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Hating chores a bit less using temptation bundling

Last updated on maart 25, 2020

Time to read 2 minutes

I thoroughly hate cleaning. Yet, it has to be done and regularly so. For a long time, I put music on to ease the pain of cleaning and doing chores. It was in vain. You could say that my first attempt at ‘temptation bundling’ was not very succesful. For my second attempt, I chose a different approach.

What is temptation bundling?

I got introduced to temptation bundling through Peter Hollins’ book Finish what you start. Behavioral scientist Katherine Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania was the first to coin the term. See her elaborate on her research:

The idea of tempation bundling is combining an unpleasurable activity (like cleaning) with an activity you actually like. Or crave, even. It is a tool to avoid procrastination. With my first attempt, I wasn’t really bundling tempation. I was just listening to music. I wasn’t making a point of something. So, in my second attempt, I did the following.

Choosing the temptation

What would ease the pain of cleaning and be useful to me at the same time? That was easy for me: reading! It is however very hard to read when vacuuming. I hear you say it: hire a cleaning person or get a robot vacuum cleaner! No. Not yet anyway.

Thankfully, nowadays there are plenty of audiobooks available. I decided to couple listening to an audiobook while cleaning my house. This way I Instantly rewarded myself whilst doing something necessary..

In my example I use cleaning as the icky task to do. But, you could also use temptation bundling when going for a long-term goal. Like doing homework, working on a project at home, or something else which consistently makes you procrastinate. Find it and couple it with a tempation for instant gratification. As Peter Hollins puts it: your future self benefits from your present self’s behaviour.

temptation bundling

Sticking to temptation bundling

In her research, Milkman introduced a prerequisite: you can have access to your temptation if you’re doing the activity that is less desireable. In my case, this means that I can only listen to that particular book when I clean something in my house. About 51% of participants in Milkman agreed to a similar ‘access only when…’ clause. Whilst I can listen to the book when I’m not cleaning, I make a point of only listening when cleaning.

This way I might even grow into cleaning – finding it not so annoying to do. I also made a checklist for what I clean. This had two reasons:

  • I forgot to clean bits and pieces and got annoyed by that later.
  • It freed up time to really listen to my book and think less of what I needed to do.

I can say it works. I look forward to my next cleaning session, so I can ‘read’ my book again! Have you found some dreadful activity less dreadful after coupling it with an instant gratification?



Published inOrganizing Home & Work

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