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May 20, 2011 2:25 AM   Subscribe

RewardFilter: Inspired by the recent Habit Judo hoo-ha, what are novel and interesting ways to reward yourself ?

I've been developing my own spreadsheet based Habit Judo-esque system for making goal tracking more fun and motivating.

The only part I'm having trouble pinning down is how to reward myself in a way that is distinct and inherently "more special" than just buying something (like a gift, or a nice meal) - something I might already do regardless of what goal I achieved.

One promising idea is to devote a lump sum of money to the game. The percentage of the money won at the end is related to what percentage of the goal I have achieved. At the end of the game the winnings are given to a friend, and they buy me something(s) of their choosing. The randomness of the prize makes the gift more exciting than just spending the money how I'd like. (The flipside could also be that failure to achieve the goal means the friends gets some or all the money!)

Obviously there isn't an unlimited amount of cash to devote to random prizes, so: what are some creative rewards that evoke a game-like element of surprise, fun, magic, or novelty (that are free or less costly)?
posted by pickingoutathermos to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I was in an online writing group once where we set goals for ourselves at the beginning of the month, and if anyone met their goal at the end, the reward was that all the other group members had to send them a postcard. It was fun to get a bunch of quirky postcards from online friends all over the world, and kind of surprise-magic-game-like because you didn't know exactly what they'd be or when they'd show up.

I don't know how easy that would be to adapt to this, though.

I've been doing habit judo myself for a while now and I'm finding the rewards part quite tricky too. A few of my less random/gamelike rewards, just in case you can't find something better, include: buying a music track; drinking a cocktail; downloading a new e-book or audiobook (a bit too expensive to do very often, though, for me); treating myself to a long lunchbreak at work - an hour instead of my usual half-hour, and doing something fun with the extra time.

I'll be watching this thread with interest.
posted by lollusc at 3:46 AM on May 20, 2011

Here's an idea, based loosely on my Cheevo Jar comment in one of the linked threads: get a bunch of tickets or little slips of paper. On each one, write a reward. Vary the type and value of the rewards. Have your friends write some too, if you like. Every time you achieve something, put one of the random reward tickets in a bank or a box, and keep a tally. At the end of the month, draw rewards from that bank based on how many achievements you've put in (say, 20%, so if you put in 20 tickets over the last month, you'd draw 4).
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:37 AM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies! These are both good examples of different things I was looking for: reward schemes (Metroid), and serendipitous reward ideas (lollusc).

So many favorites yet so few replies, hehe. Lurkers, any ideas ?
posted by pickingoutathermos at 6:01 PM on May 20, 2011

Yeah, the biggest difficulty is in the self-administering, both of the points and of the rewards. I'd even suggest considering looping somebody else in as the dispenser of rewards. Find a Habit Judo buddy, as it were, to keep each other honest.

I like to consider 'spoiling myself' in non-monetary ways to be rewards, converting recreation into rewards: Long walks, lazy days, sleeping in, television, etc. I'm going to do it anyway, so why not make it work for me?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:01 AM on May 21, 2011

Best answer: I'll answer in two parts...

At the moment what I'm trying is using a tally counter to keep track of points that I award myself for doing various things. I view the points as cents that are accumulating which I will get to spend on fun e-things like iPhone apps on in-game goodies. I think that's a good choice for me because those things are motivating for me, but are not things I'll spend money on regardless. (For me it would be no good to say I'll reward myself with a nice meal because there's no way I'm going to forgo having nice meals until completion of the goal!)

Second part... I think there's potentially a trap in framing things as rewards. It tends to set up associations whereby the thing you want to do gets to look for you like something that is not fun, never could be fun, and not something to do unless there's some compensation for it. While the reward gets to be labeled naughty-indulgence-that-has-to-be-earned-by-suffering. So if possible I try to see things as markers of progress and celebrations of achievement instead.

One thing I did learn from the reading I did after my question on making life more like games, is that there is a distinction between what lay people call "rewards" and what the pros call "reinforcers". A reinforcer is anything that actually causes the target behavior to happen more often. If saying "Attaboy!" to yourself does that, it counts. Conversely if buying yourself a nice meal doesn't have that effect, nice meals aren't a reinforcer. Therefore what comes to mind when you think of rewards may not be a suitable reinforcer at all.

The other thing I learned about reinforcers... I forget the correct terminology here... but reinforcers need to happen concurrently with or immediately on completion of the desired behavior. When that can't happen (you can't feed a dolphin while it's working on doing a triple somersault) you develop a proxy reinforcer that *can* be used concurrently. For the dolphin getting a fish is the ultimate reinforcer, and the trainer blowing a whistle (which says "you're doing good... fish coming") is the proxy reinforcer.

So in the scheme I mentioned above, clicking up points on my tally counter is the proxy reinforcer, and I chose that specifically because that can often be done right after completing the thing that I want to reinforce.

All of this is a work-in-progress though, so I can't tell you if it's a great idea or not.

But it's interesting there are several Mefites looking into this kind of stuff. We can probably figure these things out collectively more effectively than we could in isolation.
posted by philipy at 6:10 PM on May 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

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