When I was a special education teacher, I had mixed feelings about rewards to get students to work. I would like for the students to want to do well intrinsically. But I also knew as a teacher I would feel good if someone gave me recognition for work well done and that was my reward. It made me want to continue to do even better.
So, I used a reward system in my classroom and the students could earn points that they could trade in on Friday. Seeing the points add up during the day was an immediate reward and knowing that on Friday they could cash them in helped. It was a rather elaborate system and on Fridays everyone got some popcorn even if they did not have points to redeem.
As an adult I know about myself that immediate small rewards are a good motivator. Some days I work along just fine and don’t need rewards as a motivator. But there are days when I am tired or feeling down or have tasks that I just don’t want to do. Those days need a bit of help.
On tough days frequent rewards make my work a more positive experience overall which makes me want to continue the task and do it well.
My favorite short immediate reward is to allow myself to read. I will set a timer to work on a task for 30 to 45 minutes and then set a timer for 15 to 20 minutes to read. When honoring this immediate reward and using my timer, I associate the task and my goal as something worthwhile and important to me.
Frequent rewards as you work make it a more positive experience overall, which naturally motivates you to continue the task and perform well. The most important aspect of the reward is the immediacy – you need to immediately reward yourself when the task is completed, rather than delay it to the end of the week or month, for example.
By allowing yourself to be rewarded more frequently and right after you complete a task, the research suggests you’ll develop a more positive attitude about your work, which will in turn cause you to be more motivated, more engaged, and in general produce better results.
Other days I may reward myself by having some deck time after a series of tasks is done. If I get completely exhausted and used up before my workday is over, I pull one of the cards out of our Organize Your Home 10 Minutes at a Time deck of cards and tell myself, “Even though you are tired, you can do just 10 minutes more.” Then I call it done and feel like I have accomplished something and still deserve that deck time.
When I have sessions with my clients, I always end the session by reminding them that they have worked hard today and accomplished a lot. I ask them to reward themselves in some way. They may choose to order in a dinner or play some video games guilt free. But they always perk up and seem delighted to think that they have earned a reward of doing something for themselves that gives them pleasure.
Sometimes they will opt for a deferred reward. They might say that by the end of the week if they have moved forward on their project they will go out to lunch with a friend or have a pedicure.
It’s all good if it keeps you feeling good about your progress and moving forward.
If you want help or just some accountability in setting up or working your organizational plan join Diane Quintana and me on our Clear Space For You clutter support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, award-winning author, as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients tackle the toughest organizational issues. Jonda does hands on organizing and virtual organizing. For more of Jonda’s tips connect with her on Facebook.