something that you would rather be doing.(Getty Images)

It is almost the end of 2016, and if you’re feeling guilty that you haven’t met the goals you had hoped to achieve as part of your New Year resolutions, it might be a good idea to try a concept called “temptation bundling”.

This is a self-motivational technique to help combine what you should be doing (which could be an uninteresting or boring activity) with something that you would rather be doing.

Dr Era Dutta, psychiatrist, SL Raheja Hospital, Fortis Associate, Mahim, explains, “Now, think of it literally. Temptation is defined as something you want to have or do, even though you know you shouldn’t. Bundling literally translates to grouping together. You combine an activity that is your guilty pleasure with an activity that you should be doing.”

How it works

This principle is based on behavioural psychology, which largely talks about how we learn behaviours through associations and factors such as punishments and rewards. If we have learnt a particular behaviour that is not desirable, then we can also unlearn it. Similarly, any undesirable behaviour can be altered by changing the factors associated with it.

Benefits of temptation bundling

* Helps raise willpower as well as decision-making skills

* Helps develop a healthier lifestyle and be more productive

* Helps learn new skills

* Helps get over feelings of guilt

* Helps one overcome procrastination

* Makes a person more disciplined as it reinforces good behaviour over time

* Leads to a more positive outlook in life.

Drawbacks of temptation bundling

* When the ‘want’ associated with a ‘should’ is not very appealing, then the chances of this technique being successful tend to go down, as the factor you choose as a motivator itself needs motivation.

* It may be difficult to follow through at all times, as it is often easy to give in to temptation. After the short-term benefits, the initial excitement may wear off and you may get demotivated.

* People may get used to temptation building and always look for a combination task, which might not always be healthy. For example, if you combined studies with music in the background, you will find it difficult to focus during a lecture.

* The practice may sometimes diminish your ability to focus.

“The biggest negative of temptation bundling is that it is in direct opposition to mindfulness, because it works on the very foundation of multitasking. Therefore, while it is good to master this technique for some goals, it is important to remember that that not every ‘task’ will have a corresponding ‘pleasure’. At times, life will require you to do certain unpleasant chores or activities without offering any rewards. You must train your brain to accept such a situation as well,” says Neeta V Shetty, psychotherapist, Blissful Mind Therapy Centre, Wadala.

You should opt for this technique if:

* You are unable to meet your weight loss goals and you do not find enough motivation to do strenuous physical exercises

* You find yourself exhibiting symptoms of extreme depression such as sleeping for more than 12 hours on several consecutive nights or not having the willpower to get off the bed every morning

* You find it difficult to concentrate on simple tasks. For example, you may pull out your cellphone to call a friend but end up browsing the web

Do not go for this technique if:

* You realise you lack willingness

* You are feeling low

* You choose to be lazy while being fully aware of the consequences

Don't push yourself too hard today. 📸: @taylormillerphoto

A photo posted by BuzzFeed BFF (@bff) on

* You are an addict of any kind

* You have a long-term goal — the positives of temptation bundling can fade out over time

How it all started

“Temptation building” was introduced in 2013 by Katherine L Milkman, a behavioural economist and associate professor of operations, information and decisions, at The Wharton School, The University of Pennsylvania, USA. Since then it has kick started several new researches in behavioural economics and has been cited many times across various platforms.

The idea was introduced by Katherine Milkman. (Twitter)

How to get started

To use this technique effectively, you need a pen, a sheet of paper and the ability to be honest with your answers.

Create two columns: The left column is for “guilty pleasures”. These are the things you enjoy and what you want to do. The right column is for “chores or tasks”.These are the tasks you should be doing, but usually skip them as they are less fun.


Given below are a few combinations to help you get started:

* Playing your favourite music while exercising

* Cleaning your cupboard or room while watching your favourite television show

* Cheat meal (for example a burger or pizza) at the farthest restaurant that can be reached by foot

* Facebook or gaming for five minutes after 25 minutes of serious work

* Monthly or weekly shopping after a set number of hours at the gym

* Applying a face pack while going through piled up e-mails

“The combinations for this technique would vary from person to person, as all human beings are different and have different wants and desires. A common example could be buying a dress of the size that you want to be. Looking at it every day will act as a motivator for you to make efforts to reach your desired weight so you can fit in the dress,” says Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist, The Illuminating Zone, Kandivali (W).

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