SelfRewardFilter: What treats do you give/buy yourself for rewards or incentives?
February 20, 2012 4:52 AM   Subscribe

SelfRewardFilter: What treats do you give/buy yourself for rewards or incentives?

Hello fellow MeFites. Long time reader, first time asker.

I’ve recently started Habit Judo as a way of incentivizing my easily-distracted mind to stop avoiding the ever-growing responsibilities that come with being an independent adult (keeping a budget, calling my parents regularly, exercising, doing the dishes before bed, etc.). I’m an ex-gamer, so the idea that I get random “experience points” for each activity I complete, and that those points periodically accumulate into “level-ups” (reward intervals & new belt colors) is highly attractive to me. I’m genuinely excited about the undertaking and have almost completed my first week without missing a single habit.

The problem, however, is that I am having trouble coming up with good, reasonably-priced ($10-15) incentives to treat myself to at the “level-up” intervals. I am single and make relatively good money, so I typically am able to fund the things and activities I enjoy pretty easily. (For example, I imagine “eating out” would be a great reward for many, but I usually eat out 2 or 3 times a week as it is.) To make things even more difficult, I am not a very material person to begin with, and I have traveled so much in recent years that I’ve become accustomed to living with as little “stuff” as I can get by with. This means that there are very few physical purchases I desire (no TV, no DVDs, no console system of video games, no collections of [insert collectable here]).

With this in mind, here is the short list I’ve come up with of reasonably-priced rewards that I can actually get excited about:

- Premium imported beer (I’m in Japan and a bottle of decent imported beer is typically $5+)
- Music or movies on iTunes
- New Kindle book

Another idea I had was to put X amount of money at each interval into a piggy bank to eventually spend on something that I normally wouldn’t spend money on. (Tandem skydiving near Mt. Fuji, expensive brand-name clothing/accessory, or on a guilty pleasure like gambling at the horse races, for example.) This type of reward is honestly more appealing to me than making weekly purchases of music that I probably won’t like all that much or books that I won’t have time to read. I’m afraid, however, that the lack of tangibility will fail to provide me with the incentive I need to stay motivated to become a Habit Judo master.

So, my question to you, my esteemed AskMeFi peers, is this: What rewards do you give yourself for meeting personal goals? If you’ve ever tried Habit Judo or any other similar system, what worked to best keep you motivated? Even if it doesn’t seem to apply to my particular situation or interests, I want to hear it.

Thanks in advance for your time. Looking forward to your responses.
posted by Kevtaro to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If you're not motivated by stuff, then why are you rewarding yourself with stuff? Instead, think of an experience you'd like to have...maybe an evening of doing nothing but playing games and eating junk food, or a soak in a hot tub, or a whole Saturday where you allow yourself to hang out on the couch without a shower and don't answer the phone.

If you're spending a lot of time and energy on trying to find things that motivate you in a particular category ("Physical Things, Priced $10-$15"), then I think it won't serve as a motivation for very long. Instead, think of what you regularly deny yourself or think you don't deserve or can't spend the time/effort/money on right now, and make those things your reward.
posted by xingcat at 5:04 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Can you combine your two ideas? Get yourself a beer (assuming they're around the $5 mark) and put the other $5-$10 in the saving up pile?
posted by hoyland at 5:20 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Here are some ideas (based on what I'd like):

massage; time alone drinking really good coffee in a coffee shop with a nice atmosphere, reading a book; calling a good friend and just chatting (may have to plan ahead); going to the movie theater, traveling, buying an actual physical book; meeting a friend
posted by bearette at 5:26 AM on February 20, 2012

In the weeks leading up to an exam, I like to have both a positive and a negative incentive system. If I complete eight one-hour blocks of dedicated study in a day, I can have a drink and watch a movie; if I don't, I have to study until midnight.
posted by The White Hat at 5:43 AM on February 20, 2012

Why not donate the money to charity each time you achieve a goal?
posted by Spacelegoman at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2012

If you are short on time, then time to splurge on things you enjoy but don't often have time to do can be a great reward--reading, watching a movie or going to the racetrack, for example, or an afternoon off to explore a part of your city you haven't explored yet, or a weekend daytrip to someplace that sparks your curiosity. Time to indulge your interests instead of always Getting Things Done is tremendously rewarding and gives you stamina to keep going with the daily grind.
posted by drlith at 5:52 AM on February 20, 2012

Steam games? Many are cheap and they don't take up extra space.
posted by hishtafel at 5:59 AM on February 20, 2012

What are you so easily distracted by? What do get out of those [x]s that distract you? How can you give yourself a little shot of [whatever that is] as a reinforcer for doing the things you want to encourage yourself to do more of?

