Procrastination is deferring tasks to a seemingly more convenient time, only that with procrastination, there is no convenient time; it is a measure of willpower. The fun fact about procrastination is that the time when you are supposed to be working but postponed the job, you are doing nothing productive, probably seeing a movie or playing video games. It is a preference for instant gratification over long-term projects.
Most times, we tend to procrastinate when we don’t fancy the task at hand. Imagine you ask me doing my favorite task, I will get to it with speed because I like it, but give me something I don’t like, and the first question will be, “can I do this some other time?”. We have to find our way past procrastination because life is not structured in a way that we can do only things we love; it is a blend of likes and dislikes. So irrespective of your love or hate for some tasks, you have to do them.
Playing video games or watching movies is terrible. You need to take a chill occasionally. But you shouldn’t do these things at the expense of work. How can we blend these things? Studies have shown that immediate and frequent rewards can improve internal motivation. Katherine Milkman, assistant professor at the Wharton University of Pennsylvania and behavioral economist, proposed a technique called temptation bundling. The technique is combining those things you enjoy doing with those things you do not enjoy doing. It is an ingenious method of incorporating likes and dislikes together, not one after the other. It is not the use of rewards after the completion of tasks; it is the use of rewards as a motivation to complete tasks. The two jobs are dependent on one another.
How did Milkman arrive at this? She conducted a study of people visiting the gym. She split the people into three groups. To the first group, their iPods, which had their favorite audio books, were taken from them, and they were only allowed to listen to the books when they were working out. To the second group, their iPods were not taken from them, and they could listen to their audiobooks whenever they wanted but were encouraged to attend to them only when they were at the gym. The third group were given a $30 Barnes and Noble gift card at the start of the study, meaning they could listen to whatever they wanted when they wanted while still advised to visit the gym.
After the first seven weeks of study, 51% of the participants in the first group visited the gym at least once a week, 44% visited in the second group, and 42% of the people in the third group. Yes, the bundling was sufficient; more people in the first group visited the gym because that was their only chance of listening to their favourite audiobooks. There was a marked decrease in the other two categories because people had access to listening to their favorite audiobooks without visiting the gym.
Temptation bundle is a great hack to battle procrastination, but it is not automatic; some things must be done. How can you implement temptation bundling as a project manager?
- List The Essential Activities: Get your team members together, tell them the aim of the project, assign roles to them, so everyone knows what he is supposed to do. Ensure everyone is clear on their parts.
- List The Distractions: Get your team members to talk about their biggest distractions, things they enjoy doing, something that could make them procrastinate. Maybe using social media, watching a movie, or a sports show. So in doing so, there is a sort of “do’s and don’ts.” Another thing that could help, just like in the gym study where the iPods were only accessible in the gym, is that you could pay someone to hold on to their pleasures while they work. For example, if you have team members that are massively distracted by social media, you could assign someone from another team to safely hold on to their phones while they work.
- Create A Temptation Bundle: Find a way to blend the roles and their distractions. Ensure that there are working, and they are allowed some time to do things they enjoy also. That way, they are working and are not procrastinating. The entire team could take that distraction together as a unit. Project managers should also be careful to ensure that the pairs of activities are compatible, just like the gym and audiobook example.
- Be Consistent: As with everything else, consistency is a significant issue. Your team has to keep up with the bundling routine, ensure they are working, not just getting rewards, and not procrastinating. Another possible scenario is when team members go for a break or holiday when they are away from work for some time, they focus on a lot on those guilty pleasures. On resumption to work, they may have issues maintaining the bundling routine.
As with humans, there are preferable times to start a routine. Some others can make up their minds to pick up certain habits at any time; others prefer specific times like the start of the year, birthdays, or any occasion. This applies to project management. Also, you could start a bundling routine at any point but preferably at the start of the project, after hitting or missing a milestone, or after a turn of events when it seems applicable to have a “fresh start.”
Temptation bundling is a simple but efficient technique that will make the team more productive with guilty pleasure serving as motivation instead of distractions. Temptation bundling aims to convert madness to motivation; project managers can also provide team members with external motivation.