Star Wars, Rewards, and Temptation Bundling

No spoilers, sweetie.


It took me a while to get to the theater to see Star Wars 7. Not because I lacked interest, but because of temptation bundling.

In temptation bundling, you restrict yourself from the thing you want to do until you’ve completed the thing you have to do. In the Freakonomics podcast episode linked above, Katherine Milkman, who studies behavioral economics, gives one example: “Only let yourself go to your very favorite restaurant whose hamburgers you crave while spending time with a difficult relative who you should see more of.”

In my case, I was editing a book. It wasn’t an onerous project—in fact, it’s quite good and I can’t wait until you all are able to read it, because most of you will love it. But it was work, and work of all kinds tempts me to procrastinate. So I decided I would not go see Star Wars until I finished editing that book. The day after I shipped the book back to the client, I went to the movie.

When you’re bundling your temptations, it can be too easy to make food the reward, as in Milkman’s example. For those of us trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, that winds up being counterproductive. So I look for nonfood rewards to give myself when I complete a project or chore. A movie fit that goal nicely.


I made an exception for Star Wars, but generally when putting together a temptation bundle I look for free options. I could easily make every reward a movie or a new outfit or a trip to the yarn shop. But that could get pricey fast. So I look for rewards I can give myself for free.

An obvious one is television. To increase my productivity, I gave up pretty much all television except Doctor Who, which means I only watch TV about eight times a year. But I can stock up old episodes on the DVR and watch one as a treat.

To get myself to the gym, I have a couple of podcasts that I only listen to when I’m there. One is A Way With Words, which is all about language, and the other is A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment, which is about writing and other creative work. (Please note that the language in the latter is often vulgar.)

Facebook is turning into the biggest time suck in my world, so I’ve started to think I need to make that my next bundle. I’m thinking of phrasing it as something like I can spend 20 minutes on Facebook for every 4 hours of completed client work.

Do you use this kind of incentive for yourself? What are some of the reward options you’ve thought of?


About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

5 comments on “Star Wars, Rewards, and Temptation Bundling

  1. My friend used temptation-bundling to very good effect in college. I have tried to reward myself for writing with food, i.e. jellybeans… Then I end up eating one after every sentence, so I feel you on saying food is unsustainable. (Just think if I used it to write a 100,000 word book!)

    My most effective temptation-bundling strategy thus far has been with laundry, my most hated chore… I’ve convinced my non-gamer husband to play through Zelda games, but he does so only while I fold clothes. Laundry used to stretch for half a week, but now I’m motivated to get it done all in one day so I have a good hour or so of Zelda to watch during folding. The Facebook reward is a very good idea.

  2. Thanks for sharing these examples, Kristen! I’ve been bundling some things, but not quite the way you’ve described.

    For me, it’s more like finding things I want to get done that can be combined. I want to spend more time with my kids. I want to exercise more. I want to do more art. And I want to read more. I’ve found that I can read aloud to my kids, go outside and play or dance in the living room with my kids (exercise), and I can do art while watching the one or two TV shows we watch as a family. It works.

    But I really like some of your ideas about using rewards for doing things I tend to avoid or procrastinate. Thanks!

  3. […] if said goal is losing weight or eating healthy. New Author Fellowship has a great post on Star Wars, Rewards, and Temptation Bundling. I suck at incentives and would rather go for food rewards, but yeah, trying to be healthy and all. […]

  4. […] screen and Mad-Eye Moody coming out. NAF writers make themselves write with daily word counts and temptation bundling. They commiserate over uncooperative characters and their inability to find time to write. But […]

  5. […] you can buy at Universal Studios. Real writers make themselves write with daily word counts and temptation bundling. They commiserate over uncooperative characters and their inability to find time to write. But […]

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