However you come at this, small and frequent reinforcers that you can give yourself immediately after doing good will work better than big, widely-spaced rewards that seem distant or abstract. If you do end up going for a big reward (e.g. skydiving), then look for some way to enjoy frequent small steps towards that reward (e.g. spend 5 minutes reading skydiving blogs, brochures, etc)
posted by jon1270 at 6:29 AM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: I like to connect my rewards to the habit that I'm forming. I'm currently working on improving my running, so when I reach a milestone (for instance, running a half-marathon road race), I get to indulge in something that is somewhat frivolous but still connected (in my case, buying some cute new running clothes). Another thing I'm working on is budgeting and being mindful of spending. I have decided that if I stay within my budget for the next two months, I'm allowed to buy myself a cute new desk organizer/filing system. This will further my goal of being organized, while also giving me the reward of purchasing a new pretty thing (obviously the cost is limited to some reasonable amount according to my larger budget goals).

I think that connecting the reward to the task itself is a nice way to have your hard work and motivation build on itself over time. If you want to have smaller rewards so that they can be given more frequently, then I would either find small "connected" things or just set aside $X after X days of meeting your goal.
posted by Bebo at 6:50 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm not as familiar with Habit Judo. Replying, though, because similar to you I could care less about physical trinkets and I also tend to travel and do the things that I want. I actually tried to build my own reward system before, and put new music and books, as a reward...didn't work for me. Below are things that did although they are not tied to Habat Judo.

I'll use "exercise" as an example, but I picked something that I could improve at (so for cycling=longer distances, running=go from non-running to running and then longer distances).What always worked well for me if really wanted to progress and improve over a certain time period was to select a final goal. For example, if my previous best cycling distances was 60 miles, then I wanted to be able to now do 100. Or if I never ran in my life, I wanted to be able to run 5 miles by the end of the time period.

After picking the goal, I signed up for the final activity with a friend. So I signed up for a 5 mile race. Or a century bike ride. Sometimes I combined these with vacations beyond what I would normally do (i.e. a run in Alaska). Anyway, the new place, friend, and ....being able to do the activity I worked towards was the reinforcement. Also, I was motivated because I knew that if I didn't get to a certain point the activity would be painful.

One more thing that I discovered that was reinforcing for the biking or running or whatever exercise that was selected. The social component was a motivator. So even having one friend to run with (and knowing that he or she would be standing there, waiting, was the motivator). So to build this into a consistent plan, that's what works for me.

You may want to check out this article, too. Skip to the part where the author discusses bad habits. Even a few minutes of chatting, or something minor can be a powerful reinforcer for your bad habits. You may want to read about the exercise the author proposes to identify that reinforcers for your bad habits and build them into your new habits. They even suggest that 5 minutes chatting, keeping score of progress, can be a reinforcer. These occur at the end of the activity so it is part of a habit loop.
posted by Wolfster at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by jitterbug perfume at 7:15 AM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: I'm not familiar with Habit Judo (I'll check it out) but I've been using a point reward system to keep myself motivated. Here's how I do it:

I create a list of to do tasks for tomorrow, assigning a point value to each. If I complete that task I get that many dollars of disposable income. So all of my eating out, beers, toys, etc. must be paid from money that I re-earned through this little game.

If I fail to complete an assigned task (allowing for exceptions beyond my control, like I forgot the dump is closed today so I can't take in the recycling) half that many dollars are literally lost. E.g., mail the cash to a random stranger. I shouldn't even give it to a worthy charity, because the idea is that I must derive no satisfaction from the money.

I've been doing this since November and it's working pretty well. I find the combination of carrot (desire to be able to go out for drinks) and stick (loathing the loss of money) gets me to complete over 95% of the tasks I assign myself.
posted by justkevin at 7:32 AM on February 20, 2012 [5 favorites]

If there are things that used to be treats that have now become habits, shift "the rules" so that you're not allowed to [buy yourself a coffeeshop coffee, have more than one drink when you're out, drink a fancy drink instead of basic beer, eat out at your favorite place instead of the cheap place] unless you've levelled up.
posted by aimedwander at 7:49 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about each time you put $10 in the piggy bank, you also give yourself a tiny treat? For instance, for me, it would be $10 in the bank towards the big reward, and also eat one wonderful chocolate mocha truffle. I don't usually buy truffles because eating chocolate regularly would make me fat, but doling them out one at a time wouldn't have that much of an effect, calorie-wise.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2012

You could buy nice socks instead of nice beer to reward yourself for exercising. Nice beer for everything else. ;)
posted by oceanjesse at 10:05 AM on February 20, 2012

