Temptation Bundling: The Secret to more joy for hybrid workers.
Some parts of hybrid work just aren’t fun, no matter how you look at it. For those of us who got very comfortable with our working from home sleep-ins, the cold May commute (yes I am a Melbournian) is feeling pretty brutal right about now. Similarly, I frequently hear from extroverted clients that they are still struggling with their lonely lunch breaks when working from home.
I remember after a period of working from home in a previous role, I began to commute into the office again. It was winter, it was dark, I’d board my train at a point in the line where there were no seats left. Half the time it was delayed. Forty minutes of hanging on for dear life, sweating through all my winter clothes, before the day had even begun. Nightmare. I contemplated the cost of parking in the city, I even looked into helicopter taxis, but there weren’t any workarounds. In my desperation to make my days start on a more positive note, I took to the research, to see what behavioural science could do to help me.
The research led me to something called temptation bundling; a behavioural change exercise that entails allowing yourself to engage in a guilty pleasure only when pursuing a valuable activity that you dread. Not only does this reduce overindulgence in temptations but it increases time spent on activities consistent with long-term goals. So, for me I dreaded the commute, but it was an important component of my long-term goal to further my career. So I picked an activity that I really enjoyed – my favourite podcast at the time – and I only allowed myself to listen to it on the commute. All of a sudden, I started to get excited for my commute now that it was bundled with a really enjoyable activity.
I shared this research with a friend of mine who was really struggling to get deep, focused work done in her open plan office space. So she invested in a pair of the “please leave me alone” headphones and bundled a deep work sprint of 45 minutes or longer with the reward of a piece of her favourite dark chocolate. Whenever she felt like some chocolate in the office, she knew first to find the time for a deep work sprint.
These days, I work at behavioural consulting firm Inventium, and as a remote first business we don’t have an office. See ya later commute!!! But hello messy house?? My colleague Char and I both marvelled at how quickly our houses can get filthy, but really this should come as no surprise as this is where we spend the bulk of our week. So now I bundle my favourite podcast with the dreaded house clean that I complete each Friday.
So how can you apply temptation bundling to your own hybrid working life?
- Identify an activity that you’re finding difficult (i.e. the commute, finding time for deep work, lonely lunch breaks, moving more when working from home).
- Bundle it with an instantly gratifying “want activity” (i.e. the next episode of a tv show you’re into, checking social media, eating an indulgent meal, listening to a podcast/audiobook etc).
Sometimes there are parts of your situation that you can’t change, or tasks that are important but not urgent that get put off time and time again. Using temptation bundling you can use the power of your guilty pleasures to make progress on the tasks that matter or just simply take the edge off some of the parts of work we can’t change. You might even start to look forward to them (I know I do)!
Written by Sasha D’Arcy.
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