Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Benefits of Small Rewards

Eep! I’ve gone a whole month again without posting. Of course, this time it was because I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), have had SEVERAL flu bugs attack me and my kids, and then my parents came for Thanksgiving, which became strictly family time (a good thing).

Enough with the excuses, though, I want to talk about NaNo. Yes, I did it! I won! And best of all, I finished a book I wanted to finish two and a half years ago. As another major positive, I established a daily writing habit I’m happy to have back in my life. The win-wins of NaNo!

I read somewhere that only about 14% of the people who sign up for NaNo actually finish it. That’s extremely low but hey—it’s an extreme ambition to write 50,000 words in one month. Most of us have lives beyond the keypad.

In light of that low statistic, I wanted to share two things that helped me see my goal through because they can apply to any goal-setting endeavor. The first was giving myself small (or relatively small) rewards. Second, I created transition rituals to signal my writing time. Today, I’m going to talk about rewarding only. Next post I’ll talk about signal rituals.

Some rewards I used or thought about using for daily or hourly milestones:
Soaking in a bath or hot tub
Spritzing a favorite smell (trust me—this is a sense that is far too ignored. A good smell can lift your soul out of any dungeon.)
Listening to a favorite song
Taking a short nap
Permitting myself to make random lists or free journal writing (I love making lists)
Volunteering time in my son’s class
Mind wandering for a few minutes (For some people, a 5 minute break for every 25 minutes of focused work helps. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.)
Checking facebook/email/twitter etc. for a few minutes
Engaging in some breathing exercises
Lighting a candle
Sitting on the patio to soak up the sun rays
Sipping a cup of tea or a Pellegrino soda.

For big milestones, I did things like:
Go on a dinner date with my spouse
Go to lunch with my friends
Go to the movies
Go shopping without the kids
Go to a favorite hiking spot
Reorganize a pantry/cupboard or space I that was bothering me
Redecorate my desk
Buy a new essential oil and use it

You would need to think up your own rewards, but giving yourself a little pleasure is a huge benefit. It pushes productivity and it doesn’t have to be just one more thing to spend money on if you are creative.

As I was preparing this post, I came across this great article in Psychology Today about how little rewards can boost our enthusiasm about a task. A good read!



  1. Huge congratulations with winning Nano!! Awwww well done you!!

    Yes, I am all for giving myself little treats as incentives!

    Take care

  2. I love your list of rewards. Incentives are a good thing! Congrats on winning NaNo! I was surprised at that percentage. Most of my friends who did NaNo won, but I guess my friends are the cream of the crop! =)

  3. So true!! Little rewards make the day brighter and so much better :)

    I didn't realize so few people win NaNo - I thought it would be higher! :)

  4. Congrats on "winning" -- that's a huge accomplishment!

  5. WTG on winning NaNo! I can't wait to see what you produced. :) I've been busy with revisions...can't wait until you see them... (((hugs)))

  6. Congratulations on finishing NaNo! What book did you finish? Will I get to read it?

  7. Some of these I use as incentives to get started rather than as rewards, because for me sitting down and getting started is the hardest thing. A great list though!

    Post NaNo blues: already out of my daily writing habit. Decembers are too busy with extra parties, kids' events, etc.

    There I go with excuses though!

  8. Congrats, Jackee! Finishing Nano is always a great achievement but it looks like you dealt with several issues during the month and you still made it. Well done!