Get Better Without Torturing Yourself: The Power of Temptation Bundling

Bundling is a strategy used in retail where customers are offered additional items to purchase with their purchases. Studies show that bundling can increase product sales by up to 105%. So why aren’t more retailers doing the same? The problem comes down to one word: temptation. If you’re going door-to-door trying to sell your wares, it’s hard not be tempted by something else nearby. It doesn’t take much for someone on your block or across town from getting lured away from what you have and into something they see advertised elsewhere – if only momentarily! This is because of how our brains work; there’s no way around it when we make decisions based off of reward prediction errors .

The “art of manliness” is a podcast that discusses the power of temptation bundling. The article discusses how to use this technique to achieve your goals.

Get Better Without Torturing Yourself: The Power of Temptation Bundling


Everyone understands how tough it is to set goals and stick to new, beneficial habits. We want to workout, but watching Netflix is so much more convenient. We’d like to prepare our meals at home, but ordering food from DoorDash is much more convenient. We’d want to cross a few things off our to-do lists, but it’s so much more pleasant to stay at home. There’s just a significant disconnect between what we want to accomplish logically and what we want to do viscerally.

We usually depend on discipline to attempt to close this gap. We strive to persuade ourselves to do what we know is right. Then, when we don’t follow through on things, we chastise ourselves for not having enough willpower.

Fortunately, there is a method to break free from this futile cycle. Bundling our temptations is a way for making our habits happen with less work and more enjoyment. 

A Quick Guide to Temptation Bundling 

People would be significantly more successful if they concentrated on making long-term goal pursuit more fun in the near term. —How to Change, Katy Milkman

It’s easy to see why we have such a hard time following through on our good intentions: the tasks we set out to perform are often neither fun or gratifying in the near term. Things like going to the post office, cleaning the dishes, and filing taxes have a long-term benefit but aren’t very delightful in the short term. Cooking and exercise are similar, at least for some individuals. So, when it comes to selecting between these tedious duties and something more instantly pleasurable — browsing through social media, watching television, ordering takeout — our pleasure-seeking selves choose the latter more frequently than not.

When you realize this clear difficulty, the answer is likewise simple — though you may not have given it much attention before: make working on your objectives more enjoyable.

You can’t achieve that by altering the task’s nature, which is intrinsically unpleasant, as we’ve previously shown. However, by coupling the work with something nice, you may make it more enjoyable. 

Katy Milkman, a behavioral scientist, coined the term “temptation bundling” to describe this phenomenon. You combine something you have to do, something you should do but don’t like, with something you don’t have to do but naturally appreciate and are already enticed by. You combine something that has long-term worth but no immediate gratification with something that has no long-term payout but lots of immediate gratification.

Milkman, for example, used to struggle to get herself out the door to go to the gym. She began listening to Alex Cross mystery books while working out to keep herself motivated. What had previously seemed like a nuisance — tracking kilometers on the treadmill — had become something she eagerly anticipated.


When there are a million other things I might be doing, I don’t love running errands around town – Amazon returns, supermarket shopping, you name it. To get a bit more excited about it, I only listen to Halsey in the minivan while I’m driving about. (Guys, she smacks!) 

Do you find it difficult to get motivated to fold your laundry? While you’re doing it, listen to a podcast. Do you want to eat more home-cooked meals but don’t want to cook? To make the job more enjoyable, crack open a certain beer or wine while you chop and sauté.  

You’ll be significantly more likely to stick to a tedious-but-important goal/habit/task if you combine a pleasant “guilty pleasure” with it. 

How to Make the Most of Temptation Bundling 

This little feat of neuronal deception isn’t a cure-all. There are a few things to remember in order to make it work for you, as well as certain constraints to bear in mind. 

When you’re undertaking a non-pleasurable work, only engage in the specific “vice.” “Temptation bundling absolutely works best if you can truly confine an indulgence to anytime you’re undertaking a job that needs an additional burst of drive,” Katy Milkman says in How to Change. When completing a task is the only way to get a certain reward, you’ll be considerably more driven to do it. Do you want to hear Alex Cross? It’s time for you to go on the treadmill. Do you want to hear Halsey? It’s time for you to board the minivan.

Maintain the passive character of one of the items you’re bundling. “Not all activities can be packaged with one another,” Milkman writes. In general, it’s difficult to couple a cognitively demanding activity with another cognitively demanding one.” Let’s pretend you like crossword puzzles. You attempt to combine puzzles with exercise – maybe you can answer a few clues on the stairmaster or in between sets? Think again – you’ll have a hard time concentrating on either. Most of the time, it’s the joyful item that needs to be semi-passive: a cheap thrill from your favorite Netflix series, something tasty to eat or drink, or music you truly like. There aren’t a lot of possibilities. 

Make it a social event! It may be much more entertaining if you can get other people on board with temptation bundling. Do you have a favorite local coffee shop? Persuade your friend to join you for coffee only after a run. Have a slew of life admin tasks to do — school announcements to review, presents to order online, etc.? Create a “life administration study hall.” Make a nostalgic music or choose a fine bottle of wine that you will only drink during these group study sessions. If you’re not cautious, you can start to like budgeting and inbox cleaning! 

Keep in mind that it won’t last forever. Milkman discovered that the peak advantages of temptation bundling lasted around seven weeks in her investigation. Beyond that, you get too used to the enjoyable half of the bundle to maintain a strong motivating drive. Fortunately, by that point, you’ve either established the habit well enough to maintain it or you’ve grown to appreciate it enough to continue with less packaged motive or none at all; we frequently learn to naturally like things we didn’t like at first. Temptation bundling is an efficient way to get a new habit started and keep it going until it becomes self-sustaining. 


It’s also worth noting that the strategy doesn’t cease working completely once the first two-month period has passed; the increase is just not as strong as it was in the first few weeks. To be sure, Milkman still likes Alex Cross at the gym; she simply doesn’t need the same motivation as she once did to go out the door. 

We haven’t even scratched the surface of temptation bundling concepts. Though the options aren’t limitless, there’s plenty of potential for imagination within these parameters. Look at the good habits you’re having trouble starting, then look at some of the minor but enjoyable activities you like doing and find out a method to combine them in order to improve yourself while having fun. 

Check out Katy’s podcast for even more solid advice on how to alter and improve your life: 




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The “art of gentlemen” is a book that shows how to be more successful without torturing yourself. The author, Giorgio Santoro, says that the key to success is temptation bundling.

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