Using Rewards While Writing to Maximize Your Productivity

Posted November 7, 2015 by the lovely Aneeqah in Productivity / 4 Comments

writing productivity

Sometimes you sit down at the computer and have absolutely 0 motivation to write. There’s a million other things you would rather be doing than writing. Writing feels like the last thing you feel like doing, but you know you still need to write something.

When writing even one sentence feels like pulling teeth, you need something to keep you going. That’s where rewards come into play.

Using Rewards While Writing

Why Should I Use Rewards?

Using a reward, however small or big, is perfect to re-ignite some of the lost motivation you will inevitably suffer while working on a writing project. If your writing something longer, such as a novel, having rewards spaced throughout the project, like having one when you reach a particular milestone during your writing process can keep you moving forward. Having these rewards spread out allows you to reach those milestones faster, because you’re actively working towards a shorter-term goal. That can provide the extra boost you need to knock out what you’re currently working on.

Using rewards breaks your project into more manageable chunks. It’s easier to think “I’ll get to eat some chocolate after I finish each chapter!” than “I’ll reward myself with something after I finish my novel”. We can’t always be motivated by something long-term 100% of the time, and that’s why using rewards are so important in the writing process.

How to Use Rewards

The concept itself is pretty simple. When deciding on how to implement a reward system that’s going to be most effective for you, make sure you consider a few things:

  • The reward should be pre-determined and specific. If you allow yourself ‘a break’ after writing a certain number of words, then that break could extend into hours. To keep yourself focused, keep your reward specific.
  • The goal should be specific. It’s similar to what I mentioned above. If you don’t define the point at which you receive a reward, i.e., “I can take a Twitter break after I’ve written 500 words”, then you’ll find yourself slacking and clicking on that Twitter icon before you’ve reached your goal. Having a specific goal also allows for an incredible amount of clarity. You’re laser-focused on just completing those 500 words so you can get that reward.

Having specificity allows you to be more focused, and more in control of your writing life. If you don’t define what you’re working towards and what your reward will be, then it’s far too easy to veer of course. There’s always the lure of a distraction, or simply caving to your want of checking social media just one more time (or that bag of Halloween candy hidden in the pantry) but having a smaller, more mangeable goal with a reward dangling in front of you gives you the extra push.

Examples & Ideas

Here are some ideas for specific, smaller, and more manageable goals you can use with rewards:

  • “I will write 500/1,000/set amount of words”
  • “I will complete a 2o minute writing sprint”
  • “I will complete one scene”
  • “I will complete one chapter”
  • “I will sprint to 1,000 words”

Note that all of these numbers can be changed to fit your personal needs. Every writer works at a different pace, and writing speed is affected by a million factors, like your typing speed, where you are in the story, what your surroundings are, etc. Regardless, you can adapt these, but make sure you’re setting realistic but challenging goals. You want to push yourself as a writer, and continue to challenge yourself. That’s the only way you’ll grow as a writer. Plus, slowly upping the amount you have to work per mini-session will eventually increase your writing ‘endurance’, the amount you’re able to write while staying completely focused.

Here are some ideas for effective rewards. After finishing a mini-session, you can:

  • Eat a small piece of candy
  • Take a Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/social media break for 5 minutes
  • Read an article you’ve been saving
  • Read a blog post
  • Read a few pages of a book you’re reading
  • Find some new music
  • Watch a short Youtube video
  • Have a short conversation with a friend

Basically, to come up with the perfect reward for you, ask yourself: If I wasn’t writing, what would I rather be doing? Maybe you’re craving some chocolate or want a small bag of Skittles (my love for Skittles knows no ends). Perfect, that’s what you can use for a small reward. Maybe you want to watch a new TV show episode. You can use that as a reward after a longer writing session, after you’ve finished today’s writing goal, perhaps. If you’re incredibly tired, let yourself take a short power nap after you reach your goal. (And let’s face it, everyone loves naps and could use a little more sleep!).

By taking what you most directly want right now, you’ll allow yourself to be extra motivated, since you’re working towards something you really want. That gives you the boost you need, and you’ll find yourself with a lot of words written and a reward for you to enjoy.

Keep in mind it’s important to scale the rewards and the goals. You can’t consistently have a huge reward, like a 45 minute TV show, if you only write for 5 minutes. Of course, if you’re having a particularly bad day, it’s better that you write a little than just go straight to the next episode of Teen Wolf (which I get it, it’s a great show). But if you give yourself enormous rewards with little work to show consistently, then you’re simply not going to be writing as much as you hope.

If you need to, build up that writing endurance. Increase your goal in small chunks while keeping the same goal. Instead of eating candy after a 5 minute sprint, do it after a 10 minute sprint. In a few weeks, you’ll find yourself able to focus for longer with the same reward. You just need to build up to it.

In conclusion

Rewards can be an incredibly effective tool while you’re writing. If you tailor them to your current writing situation and what exactly it is that you want, you’ll find your writing productivity increase enormously. The focus and motivation that rewards provide is incredible.

Even if you aren’t feeling motivated, keep writing. Throw in a reward, and after a few sessions, you’ll begin to find that the motivation and excitement you once had for your project will come back after you get back into the writing groove. Rewards can help you get that passion back, and keep you moving forward.

Have you ever used rewards while writing? What kinds of things do you use as a reward? Any questions about this writing trick? Let me know!

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4 Responses to “Using Rewards While Writing to Maximize Your Productivity”

  1. This is SUCH a great post. And so true. I use rewards all the time — and especially during NaNoWriMo, where it can sometimes be really hard to fine the motivation to write. Generally I’ll use chocolate, or a TV show as a reward, and they usually works really well for me, haha. I love what you say about writing even if you’re not motivated. That’s a big one for me; I think sometimes I have to START writing to get motivation, not the other way around. 🙂

  2. I have a mild chocolate addiction, so I occasionally tell myself that I can go and get and get a strip of chocolate once I get so far.
    I also play music to keep my brain focussed.
    Great post – really helpful for NaNo season 🙂

  3. I never used to use rewards, because I would forget to actually reward myself (I have the worst memory). However, this NaNo, I’ve been giving it another try. And it has been helpful– not only in keeping me writing, but also in making sure I don’t eat all my chocolate at once and make myself sick. xD
    Such a great post, and, also, you’re blog is just beautiful. *swoons*

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