I have found that setting up a massage about once a month and every now and then getting some really good craft beer from whole foods are about the two best ways to do nice things for myself. Also nthing good coffee and setting aside some alone-time. I will also occasionally call in sick to take a "mental health day" where I just relax at home and do things I always put small household chores or simply spending a few hours reading a book. I feel all these things keep my on a more even keel...
posted by jnnla at 11:21 AM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: I took a four week online course last summer that stipulated there should be a reward at the end of each module (5 lessons per module). I had a hard time figuring out rewards, too, and the first week I thought I'd just get something later on sometime as a treat, some vague idea of a reward. But then the second week of the course was harder and a bit boring and I realized not taking my reward for the first week immediately had been a mistake.

What worked for me was browsing Etsy and filling my shopping cart with little things I wouldn't normally fritter money away on. "Wasting" money was a big part of the reward for me. Having things already picked out, waiting in my cart, meant the reward could literally be instant: I'd finish the course and immediately go to Etsy and choose which prize to order. It also meant I had an actual picture of the thing in my head during slow patches of study. Of course the actual object comes later, but I'd get the endorphin boost just from the purchase, and then have that happy anticipation for the following week.

I don't know what specific things or experiences will work for you but my suggestion is for the reward to be something you can have as close to immediately following the good behaviour as possible and something that feels slightly forbidden. I think saving $10 a time for something bigger will work against you: it's kind of rewarding yourself with a chore. A donation is the same kind of thing. I think rewards are a place to be totally selfish and self-indulgent.

One other thing: I understand not wanting tchockes, but if you can find little useful things that will hang around, you get the re-experience the reward when you see or use it, which is good for long term motivation.

This list is a great start for ideas of actual objects.
posted by looli at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2012 [6 favorites]

I like ordering roasted chicken and watching episodes of Sex and the City
posted by costanza at 2:45 PM on February 20, 2012

Best answer: I'm using a modified version of Habit Judo where I assign myself "loot" that I keep track of in another tab of the spreadsheet. I have a randomiser that generates a random amount of "gold" (between two limits I established, so it works out to between $5 and $20) and a random item from a list of rewards when I level up, or when I complete a "quest" that I have assigned myself. (Quests are related to habits, but extra hard, e.g. if my habit is running for 30 minutes every day, a quest might be to run a total of 40km during the week; if my habit is writing first thing, a quest might be to submit something for publication. I give myself one quest each week.)

Anyway, the loot and the gold are just numbers and items in the spreadsheet, BUT at any time I can turn them into reality if I choose to. So I get the instant satisfaction of entering them into the spreadsheet and seeing my list of items and number of gold increase, and I don't HAVE to spend any money if I don't want to, which is good, because I am frugal. But when I choose, I can redeem the gold EITHER for a real-world item of equivalent dollar value, OR for an "in-game" reward. Rewards are things like doubling the number of points I earn for a particular habit that week (cost = $20). Or allowing myself to skip one day of a habit but count it on the spreadsheet as achieved anyway (cost = $50).

The "loot" that I keep track of in the spreadsheet includes the following: "go home 1 hour early"; "take nap at lunchtime", "eat lunch as a picnic down by the lake", "drink wine with dinner", "sleep in late", as well as actual items I would like to buy. I keep track of anything I come across in the real world or online that costs less than $30, and which I would like, in a wishlist, which I can use to generate gift suggestions for relatives at birthday and christmas times, but also which the spreadsheet uses to randomly pick a reward from.

One of the rewards on that list is buying fruit that is out of season or otherwise ridiculously overpriced. So cherries or berries in winter; pomegranates or fresh figs or mangoes at any time of year. But I like fruit, so YMMV.
posted by lollusc at 6:04 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry for taking so long to follow up on this. This has been the first chance I’ve had to really sit down and read through the replies.

It’s an obvious option now that many of you brought it up, but it never really occurred to me to make the reward something non-tangible such as time or permission to indulge in something I normally wouldn’t. As suggested by a few of you, I think this will actually help with a few of the habits I’m trying to form. (Take my goal of making and bringing lunch to the office instead of eating overpriced food from the convenience store for example. If I can go an entire week without eating out for lunch, I can treat myself to lunch or dinner out on the weekend.)

The nice thing about Habit Judo is that the rewards come fairly frequently so I will have plenty of time to try out different systems and rewards until I find what works for me. At any rate, thanks for the input everyone. I didn’t expect to get so many excellent responses and ideas.
posted by Kevtaro at 5:43 AM on February 22, 2012

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