10 Ways To Reward Yourself For Working So Hard

You've been working hard—coming in early, staying late—so why not reward yourself? Rather than waiting for someone else to do it, here are 10 ways you can pat yourself on the back.

When I was growing up, my parents used to take me out for ice cream when I got good report cards. I’m not so into ice cream now, but when I’ve accomplished something tough, I like to reward myself in a more adult fashion—by getting sushi—spicy tuna rolls and avocado salad, washed down with a glass of Chardonnay.

We all need little rewards in our lives to keep us motivated. Here are some other ways to celebrate triumphs big and small.

1. Take yourself out to breakfast.

You probably buy lunch frequently. But turning the morning meal into something other than a mad dash out the door feels more rare and decadent. Plus, who doesn’t love waffles? In a pinch, you can rise before dawn and hit a 24-hour diner before the rest of your family wakes up.

2. Find a related bribe.

One woman who’s learning French told me that she treats herself to a subtitled French movie for sticking with her lessons. It’s a nice link—though a croissant would probably work too.

3. Goof off online (intentionally).

Admit it: You take quizzes to find out which states best match your personality. The problem is that most of us visit these sites without thinking, and then feel guilty for wasting time. Smart people consciously use these bits of levity as brain breaks after cranking through tasks they’d otherwise put off. Then they enjoy their cat videos guilt free.

4. Be unproductive on the plane.

Yes, plane (and train) trips are great for getting uninterrupted work done. But if you’re traveling for work, work is already getting hours that could be your own. After giving a speech in New York the other night, I bought a copy of Dave Barry’s new book and enjoyed the long train ride back to Philly much more than I would have otherwise.

5. Take a field trip.

Lots of fascinating places—museums, open-air markets, aquariums—are mobbed on weekends but fairly chill on weekdays. Skip out of work a little early as a reward for finishing your work early and become a tourist in your own town.

6. Try (controlled) retail therapy.

The trick is giving yourself a budget to keep any shopaholic tendencies in check. For instance, you could imagine someone has given you a $50 gift certificate for all your hard work. Then you go spend the cash just as you would a real gift certificate—on something completely unnecessary.

7. Take a class.

If you’ve been working late too many nights, maybe it’s time to schedule something you’ll willingly jet out early for. Wine tasting? Bread baking? Stand up paddling? Tap dancing? Take a look at your bucket list and find something that you keep meaning to make space for. You’ve been very good. You deserve the time.

8. Give back.

Spending money on other people is actually correlated with greater feelings of happiness than spending on yourself. So reward yourself by taking a friend out for coffee. Or donate $20 to a classroom that needs it (see DonorsChoose.org for projects). The Hands On Network offers volunteering opportunities for busy people on nights and weekends.

9. Buy yourself flowers.

A bright bouquet in the cube will make you happier and more productive, and as one woman told me, it feels "like a thank you to myself."

10. Get out of town.

Big triumphs call for big rewards, and a weekend getaway is the perfect prize for surviving a tough week. Research finds that when it comes to travel, anticipation accounts for a major chunk of the associated happiness. So book your adventure by Tuesday and dream about it until you’re in the car Friday night—patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

[Image: Flickr user ralph and jenny]

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  • I like your idea of reminding people of the many ways they can reward themselves after a period of hard work at the office. When you need more than a "thank you" from the boss, personal rewards are your own bonus.

    I suggest to make sure you actually TAKE your rewards (like leaving early and going on a mini-break to a museum, class, market, or park) you must WRITE IT DOWN. Don't just tell yourself you deserve a reward and are going to take time off for entertainment and enrichment.

    1. Write down your chosen reward on paper
    2. Add a reminder/notification to your online calendar
    3. Create a mini-itinerary so you have a detailed plan for taking your reward time

    Otherwise you might easily forget about it or change your mind when work responsibilities creep up (as they tend to do) once again.

    -Scott, VacationCounts - Take More Vacation Time Off

  • Travis Batchelder

    I agree with this especially when I go all-out on an every day basis at work and I don't get the respect that I deserve from certain people. Rewarding of self is the best thing to counter this. I don't get enough positive feedback and all I get is "Man, what is wrong with this guy because he works so hard and fast!" I do this to prove a point that I am the hardest worker that I know. I feel I have to go this route constantly or else not enough gets done in a certain day. It is disappointing, but not surprising to me because so many people don't get enough or any respect for that matter in what they do such as our military and emergency personnel. My hope is that my associates will get together a few more times outside of work and build a better relationship because I know it has soured lately.