Temptation Bundling

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Life Hacks, Sue's Blog | No Comments
Temptation Bundling

During my last trip to Hawai’i, my friend Kel was bragging about how much weight she had lost because of her Fitbit. I have a Fitbit too, but it hasn’t done squat for me. I got it about a year ago, after buying one for my Dad for his birthday. For those of you who don’t know how it works, a Fitbit is peer pressure and guilt wrapped up in a little piece of rubber on your wrist. It’s basically a pedometer that talks to your phone and pushes your data into the cloud. This allows you to earn “badges” and compare yourself against friends. It’s an evil little thing…

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, my Dad has a really impressive daily fitness schedule. So I thought the peer pressure of my 80-year-old father would be incentive enough to get me off my butt. I started a lunchtime walking routine and kept it up for several weeks. But life and other excuses got in the way, and of course by the time Kel was bragging about her Fitbit, mine was languishing back at home in San Jose on the bathroom counter.

Well, as my business model started to fizzle a few weeks ago, and I realized that I’d be staying put for at least the next few months, I decided to strap the damn thing back on. New routines. Fresh start. This time I picked mornings for my walks. I’m naturally a “morning person” and I recently weaned myself off caffeine. So now I can just go to sleep in my workout clothes, roll out of bed, brush my hair and teeth, grab some water, and be out the door in less than 15 minutes.

Finding something to listen to was my next task. Being that I was redesigning my life again, I gravitated first towards the business/entrepreneurship and self-help section. But that got irritating pretty quick. For one thing, almost all the podcasts are done by males. There was one by a former athlete was particularly annoying. And those that weren’t male voices seemed to be either religious or focused on helping moms balance their busy lives.

So I went back to an old standby that I used to listen to on my commute — Freakonomics Radio. I found a cool episode where Stephen Dubner interviewed a behavior economist named Katherine Milkman who talked about her research on willpower. She was interested in finding things that might help people stick to commitments like changing their diet and exercise routine. (How timely!) She discussed a concept called “temptation bundling,” which is to tie two activities together: one that you know you should do, but tend to avoid (like exercise) and one that is a guilty pleasure (like binge-watching TV).

Perfect! So now all I needed was a highly addictive audiobook. Little did I know that I would stumble on it on my very next walk. One of the top podcasts on iTunes right now is called “Serial” — I had heard about it before, but didn’t understand the concept until I downloaded it that day. It’s a story that unfolds week by week. The first season ran last fall from October thru December.

I got hooked. It’s a real-life murder mystery told through police interviews, courtroom tapes, and phone call recordings from prison — artfully weaved together and narrated by a witty (female) investigative reporter. I found myself walking farther than I anticipated because I wanted to finish the episode. Temptation bundling at its finest.

But I only have 7 episodes left and they’re not scheduled to release the next season until later this year. So in a week I’ll be back to browsing the podcast list. I’d love to hear your recommendations for other addictive audio adventures. Because look what I accomplished for the first time this week:


[insert fist-pump here]

Listen for yourself:


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