Instant Gratification: The Art of Temptation Bundling and Immediate Rewards

In my previous post, I wrote about how I used gamification and a simple points system to help me overcome my brain’s willingness to value short term rewards over long term rewards (a psychological process with a fun name: “hyperbolic discounting”). The points system has served me well for many years and for maintaining many habits. However, for some, the idea of keeping a tally of how many rewards they are entitled to might seem overwhelming or cumbersome.

I am pleased to say, there are even simpler ways to find motivation: temptation bundling and immediate rewards.

temptation bundling

We all have those tasks that we just don’t feel like doing. One personal example (of many) is exercising. Even on my best days, I find it difficult to muster up the motivation to get moving.

Here’s how it works: You bundle a task you’re not thrilled about doing with something you really enjoy. For instance, I like listening to podcasts, and I’ve discovered that combining them with my workouts makes working out so much more palatable! As soon as I remember that I get to catch up on all the juicy podcast episodes while I exercise, it makes it a bit easier to put on those gym clothes and get started.

In this method, you’re “bundling” something you are looking forward to, or a “temptation” (e.g. listening to podcasts) with something that isn’t so tempting (e.g. working out). Hence the name: temptation bundling.

Now, temptation bundling doesn’t only work with podcasts. I’ve heard some people have great success watching their favorite TV shows while on the treadmill. Others run errands with a friend, turning a mundane task into a fun social outing. You can even up the excitement by buying some extra-nice cleaning supplies, so you actually look forward to cleaning. Remember, what counts as a tempting reward is personal; one person’s mouth-watering “hell yeah” might be another person’s yawning “meh.”

Would you believe, I’ve even heard some people call cleaning a guilty pleasure? That’s a story for another time and topic!

If there’s a chore in your life that you want to get done but are struggling to find the motivation for, then think about what temptations you can bundle with it to make the job more palatable. You may be surprised to find that it’s like turning chores into little gifts for yourself.

Now that you have brought the joys of temptation bundling into your life, let’s talk about another problem: some tasks just don’t pair well with indulgent rewards while doing them. For example, ever tried eating an ice cream while doing chin ups? That’s where immediate rewards come into play.

immediate rewards

Remember when we were kids, and we got a gold star sticker for a job well done? Turns out, that simple idea still works wonders for grown-ups like us. So, let’s say you’ve got a list of tasks to tackle; you can create your own grown-up version of gold stars or treat yourself to small, enjoyable rewards immediately after each completed task.

For example, let’s say you’ve been putting off cleaning out your closet for weeks. Well, once you’ve conquered that daunting task, take a break and reward yourself with a delicious piece of chocolate or a cup of your favorite hot beverage. Small treats like these may seem trivial, but they create positive reinforcement, and your brain starts associating the completion of tasks with feelings of joy and satisfaction.

go forth and get rewarded!

Some tasks are compatible with indulging in rewards while you’re doing them. For those, you can use temptation bundling. Other tasks are more compatible with being rewarded immediately after the task. For these tasks, you can do away with the points system I mentioned earlier and keep things simple with temptation bundling and immedate rewards.

Now go ahead, get that tough task done and treat yourself and enjoy the added pleasure that comes with a job well done!

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