We all have things on our to-do lists that we dread or put off. For some it may be exercise and healthy meal prep, but for others it can be paying bills or doing the housework. Certain tasks are boring, time consuming or completely out of our comfort zone, which means we have no motivation to get them done.
If you’re looking for an effective way to motivate yourself to do these dreaded tasks, try implementing a reward system. This is often used by parents and teachers to motivate children to do things, but they can work just as well for adults too.
Keep reading for tips on motivating yourself with a reward system.
Intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards
There are different types of rewards to consider when working towards any goal: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic rewards are psychological and related to how you feel when you’ve achieved a goal or completed a task. Being proud of yourself for doing well at work or feeling healthier after a workout are examples of intrinsic rewards.
Extrinsic rewards are external and tangible, such as monetary rewards, trophies and awards or praise and recognition from others. Both types of reward create motivation for you to continue with a certain habit or goal.
However, if you’re starting something completely new, the intrinsic rewards may not work just yet, so you can use extrinsic rewards to get going.
Make a list of some things you’d really like, such as new gym kit, clothes, makeup, etc. Use these as your extrinsic rewards. Rewards with monetary value work well because they feel like more of a treat and we don’t need to feel guilty about spending that money.
Some examples include:
- If I follow my nutrition programme everyday for the next 2 weeks, I’ll treat myself to a nice meal at a restaurant
- If I complete all my workouts this week, I’ll enjoy a beer at the weekend
- For every pound I lose, I’ll put £1 into a savings jar
- If I get up early every day for a week, I’ll buy a new book
If monetary rewards aren’t for you, then time also works well. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing in your free time and use these as rewards. That way, you won’t take them for granted and every second you spend watching Netflix will feel like you’ve earned it!
Some examples include:
- When I do 3 hours of work without procrastinating, I’ll browse Instagram for 10 minutes
- When I complete everything on my to-do list for today, I’ll spend an hour on my game
- When I get all my housework done, I’ll watch an episode of a series
- When I make those phone calls I’ve been putting off, I’ll read for an hour
Some tips on creating a reward system
Try and keep them healthy. There’s no point in sticking to your nutrition programme and losing a stone, only to spend the entire weekend bingeing junk food to reward yourself. Your rewards shouldn’t counteract your goals. Instead, you could reward yourself with one cheat meal or one glass of wine, etc.
Don’t reward yourself until you’ve done the task. The reward system is only effective if you’re disciplined. Only did half of your fitness programme this week? You don’t get the reward. Binned off your clean eating 2 days into the week? You don’t get the reward. Ticked one thing off your to-do list and gave up? You don’t get the reward!
Make the rewards proportionate. Your rewards need to be enticing enough to motivate you into action when you really can’t be bothered and you’re thinking of every excuse possible. Set small, yet enjoyable rewards for smaller milestones and bigger ones when you achieve a significant milestone.