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Cravings and Temptations: How They Can Give You a Push in the Workplace

July 8, 2015

On a daily basis, we are constantly told what we need to do or reminded of what we are supposed to do. This can be difficult at times.   

  • Eat less, workout more. 
  • Arduous tasks at work. 
  • Staying up late for deadlines. 
  • Getting up early in the morning

We all struggle at times, our will power is tested and too often we fail.  Well, there may be hope for us yet.

Back in 2013, The Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania introduced an interesting idea. The idea of tying together two different activities – one that you should complete but may avoid and another that you desire doing but may not be productive. Essentially, the idea is to take something you crave or tempts you and combine it with something else to give you a push.  Some examples might include:

  • Going out for a nice dinner only if you read a report while you eat
  • Getting a pedicure only if you go through the emails that have piled up at work
  • Listening to a favorite book only when you are working out

This is exactly what Professor Katherine Milkman of The Wharton School wanted to explore based on her personal experience.  She named the approach ‘Temptation Bundling’. 

The theory: “Valuable healthy behaviors could be increased, while guilt and wasted time from indulgent behaviors decreased, through the use of temptation bundling.”

The study lasted nine weeks observing 226 students and faculty who went to the university fitness center.  Each person in the study said they desired to work out more. They divided the participants into three groups. 

  • Group one received iPods pre-loaded with four enticing books of their choosing; however, they could only access them while at the fitness center.
  • Group two was given the same audiobooks loaded onto their own iPods.  They were allowed to take them anywhere, anytime, but were encouraged to listen to the books only at the fitness center.
  • Group three was a control group. This group was provided a gift card and was encouraged to exercise more.

The researchers, at first, established that those who only had fitness center access to the books went to the gym 51% more than the control group. That same group went to the gym 29% more than the group that had the books on their own iPods.

Sometimes when you combine things it makes a difference.  Sometimes they get even better like peanut butter and jelly or chocolate covered cherries.  The point is – temptation building works and it could be a good tool for motivating people at work, creating more productive meetings, reducing procrastination and more. 

One way I have utilized temptation building is with people I coach. Too often when individuals move up in an organization they still function like individual contributors. They do not actively network or build relationships.  Sometimes they prefer alone time or go out with the same people for lunch and neglect that as a leader you must build a broader base of relationship s and support throughout an organization.  So as an example of temptation building, if an individual enjoys a good meal, but does not have a tendency to network, I encourage them to only go out for a good meal if they are inviting someone new who they need to connect or build a relationship with. 

So what is your guilty pleasure?  How can you use it to better your personal or professional life?