By Jodi Milner

Jodi Milner author/bio pic

Working on a list of tasks can be a grind sometimes, especially if those tasks aren’t your favorite. Everyone likes a clean bathroom, but no one likes cleaning it. While it does feel good to check things off of the list, sometimes it’s just not enough. Creative incentives can help add extra motivation to get through even the toughest tasks.

Think back to when you were a kid and you knew you would earn a sticker or some other perk for putting in effort on a task. Not only did you work harder on the task, but you also worked faster knowing that there was something in it for you at the end. You can use this same motivation as an adult to get tasks done faster and better.

The trick is finding a motivator that compels you to get moving.

The trick is finding a motivator that compels you to get moving. I imagine that a sticker probably doesn’t hold the motivation that it once did. For you, it might be making yourself your favorite refreshing drink and reading that book you’ve been craving. Or maybe, you’re a crafty type and you’ve been waiting for permission to play with a new set of pens, or perhaps a zen tangle coloring book. Whatever it is, make it count.

Why rewarding yourself works

We’re going back to brain science here. Earning a reward releases dopamine, the feel-good hormone. Not only does this feel good, it actually can help reduce stress and increase feelings of better emotional well-being. There is also evidence that shows rewarding yourself when you accomplish something can give you a self-confidence boost. 

Rewarding yourself can also relieve boredom with those more monotonous tasks and break free of that everyday routine. Seek out novel and new things to try that spark a smile and give you something to look forward to. 


Beware, there can be a downside to rewarding yourself. If you find that you’re leaning more and more into needing a reward for finishing tasks and projects, then you might want to evaluate where you are with your mental health. If you don’t find satisfaction, even when you are successful, that can be a sign of burnout or depression. While extra goodies are always a good thing, in the long run it’s also a good idea to find a sense of joy and satisfaction in the task itself.

Adventures with day planning

I’m a big believer in writing down what I need to get done and planning my day around these task lists. But, it does get tedious day after day. I use a program that synced between my phone and computer so I always have that list with me and could update it as needed. That list became more and more complicated because it was a little too easy to add things.

I recently decided to change things up a little and shift back to a paper planner because I wanted to see how things changed over time. That, and I wanted to reduce my dependency on my phone. As a result, I started a bullet journal style planner that does everything that the digital planner does, with one big perk — because I have to write everything down, it gives me more time to decide if it’s something that should stay on my list or not. 

Not every to-do is critical, and when things get crazy, it’s important to be able to choose what you will spend your time on and what can be dropped or postponed. This simple act of having to write with a pen is enough to help me be more intentional about what I’m willing to do and what I’ll do as a reward.

Engagement prompt: Snap a pic of something you do to reward yourself!


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