it becomes easier to avoid procrastination. One of the best ways to bring future rewards into the present moment is with a strategy known as temptation bundling.
Temptation bundling is a concept that came out of behavioral economics research performed by Katy Milkman at The University of Pennsylvania. Simply put, the strategy suggests that you bundle a behavior that is good for you in the long-run with a behavior that feels good in the short-run.
The basic format is: Only do [THING YOU LOVE] while doing [THING YOU PROCRASTINATE ON].
Here are a few common examples of temptation bundling:
- Only listen to audiobooks or podcasts you love while exercising.
- Only get a pedicure while processing overdue work emails.
- Only watch your favorite show while ironing or doing household chores.
- Only eat at your favorite restaurant when conducting your monthly meeting with a difficult colleague.
covers some specific exercises you can follow to figure out how to create temptation bundling ideas that work for you.
Option 2: Make the Consequences of Procrastination More Immediate
There are many ways to force you to pay the costs of procrastination sooner rather than later. For example, if you are exercising alone, skipping your workout next week won’t impact your life much at all. Your health won’t deteriorate immediately because you missed that one workout. The cost of procrastinating on exercise only becomes painful after weeks and months of lazy behavior. However, if you commit to working out with a friend at 7 a.m. next Monday, then the cost of skipping your workout becomes more immediate. Miss this one workout and you look like a jerk.
Another common strategy is to use a service like Stickk
to place a bet. If you don’t do what you say you’ll do, then the money goes to a charity you hate. The idea here is to put some skin in the game and create a new consequence that happens if you don’t do the behavior right now.
Option 3: Design Your Future Actions
One of the favorite tools psychologists use to overcome procrastination is called a “commitment device.” Commitment devices can help you stop procrastinating by designing your future actions ahead of time.
For example, you can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. (You could alsoblock them on your computer
Similarly, you can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are all examples of commitment devices that help reduce the odds of procrastination.
Option 4: Make the Task More Achievable
As we have already covered, the friction that causes procrastination is usually centered around starting a behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to keep working. This is one good reason to reduce the size of your habits
because if your habits are small and easy to start, then you will be less likely to procrastinate.
One of my favorite ways to make habits easier is to useThe 2-Minute Rule
, which states, “When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do.” The idea is to make it as easy as possible to get started and then trust that momentum will carry you further into the task after you begin. Once you start doing something, it’s easier to continue doing it. The 2–Minute Rule overcomes procrastination and laziness by making it so easy to start taking action that you can’t say no.
Another great way to make tasks more achievable is to break them down. For example, consider the remarkable productivity of the famous writer Anthony Trollope. He published 47 novels, 18 works of non-fiction, 12 short stories, 2 plays, and an assortment of articles and letters. How did he do it? Instead of measuring his progress based on the completion of chapters or books, Trollope measured his progress in 15-minute increments. He set a goal of 250 words every 15 minutes and he continued this pattern for three hours each day. This approach allowed him to enjoy feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment every 15 minutes while continuing to work on the large task of writing a book.
Making your tasks more achievable is important for two reasons.
- Small measures of progress help to maintain momentum over the long-run, which means you’re more likely to finish large tasks.
- The faster you complete a productive task, the more quickly your day develops an attitude of productivity and effectiveness.
I have found this second point, the speed with which you complete your first task of the day, to be of particular importance for overcoming procrastination and maintaining a high productive output day after day.
III. Being Consistent: How to Kick the Procrastination Habit
Alright, we’ve covered a variety of strategies for beating procrastination on a daily basis. Now, let’s discuss some ways to make productivity a long-term habit and prevent procrastination from creeping back into our lives.