Reward Bundling – GoT Technique
Reward bundling is a rather simple and effective way to hack your habits. To understand how (and why) it works, let’s do a quick 60 sec recap on The Rules of Habit Formation (see The Habit Jungle for the full rundown).
Habits are physical (neural) structures in your brain – functioning like pathways through a jungle. The more you use the same pathway, the clearer it becomes, and the easier it is to travel along. Some pathways become so clear that we can travel along them without even thinking (like how you can sometimes drive home on ‘autopilot’ mode).
New habits are hard to form because they require a great deal of initial effort, with little reward. This is known as the Activation Energy Phase – where it feels like you are hacking your way through a dense jungle.
This is where Reward Bundling comes in.
You can reduce the Activation Energy Phase of a new habit by pairing something you love with something you want to love (your new habit).
Let’s say you want to form a new exercise habit, like working out at the gym.
The hardest part is simply getting there – because your brain is more than willing to find excuses not to go, even if they’re kinda crappy ones.
Maybe you didn’t sleep well… and you’ve heard that not getting enough sleep is bad for your health, so you decide to get a few more zzz’s and go after work instead.
But then, you have a long day, and by the time you finish work, it’s almost 6pm. You figure that going to the gym during peak hour won’t be a particularly pleasant experience, so you decide that after dinner is your best bet.
But then, you have a big dinner and descend into a food/Game of Thrones coma. Before you know it, you’re sleepy, and you remember that not getting enough sleep is bad for you. So, you decide to call it a night and plan to go tomorrow instead. But then you don’t sleep well (partly because you didn’t exercise and partly because you lay in bed bingeing on GoT)… and, not surprisingly, you wake up tired. And just like that, the cycle repeats and your habit stalls.
But what if instead, you make a promise to only watch GoT while you exercise?
This is Reward Bundling in action – pairing an activity you like (GoT) with one you don’t (gym-ing).
The reward of a juicy GoT bloodbath helps make the idea of exercising just that little bit more palatable. And once you have used this reward bundling a few times, just like Pavlov’s dog, your brain will start to associate going to the gym with GoT (and vice versa). This is an example of positive reinforcement, which is an incredibly powerful motivator.
Now, the thing to remember is – this will only work if you are strong enough (pun intended) to resist watching GoT outside of the gym (until your gym habit has formed). You need to be super strict on this front or the effect will be diluted… which defeats the purpose.
You can add an extra layer to this technique by enrolling a friend in the process. If you both agree to only watch GoT in the gym, you’ll inadvertently become each others exercise motivators – encouraging the other person to hurry up and get to the gym so that you can discuss the gory details of the latest episode.
This technique is just one of the hacks covered in the Hacking your Habits conference keynote / offsite workshop. You can find out more about having Simply Psyched teach your team habit hacking by clicking here.