How do you reward yourself?

Many a Tuesday night, I take myself out for sushi. It’s the night I usually work late, and I figure if I were in an office working late, my company might spring for dinner from somewhere. Indeed, when I worked at Fortune as an intern one summer, many an evening featured sushi delivered up to those of us figuring out the question of who the 40 richest people under age 40 were.

So my sushi dinner (and glass of pinot grigio) become a way to reward myself. On Facebook, a friend mentioned that she takes herself out for breakfast on Friday. In her case it’s not so much a reward as a way to create mental space, though doing it on Friday does kind of make it a reward for getting through the week.

There are non-food ways to do this too. Retail therapy gets mentioned. A massage. A field trip, like cutting out early one day to go to a museum. If I’m ahead of schedule and the weather is nice, I might do a long run during the workday.

We all need ways to reward and motivate ourselves. I’m trying to come up with a list of ways to celebrate triumphs big and small. How do you give yourself a pat on the back?



23 Responses to How do you reward yourself?


  1. Carrie says:

    Right now I am learning French. I practice every day and after a two week streak I reward myself with a fun novel based on French food, culture or women. And once a month I watch a subtitled French movie…many of these free on Amazon.

    • Laura says:

      @Carrie- ooh, I love the idea of a reward related to the project! Because as you get better at French, no doubt the movies get more comprehensible, too…

  2. Ana says:

    I’m working on this one right now—trying to find a reward that really does feel rewarding but that is healthier (more virtuous) than the usual food/wine/shopping that I tend to use.

    • Laura says:

      @Ana – please let me know what you figure out. Yes, shopping can be a good reward but it can also be problematic if done in excess. I like to reward myself with food but I should probably get away from that as a default!

      • Ana says:

        yeah, I’m not likely to lead us to financial ruin with my frugal type of shopping, but I have been noticing the hedonic treadmill effect here, so I want to look for other options.

    • I’ve been there! I narrowed it down to something that’s physically active, affordable enough that I can do it at least once a month, and that I love doing. I found SUP (standup paddle) to fulfill all those criteria for me. Some of my friends also like hiking, geocaching, or a good pilates class.

      • Laura says:

        @Well Heeled Blog – I should find an activity like that I love doing. Part of that involves experimenting with different classes…and that kind of falls to the bottom of the priority list. But years ago, I realized that I almost always loved going to both professional dance performances and choral concerts. So those make good rewards (if planned in advance).

  3. Lily says:

    This is something I’ve been working on for a while. I used to block out a whole day for an assignment and then spend much of it procrastinating. Or I’d tell myself I wouldn’t go to a party because I needed to study – and then end up watching a movie. Now I block in a set amount of time with a clear reward at the end – a bike ride in the sun or meeting a friend for a coffee – and I’m much more focused and happy when getting my work done.

  4. Such a great idea!! I usually wind down the night with a glass of wine, which I love, but isn’t special enough to be a reward since I drink a glass almost every night!!

    I’d like to start scheduling in local sightseeing trips as my reward! It’s been such a long time since I’ve explored my city (LA) and feel that this would be the perfect reward after a long week of work!! Thanks for the reminder.

    • Laura says:

      @Jennifer – yes to local sightseeing. Somebody asked me recently when I’d last been to the Liberty Bell. Uh… Not since moving to Philly!

  5. My rewards are activities – i.e. stand-up paddle boarding, wine and paint nights, cooking class, etc., purchased on Travelzoo or Groupon at a discount if I can. For bigger rewards I go travel. :-)

  6. Shelly says:

    I like the idea of activity rewards. With little kids that just doesn’t work so easy. My go to has always been coffee and a pastry at a coffee shop while I read or write in a journal. I can still fit that in once in awhile but I need more than that. This year I’ve started doing breakfast once a month with a couple of friends. Although it has to be scheduled so far in advance it doesn’t give that immediate reward feeling.

    • Ana says:

      Yes, that’s the problem with anything “activity” related…it does involve so much advance scheduling (and sometimes additional work—like arranging child care) that it doesn’t really work as an incentive to get something done.

  7. It’s a little thing, but it’s free. When I get my work done (or while I’m doing something tedious and mind numbing), I watch British mystery shows through the magic of YouTube or PBS or a number of other free sites. I’m too cheap to pay for cable, but I’m a sucker for BBC mystery. :) It’s motivation to get the work done or reward myself for doing the work I would rather put off… and it’s free. :)

    • Laura says:

      @Carrie- free, and can be done at home without childcare or advance planning. Definitely a plus. Several plusses, really.

  8. oil_garlic says:

    My reward is coffee. I love it but don’t drink it daily. It’s cheap and I really look forward to it!

    • Laura says:

      @oil_garlic – so coffee falls in the wine category (see Jennifer’s comment, above) for me. I drink it daily, so it’s not really a reward. I look forward to it, for sure. But a glass of wine at home isn’t a reward…unless it’s at 1pm because it’s that kind of day.

  9. Caitlin says:

    I am also always on the lookout for rewards that are alternatives to food and shopping. I like to craft, so usually it’s extra time to work on a project, but I make time for that almost daily anyway so it doesn’t always feel like a reward. I’m finding lately that letting myself putter–browse my bookshelves and glance through whatever strikes my fancy, paw through my craft supplies and just play–without any agenda, is something my type-A personality is really enjoying. I have no agenda and no need to get anything done in that particular time frame, I can relax and often get great ideas for things I wasn’t even really thinking about.

  10. usha says:

    I am going to reward myself at 00:00, 12 April 2014, because I am going to submit my doctoral dissertation at 23:59, 11 April 2014 – emailing a PDF, so I click the SEND button at 23:59. My husband and I want to have Midnight Biryani (an Indian rice dish, quite famous in Hyderabad) at a famous restaurant. We are also planning to get away to a nearby hill-resort for that weekend. We needed to plan these rewards out, but considering we are celebrating an accomplishment, it is worth the effort.

    • Laura says:

      @usha – congratulations on being so close to done!

      • usha says:

        Thanks Laura… Your books and your blog have been very helpful in becoming mindful of my time these last few months. I admit I have not persevered with a time log, but I will do so for I will be taking up a good research-based position soon while managing many more roles in this start-up. I also help my husband with his business and we have a boisterous six-year old girl (will be six in June)… So I really look forward to everything you write and I am keen on developing my time-log-muscle!!!

  11. Whitney says:

    I’ve recently started bringing small boquets of fresh cut flowers to my cube. I found I needed some motivation and some inspiration to slog through some particularly difficult assignments, and the flowers seemed like a thank you to myself. I’ve enjoyed them so much, I may put the idea in permanent reward rotation!

  12. Jenni Levy says:

    Books and crossword puzzles. I love the really hard Saturday puzzles and usually don’t have time to do them on Saturday, so I always have a stash when I have some free time and need a reward. Long hot showers – I shower all the time, of course, but usually in the morning when I have about five minutes. I love love love luxurious long hot showers, especially when I’m alone in the house and can turn my music up high enough to hear over the water. Books – I save new books that I really want to read for those kinds of rewards. Massages – I belong to a local massage spa and now get monthly massages, so the treat would be a longer massage or a hot stone massage. Also food. Also wine. But I’m trying to cut back on both of those :)