Professional, Writer's Life

How to Create a Reward System to Stay Productive

Creating a reward system for yourself can help motivate you to be productive. It’s also a good way to give yourself some well-deserved recognition whenever you accomplish something.

A reward system can also help break an overwhelming project into more manageable pieces. By focusing on one task at a time, you can avoid procrastinating, indecision, and poor time management. Plus it feels good to give yourself a pat on the back!

What Sort of Accomplishments Should I Reward?

This is entirely up to you! You could set up a reward system for your whole day, chores, administrative tasks, or a single project. Definitely include anything you’d normally drag your feet on. After all, this system is meant to help you stop putting things off and get them done already.

But don’t just include icky tasks. Mix in a few easy ones or anything you enjoy doing, too. You’re rewarding yourself for a job well done!

What Kinds of Rewards Should I Give Myself?

Again, this is up to you to pick the rewards that will motivate you the best. There are rewards you can instantly enjoy–like taking a walk, getting a snack, or taking a social media break. You can also have some delayed gratification with some rewards that you only get at the end of the day, like a block of time to work on a hobby or what movie you watch that evening.

I like to choose things I want to get to, but usually don’t have time because I’m stuck muddling through the work I don’t want to do. When I had to revise a scene in my manuscript for the fifth time, I decided my reward for getting it done was to read a book on my shelf that I’d been meaning to read for over a year.

A Note on Treating Yo Self

My general rule is to not pick a reward that costs money if the task itself doesn’t make me money. I make an exception for bonuses. If I get a certain chunk of work done in a certain amount of time, then I might buy a new plant, some fancy office supplies, a book, etc. My work gets done either way, but a bonus lets me celebrate getting a lot done in a short amount of time.

Reward System Mistakes

Whatever you choose to reward yourself with, make sure it isn’t something that’s going to work against you. For example, if you decide you’ve earned some fun social media browsing once you’ve responded to all your emails, be sure to give yourself a time limit. It’s not going to help your productivity if you end up wasting an hour after finishing a 15-minute task.

The same goes for any kind of food-related reward. It’s fine to treat yourself to your favorite snack after one or two tasks, but you don’t want to make it the only reward for every task. Some other things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t break things down too far; reward yourself for finishing a whole blog post, not after every paragraph.
  • Be realistic about what you can do, especially if you give yourself deadlines.
  • Rewarding yourself does not always have to include spending money

Reward System Tracking

Would you feel motivated or pressured by having your task and reward list always visible? If it’s out of sight most of the time, does that help you focus or make you forget about it entirely?

I am definitely in camp Always Visible, but I keep my list off to the side. I have to turn in order to see it. Giving myself two weeks to accomplish four or five big tasks (like chapter revisions and rewrites) seems to be just right for feeling motivated but not overly pressured.

For example, my first set of goals for June 2022 include:

  • finish revising a scene
  • change a character’s name
  • draft a new chapter
  • rework an older chapter (with sub-tasks like changing the POV character, adding a new chunk in the middle, and making sure it connects to the chunk right after)

I don’t make it look fancy, either. Just one corner of my whiteboard to keep track of it all!

My rewards this time are simple, too. I can fancy up my morning coffee, eat one of the cupcakes I baked last week, go for a long walk, take a yoga break, and read a book that’s been on my TBR shelf for the last few years.

You can make yours as fancy or as simple as you like. A note in your planner or notebook could work just as well. Before I put my whiteboard up, I used sticky notes on the bottom of my monitor. But then they got mixed up with the other notes I left for myself and it was a mess. Find what works for you and run with it!

How do you like to reward yourself for getting things done?

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