Let's talk rewards!

So, my question is: What techniques do you guys use to create useful rewards. And what hinders you from “taking” the reward to early? For example, if i say i get to watch 1 hour of Netflix after doing stuff for my studies, there is bascily nothing but my “disciplin” to hold me back from watching Netflix anyways, without doing the thing. Do you have any mechanics in place, os found strategies, that help you to get a good reward system working?
Because if it only relies on my disciplin to not procastinate, with doing my reard anyway then… yeah… that’s not gonna work ^^°


I’m just gonna say I feel you so hard on this subject. I sincerely hope some good options show up here for both of us.


Can I share a very speciifc example that worked for me last week?

I had a task to get done, and it required me to look at multiple pdf documents - insanely boring, repetitive etc etc. Each page probably took about 10 minutes to look over.

So, I started by doing something slightly stimulating/rewarding with a promise of more rewards to come: changing location, getting out of the house and taking myself to my favourite sushi spot

Then, I ordered some sushi BUT I didn’t eat it yet. I promised myself that for each page, I could eat one small piece of sushi. Then it turned into a bit of a game - do a page, eat a sushi. Before I knew it I was done.

I think the takeaway for me was that:

  1. it helps to integrate the reward somehow with the task, and in doing so, try to associate the two things together - I did this by turning it into a game, where the reward was only ONE aspect of it, but it made doing the actual task into a fun challenge. I’ve done this with stickers too or other smaller bite-sized dopamine hits.

  2. Don’t make it into a yes/no type of deal (do the task = reward, don’t do the task = no reward). Instead, make the rewards incremental, and set it up so that you get a taste of some form of reward either way, encouraging your brain to seek out further and better rewards.

Hope my experience helps! I can’t say it works every time, but it’s something :slight_smile:


P.S I’m currently trying this out with videogames too - 20 minutes of work = you get to play one level/chamber/until the next cutscene. Finish the work, finish the game or part of it… Wish me luck!


For me, sad to say, this “reward yourself” idea just doesn’t work. Or, I haven’t figured out how to make it work. Self-starting is (as is common with ADHDers) a significant set of challenges for me; and, evidently, among that set of challenges is one which gives me a hard time self-starting the idea of giving myself rewards. Doh!


Ok. So I think what you’re saying @Assynj is that breaking up the task so that it’s a much smaller thing to get done and then getting a smaller reward is a key aspect of it. Because when having to face down the entire task it seems impossible but if you’re just doing one page then it doesn’t look that hard.

Like I have my programming homework to get done which can be a very daunting task with a lot of potholes and sidetracking and unforeseen issues. It seems like it’s going to take me forever and I still won’t get it done on time but if I just say I’m going to set down the problem and outline what I need to do then that’s much more manageable. Or if I just do a bit of pseudocode.

That might help I just need to figure out what I can realistically use for those rewards. Doing something like gaming or watching netflix wouldn’t work for me in this format just because once I’m in there it’s so much harder to turn it off and go back to work.


Yeah! I would say so. That and making rewards incremental, so that you’re guaranteed to get at least something to keep you going, rather than promising yourself one big thing at the end that you either do or don’t get.

I’ve found Netflix unfortunately isn’t too helpful, I agree. And using food as rewards can be problematic. For me this is where stickers comes in or progress trackers, but find what works for you!


Disclaimer: Despite all my well-intended advice, I still don’t necessarily have it worked out. So if you don’t either, I think they KEY takeaway is just keep trying… and failing… and trying again… etc :slight_smile:

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I had some success finishing my undergrad final report with incremental rewards. I found a friend who may or may not also be a brain now that I think about it who also had a final report to write. We would set a challenge for both of us write 100 words and then we would be play a round of Dota and then back to the report and maybe it was 200 words this time. We rinsed and repeated until we were done.

So bite size chunks and a second person who helped keep me honest and who I helped keep honest about their work too. Worked for me.


For me, it helps to start with something simple. I like to arrange the tasks into groups. It gives me an overview and most tasks can be organized into groups. When something is particularly difficult, I succeed in working for periods of 25 minutes. Give yourself a 10-minute break between each period. Then it’s nice to do something physical, like juggling, for example.