Temptation Bundling – Taking Advantage of Activities You Like to Do

Ever find yourself not motivated to engage in the habit you know you should be doing? Try temptation bundling. It’s putting two habits together – one of which you already like doing (i.e. watching Netflix), and another habit you should be doing (i.e. exercising). You can do this in two ways: either by performing the two habits at the same time (e.g. watching your favourite TV show while running on the treadmill) or using the formula “After (pleasurable habit), I will (habit you should do) or vice versa. By pairing these two types of habits together, you’ll find the habit you should be doing more familiar and attractive by being able to do something YOU want to do at the same time.  

The ‘bundling’ in temptation bundling tells half the story of what it is. Temptation bundling is based on a psychology theory called Premack’s Principle. The principle says that a more probable behaviour (i.e. behaviours you want to do) will reinforce less probable behaviours (i.e. habits you should be doing). It’s basically putting together a behaviour you already like doing (e.g. watching Netflix) with a habit you know you should be doing, or that you are always getting hesitant about doing (e.g. exercising). By pairing these two kinds of habits together, you will find the behaviour you should be doing more attractive if you get to do something you want to do at the same time.  

There are many ways to go about this. First, you can do these two types of habits at the same time, like watching your favourite show and running on the treadmill at the same time. Putting these two habits together will allow you to become familiar with the habit you should be doing and even develop a new liking to that habit.  

Another way to combine these two habits, especially when you can’t do them at the same time is using the formula: 

After (pleasurable habit), I will (habit you should do) OR  

After (habit you should do), I will (pleasurable habit) 

If you have trouble pairing pleasurable habits with habits you should be doing, create a table with two columns that list habits/activities you like doing and habits/activities you should be doing, similar to the one below. Now all you need to do is browse your list and pair an activity on the right with one on the left.  

Pleasurable activities/habits Developing activities/habits 
1 hour of exercising  
Playing with pet for 10 minutes 
Watching crime shows for 1 hour 
Dancing for 10 minutes 
Reading books on my downtime 
Painting/drawing art on the weekend 
Journaling at least once a day 
Eating healthier 2 times a day 
Sleeping for 8-10 hours nightly  
Meditating for at least 10 minutes daily 
Take medication daily  
1 hour max on social media daily 

An example would be “After I meditate for 10 minutes, I will watch my favourite crime shows for an hour” or vice versa.  

As always, getting started is the hardest part. But by hacking these connections that our brain has, hopefully it can get you motivated to start on your habit formation journey.  

To learn more about temptation bundling, visit:

Clear, J – Temptation Bundling: A Simple Way to Boost Your Willpower

Author: Cathy Xie
Editor: Zac Lo
Researcher: Maureen Arsenal