Netflix and…Run?

By Kelsey Smith, Class of 2016

I am a loud and proud, self-professed lazy person. I am. I like long days on the couch, reading or TV bingeing (thank you, Netflix). I am an elite level procrastinator, and I am incredibly creative at coming up with excuses for things I don’t want to do, like going to the gym after a long day, short day or just a day. My personal favourite is telling people I’m allergic to exercise. Honestly, I get red, hot and start sweating – it’s not pleasant.

Hello, my name is Kelsey and I’m lazy.

And I also love rewards.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there was a way to combine the things I hate (read: exercise) with the things I love?

Wait – I can exercise and get a reward?

Well, Dr Katherine Milkman, an assistant professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has created the term ‘Temptation Bundling’. She had a good old chat about it on a Freakonomics podcast (if you don’t listen, you should start now) called “When Willpower Isn’t Enough”.

It’s actually a fantastic concept, and something I’m more than on board with trying. The whole idea of Temptation Bundling takes something that you really enjoy, say for example, a pedicure or your favourite audiobook or cd, then combining that with something you detest. The catch is, you can only do that ‘fun’ thing while you’re doing the ‘crap’ thing. So every time you go for a run, you get to play your favourite album, listen to your favourite podcast or audiobook. Or when you really want to get a pedicure, you have to catch up on all those overdue emails you let keep replenishing. See? Temptation Bundling. Bundle up the good with the crappy.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you exercise and watch TV. I’m not kidding. Wikihow explains it.

Yeah, but I never stick to an exercise plan anyway!

Now, that’s fantastic, but let’s have a moment of honesty – raise your hand if you’ve done the whole “this new year, I promise to *insert broken promise here*”. Mine are usually to exercise more, or eat healthier or something along the lines of “my body is a temple”.

Dr Milkman discusses this too. She calls it the Fresh Start Effect. Her and her team at Wharton House did some testing into when these boom and busts seem to take place and yep, you guessed it, it’s most commonly after important landmark occasions. I’m talking birthdays, holidays and the big one – New Year’s Eve.

The team say the big rush of “new me” attitudes happen because these important dates are reminders of time passing, and give rise to motivation to counteract that.  Basically, we feel we’re getting old, panic and think, whoops better grab an apple. Well I do anyway.

My New Year’s Resolutions be looking like…. Thanks Fenton. At least I’m not the only one.

But nothing works for me *insert dramatic sigh*

Most of us though, lack the willpower to follow through and these great ideas and plans fall away. Dr Milkman argues that if we bundle the two ideas together, so use Temptation Bundling while we’re in the Fresh Start Effect period, it has the power to work, and she’s got the proof too. While over a longer period of time it declined (but, really, who even goes to the gym over Christmas?), her study showed that for people with gym only access to audiobooks, they stayed true to the “new me” attitude for a much longer period.

We humans are fickle and not great when it comes to the whole ‘willpower’ thing. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a go and try for the “new me”, it’s my birthday soon after all.

I wonder if I can run and watch Netflix?