You want to stop procrastinating? What if I told there was a solution that involved fun. In fact, it lets you do the thing you love most in the world.
No willpower or discipline necessary. It’s backed by scientific research and even has a cool name: “temptation bundling.”
And oddly enough, it all starts with The Hunger Games. Seriously…
How Katniss Killed Procrastination
Want to listen to the next Hunger Games book? You can only do it at the gym.
What happened? She ended up going to the gym five days a week.
Cute story, right? But here’s the thing: Katherine Milkman is a professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. And she thought she might really be on to something…
Turns out she was. She did research proving “temptation bundling” didn’t just work for her: it’ll help you and me too.
You can do it with almost any self-control problem:
Love candy but don’t love writing reports? You only get the treat when you start typing.
Not spending enough time with friends? You only get to eat that food you love when it’s with the people you love.
(To learn how to stop being lazy and get more done, click here.)
So you got the gist, right?
Wrong. If you really want this to work there’s another step you need to keep in mind…
Don’t Trust Yourself
So you’re gonna find that thing you love and only give it to yourself when you do that activity that makes you procrastinate, right?
Heck, no. You’re gonna cheat. (That’s why you’re reading articles with “lazy” and “stop procrastinating” in the title.) And that’s what Katherine found in her research.
She got 226 students and faculty who were having trouble hitting the gym. She broke ’em into 3 groups:
- Group one got an iPod loaded with cool audiobooks but they only had access to it at the gym.
- Group two got the audiobooks loaded on their own iPods and were encouraged to only listen at the gym.
- Third group got a gift certificate and was encouraged to work out more.
You’re probably way ahead of me: yeah, group one dusted the other two. They worked out 29% more than group 2 and 51% more than group 3.
Do not trust yourself to only whip those tasty candies about when you do your work. By physically restricting access to the tempting desire the research subjects got a 22% boost.
How well does this system work? After the study they asked the participants if they would pay money to have that iPod restricted so they could only use it at the gym. 61% said yes.
We all pay a lot of money to get things. This was so effective the majority of people were willing to pay to have something taken away from them.
I know what you’re thinking: How do I make sure I don’t enjoy the treat without doing the task?
No problem. There’s a whole body of research on this subject called “commitment devices.” And they offer an easy solution:
Have a trusted friend dole out the rewards.
That makes it a lot harder to cheat.
Still think you’ll have trouble following the plan? Okay, tell the friend to delete that audiobook or toss that candy in the trash if you don’t do what you’re supposed to.
Ouch. But you’re motivated now, ain’t ya?
(To learn the 6 things the most productive people do every day, click here.)
Okay, let’s round it up and learn the secret to making 100% sure you actually follow through with this, my procrastinating friend…
Here’s how the Hunger Games can help you stop procrastinating:
- Find something you absolutely love or can’t do without.
- Give control of it to a friend. When you do the task, you get it.
- For an extra boost, authorize them to toss it (or part of it) if you don’t follow through.
In the end it’s simple and it’s something you can use in many, many areas of your life:
Just tie every “want” to a “should.”
Want that audiobook? Use “temptation bundling” to tie it to going to the gym. Want that candy? You only get it when you complete that report.
But how do you stop this from being article 5,498 you’ve read on procrastination but never actually followed through with?
Email a friend right now.
Share this post with them and tell them your plan. “If I don’t do _____ by Friday, don’t let me have ____.”
You can win the Hunger Games — or whatever it is you need to complete. Just send that email right now, Katniss.
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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