Why rewarding yourself can be the productivity hack you need even when you’re not motivated.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad would tell you if you cleaned up your room we could go get a blizzard from Dairy Queen? (Cookie Dough was always my go-to). Okay, maybe it wasn’t Dairy Queen, but they would reward you in some way in the form of more TV time or an hour of video games.
Let’s be honest. Without that reward, this is what it looked like doing chores as a kid.
There’s a reason our Parents would offer us this deal. It’s because they knew a reward would motivate us and increase our chances to take action and complete a task to its entirety.
It’s a simple and effective idea that I’m sure is as old as time. But, this article is about how to use this strategy for yourself as a freelancer.
Freelancing can be lonely at times. You’re either working at home talking to your cat or dog as they rest their head on your lap. Or you go to the coffee shop to be around people, then you put on your headphones and escape into your work.
It’s also very easy to get distracted. Being alone with your thoughts or around people at a coffee shop can trigger a distraction in an instant. One thought about watching Netflix leads you into a rabbit hole of looking up what’s new on Netflix this month to watching trailers on YouTube and POOF! An hour went by.
This is true for a lot of us.
Think about the last task you completed that took a little longer than expected. What happened? Was it good old fashion procrastination? Were you in a groove then checked your email and all hell broke loose?
I get it. Shit happens that distracts us. I know there are times where I get In a mood where I’m like, “eh, I have time, I’ll finish this soon.”
But that mindset isn’t very productive.
I’ve experienced this a lot in my time as a freelancer and even in my past full-time career at an agency. I needed a way to focus on the task at hand and complete it efficiently.
That’s where the “Treat Yo’ Self” method comes into play.
(Be prepared for a lot of Parks and Rec Gifs)
It’s a simple strategy that can help you crush a task in less time. I mean, we are in the age of working smarter, not harder, right?
So, try setting a reward for yourself the next time you look at your to-do list. Start small — try it for a week and see how much more work you get done.
Here’s an example to help you get started.
Start by setting a goal for the day.
Do you want to write ten headlines for your sales page?
Want to write a 600-word blog for your business?
Or maybe you want to set an hour to organize finances.
Choose one thing or a list of 2–3 things you know you can get done in one day.
Next, write down a list of rewards and make them appealing. These should be rewards that let you relax and feel like your best self — It’s called “Treat Yo’ Self” for a reason.
Don’t think too big either; your rewards should be things you can easily enjoy anytime during the day, but instead of just saying, “I’m taking a break to do this,” you’re choosing to indulge in this after your task is complete.
Then choose the reward for the day.
For example, one day I set a milestone to write an about section for a client’s website and to record two personal videos. My reward was to play video games for 45 minutes. I have to say, it was an enjoyable 45 minutes.
I completely had my mind off work. I know I could stop and play video games anytime I want, but knowing that I completed what I wanted to, made me enjoy it more.
Other examples may be:
Going out for happy hour
Ordering a large cheese pizza all to yourself (Home Alone style)
Eating at one of your favorite restaurants
Streaming “The Rock’s” new movie (I figured he’ll always have a movie out — all about that evergreen content)
Getting your nails done
Buy new shoes or a piece of clothing
Sit on your couch and start a new Netflix series
Wave that carrot in front of you so you can finish your work and Treat Yo’ Self!
This is a nice change of pace for the freelancers and business owners who struggle with being as productive as they want to be.
It could even be spending 40 minutes on a project without checking your phone and rewarding yourself by watching TV for a half hour.
It’s similar to the Pomodoro technique where you set a task and focus only on that for a fixed amount of time.
The Treat Yo’ Self approach takes it further where you set a timer and tasks, but you reward yourself if you get it done.
Now, let’s say you didn’t complete your task(s) because something else came up or you weren’t that disciplined today. Target the next day to grab that reward.
Of course, we’ve seen people treat themselves on a larger scale where if they complete a big monthly or yearly goal and they book a trip or buy something expensive for themselves.
I’m talking about rewarding yourself on a smaller scale. Those simple vices that are at our disposal every day, but in order to indulge, you have to get your to-do list done for the day.
Give this approach a shot tomorrow. I have a feeling you’ll feel a little more motivated.
And if this works for you on a day-to-day basis, create bigger rewards at the end of the week, like going out to happy hour with friends or a day at the spa.
What to do if you’re still not motivated?
If you try it and you’re still not reaching your goals, try getting your friends or family involved, let them hold you accountable. That thought of letting people down always gives us an extra push.
I find this next method to work well.
Take a moment and write down or remember your Why?
Why did you start this new career or side hustle? Why are you working so hard to build a career and life you love?
This works for me when I lack the motivation to be productive because I ultimately think to myself, “How many more days can I go without getting this done?”
There are so many distractions that slow down our productivity, and when we go in stretches where we feel like nothing is getting done, giving yourself a little sweet reward may be the motivation you need.
Please share your progress and success stories if you tried this out in the comments. And let me know your favorite productivity hacks as a freelancer or business owner, I’d love to know what’s been successful for you.
Here’s to getting more done in your day and getting closer to your goals.