Self-Reward System To Beat Procrastination And Boost Productivity

A woman sitting on a bed with driking out of a cup and looking an a laptop screen.

If you catch yourself procrastinating on the tasks that will help you reach your long-term goals, you are not alone! It is in human nature to delay actions that do not produce immediate gratification! However, procrastination leads to diminished productivity, and, in turn, to feelings of lack of achievement and self-worth. One of the best ways to beat procrastination and boost productivity is to create an individual self-reward system that will motivate you to finish all the tasks on your to-do list and get you closer to achieving your dreams!

What is A Self-Reward System?

You are probably aware of the employee reward system or big incentives to boost employee motivation to do a good job in professional settings. Performance-related bonuses and perks are offered for meeting goals and all the hard work and it has been a powerful tool to encourage professional development and employee performance. However, when it comes to our personal lives, we seem to neglect the idea of needing extra incentives to do a good job at achieving individual goals.

Lessons learned from the professional environment can be easily applied to our personal lives. How so? Creating a positive reward system in order to boost our motivation to achieve a specific goal and combat procrastination may be one of the best productivity hacks you can apply to your daily life.

Whether you are looking to build a new habit, curb your long-standing bad habits or simply want to complete important tasks efficiently and without delay, some positive reinforcement could do wonders! Creating a personal rewards system, whereby you outline small rewards for completing certain tasks in a predefined (but realistic) amount of time is a great way to build intrinsic motivation and achieve better results in less time (just think about all the little things you could do in the time you use to actively procrastinate!).

a man with a laptop in this hand looking very happy and excited.

Importance Of Having A Self-Reward System?

James Clear, the author of the best-selling book ‘Atomic Habits‘ talks about personal rewards being imperative to good habit formation. At the end of the day, a task or an action that results in a positive experience, makes us return to the same behaviour time and time again, in expectation of a sense of pleasure at the end of it. Evolutionary speaking, human beings are motivated most by instant and immediate gratification. We eat sugary treats because it gives us instant pleasure (even though they can be harmful in the long term). Smoking gives people instant relief from stress (even though there’s a high risk of cardiovascular and lung diseases in the long term). As complex as the brains of human beings is – it will always favour small short-term pleasures over big future rewards. This is exactly why creating a personal reward system can be so effective in fighting procrastination and boosting productivity! Procrastination comes in various forms, but it is most likely that we choose to do something that brings us instant positive feelings (i.e. playing video games, watching funny reels on social media) over going to the gym or finalising that sales pitch to a potential client (both with a delayed reward of having a toned body and getting a bonus at work). Creating an instant reward system that is designed to fit your needs and desires is the best thing you can do to trick your brain into positive action towards long-term goals

wooden tiles with letters on them arranged to spell "WHY NOT NOW".

How To Create An Effective Self-Reward System?

Have you ever been told by your parents that you can only have dessert if you finish your veggies? And did it work? It certainly works for most children, but what should be taken into consideration when building a reward system for adults? Here’s a step-by-step method on how to create an effective self-reward system:

  1. Make a list of things that you love. Just do it! Don’t overthink it, don’t consider their affordability, achievability or any constraints around them. Dig deep into your brain to ensure you include everything that gives you pleasure. Include everything from holidays in the Maldives to a bubble bath and driving your car late at night and seeing the street lights go by. Consider both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators for yourself.
  2. Ask yourself: “Which of the things I love do not align with my long-term goals and dreams?” and cross them out of your list. Let me give you a couple of examples.
  3. I love cheesecake (so much so, it was the first thing on my list, when I made one). But one of my long-term goals is to have a toned athletic body. Clearly, the two do not align, so I crossed it out of my list. This is not to say that I can never have cheesecake (I do!), but it means that I cannot use it as a reward. If you love cheesecake, but have no trouble staying fit and toned and, therefore, it’s not your long-term goal, go ahead and use cheesecake as a reward!
  4. Do you love to just sit on the sofa and relax watching short-form funny dog videos? If your long-term goal isn’t a technology-free life or increasing your attention span, reward yourself with a 15-minute funny video session every time you complete what you’ve set out to do.
  5. Are Any Of The Things You Love Intrinsically Harmful? No judgement, but you would ideally not use illegal substances or smoking as a reward, even if they’re not conflicting with your long-term goals.
  6. Look at the list you are left with (add more things as you think of them) and match rewards with different tasks that you usually procrastinate doing. Small rewards should follow short and relatively easy tasks (e.g. I will reward myself with 10 minutes of watching my favourite sitcom whilst sipping my favourite cup of coffee after finishing a blog post, but I will have dinner at a fancy restaurant after completing a month-long (set time) e-book writing project). This is a continuous process. Ideally, you will have a to-do list to look at at the start of each day (or the night before) and match your tasks with rewards on an ongoing basis.
  7. Keep track of your tasks and make sure to reward the completion of ongoing projects.
a calendar, a to do list and a pen.

When Should You Stop Rewarding Yourself?

The suggested self-reward system is similar to the good habit-building method outlined in James Clear’s new book ‘Atomic Habits’. He proposes that in order to stick to a habit you must associate specific behaviours with immediate rewards. We use this technique to beat procrastination and boost productivity.

But when should you stop rewarding yourself? The answer is simple. NEVER. However, you should change the things you’re rewarding yourself for. As you repeat the behaviour more and more frequently (e.g. make the bed every morning for 6 months and reward yourself with a 2-minute social media feast) you may find that even if you skipped the reward, you would still be making the bed. Why? Because you formed a habit.

Stop rewarding yourself for things that you now do naturally, without thinking about what comes next. Instead, find the new best things to concentrate on (maybe you always procrastinate brushing your dog’s teeth?) and start rewarding yourself for those tasks instead to create some positive emotions on things that you currently only associate with a lack of motivation.

Other Ways To Boost Productivity and Combat Procrastination

Whilst own rewards system has proved to be the best way for us to build good habits, improve productivity and reduce the time we spend procrastinating here at It’s Well Planned, we use this method with a variety of other productivity-boosting techniques. Different methods work for different people, and sometime you will need a combination of a few to spur on your personal growth and achieve your true potential. Here are some articles for you to explore:

Bottom Line

Procrastination negatively correlates with productivity, and if you want to complete the most important things more efficiently you may need to alternate hard work with intermittent rewards. A personal reward system is designed to keep you motivated to finish tasks that you otherwise wouldn’t do. In anticipation of your next reward, you will soon be rearing to smash through your to-do list, improve your mental health and get a lot more done without delay!

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